As a CFO, it’s easy to feel, through a combination of poor reporting and forecasting, bad technology, shoddy data and suboptimal ways of working, that you aren’t really delivering. A lot of siloed traditional accounting and finance functions operate like this.
I set up Generation CFO – initially as a LinkedIn group – to find people in the finance community who wanted to deliver more value to their organisations. I wanted to start a conversation about how we could improve what we do.
Things picked up following the release of an Oxford University research paper, The future of employment and how susceptible are jobs to computerisation. It assessed job profiles to estimate the risk of automation. Qualified accountants were 95% at risk of being automated, with Finance Managers at 97%. The media reported this as the death of accounting and finance; we needed to be doing much more in accounting to have a future. The LinkedIn Group grew massively as a result.
Identifying the best digital projects
Most CFOs and finance professionals acknowledge the need to be a strategic business partner, not just a steward of reporting. But you have to understand what value looks like if you’re going to get it right.
If you focus on cost alone, the project will likely fail. Instead look at it as an investment. You’re making funds available to create an asset that generates income. If you so that, you will have a different discussion.
Data is an asset. Infrastructure is an asset. And ‘digital’ is a core business asset like no other. It’s finance’s responsibility to safeguard, manage and help to grow it.
Digital transformation requires different business areas, such as Finance and IT, to work in lockstep. These functions have to align with the broader business. Ensure that everyone fully understands the project’s goals so that departments don’t focus purely on their own agendas. The best function to do this is finance. If you’re trying to create a digital finance function, you already have the relationships in your business partnering team.
Bringing traditional and digital together
Bringing traditional and digital functions together is a significant challenge. You need an agile, less hierarchical approach, which can be a major adjustment for people used to working in a more traditional function.
People don’t change overnight. To encourage people to change their mindsets, they first need to understand what new technology can offer them. Lack of adoption is a project killer; you must communicate the value for your team. Take a good look at people’s skillsets; assess their useful skills, and what training they might need to develop.
Culture plays as significant a role as the strategy. As a leader, you should set the tone. Outline new ways of working. Regularly communicate so that people will make the change.
Ultimately, success lies in your adaptability. If you can change with the times and bring your team with you in the process, you will prove to be too valuable to lose.