A shifting technological landscape requires finance professionals to continually adapt and extend their skills to support digital transformation.

Most finance professionals are now some way through their digital transformative journey. FACT!

However, it will be a marathon, not a sprint. Although digital technologies and trends are transforming the world so fast and fundamentally that it can feel dizzying, we are only just getting started. ‘The world we inhabit is already digital, and it will continue to become more digitalised,’ says Clive Webb, senior professional insights manager at ACCA. Data is growing exponentially in volume and value; business models are evolving and becoming more customer-centric, and organisations are investing significant resources in digital transformation. ‘Technology evolution will continue, but at a greater pace,’ he says.

Embrace the change

Adaptability, continuous learning and constant self-improvement will be vital if finance professionals are to develop and maintain an optimal mix of digital, interpersonal and technical skills. ‘With our unique combination of accounting and ethical principles, business acumen and digital skills, the future of the profession is bright,’ says Webb. But there is no room for ambivalence to workplace changes that digital transformation brings. The profession must stay on top of evolving technologies and business models, and ensure that its skillsets evolve appropriately.

So, what questions need to be asked? How much do finance professionals need to know about technology? How does this vary across industries and sectors, technical specialisms, responsibilities, roles and career stages? What digital skills do members of the profession have and which do they need to develop?

Learn more about the right technology for your team, here!

And, what is the answer? Finance professionals need to invest continually across a broad range of technology areas; explore their breadth and depth; and offer insights into how we can add value by combining traditional finance skills with digital knowledge, business acumen and ethical lens to provide a powerful perspective. ‘It enables us to critically appraise the commercial potential of digital transformation,’ says Webb.

Make the journey

To do this successfully, all finance professionals will need to make a transformative journey, and some may need to travel further than others. ‘Don’t over-rely on your traditional skillsets,’ says Webb. Digital skills should go beyond knowledge of applications to encompass new technologies and the techniques needed to implement them. ‘Operationalisation of technologies such as 5G and the hyper-automation of AI and robotic process automation may rapidly eclipse the recent pace of change,’ says Webb, but he cautions against focusing too much on a particular technology. ‘If we overemphasise our appreciation initially, we may become cynical about its value before it becomes a reality in business,’ he says.

‘What’s needed are the digital skills to understand how technology is enabling or transforming the business model of your client or organisation,’ says Webb. Data is more important than ever; as is understanding its flow and influence on how the business is modelled. ‘Increasingly, within this model, financial and non-financial data converge, and all data is operational,’ says Webb. More and more the metrics driving performance measurement and management extend beyond financial data. He says: ‘Appreciating this aspect of the digital landscape is essential for the finance professional of the future.’

Read more about why data is so important, here!

Why not now?

With so many technologies evolving so fast, keeping a broad, high-level watching brief may be the most effective way to stay on top of changes and taking a few minutes each day to invest in continuous learning.

‘To ensure that we are effective, we need to broaden our knowledge base from the application focus that we may traditionally have had, to the understanding of how technology and data create value for organisations, says Helen Brand, ACCA chief executive. ‘We have a clear opportunity to play a significant role in achieving that success.
‘Digitalisation of workplaces will continue apace. Either we are part of that journey or we run the risk of being left behind. We need to make sure that as individuals and as professionals, we seize the opportunity.’

This article is in partnership with the ACCA.