Like most of us, it’s a question I get asked frequently, “what do you do for a living?” and over the last few years, it’s been a tricky one to answer.

“Community Leader”  

“Oh, like Scouts?”

“No.”

“Educator”

“You mean a teacher?”

“No.”

“Introducer”

“Oh, like a professional hobnobber?

“No!”

So I don’t get very far on the intro’s, as people can’t relate to the “norm” I fit in to.  So they change tack and go again, “how do you make money?”.

“Well, I advise people on the digital finance function, train them, signpost them to services, tools and talent.”

“Oh, sounds “interesting”… “<laughs>”

“Yes isn’t it!”

“No.”

At times I wish I could be the data scientist that Harvard Business Review so easily called the “sexiest job in the world” but even then, I worked for Vodafone and Amazon, not Cambridge Analytica or the government, so nothing salacious here! 

As accounting, finance teams and leaders start to move towards a more data literate and digital ecosystem, we also need to redefine ourselves and consider how we are to be seen in the wider business world.

The three new digital finance function roles

In “Future ready: accountancy careers in the 2020s” published by the ACCA, they identify three new digital finance function roles, and I believe these roles will change our identity over the next 5-10 years.

The business transformer: Is the architect of organisational change, driving the strategies of organisations, and supporting sustainable businesses for the future. They may be leading innovative smaller accountancy firms or SMEs or exploring careers in advisory or business transformation. In industry, this may mean championing change to ensure we are benefiting from the opportunities tech brings.

The data navigator: is a true business partner. They see extraordinary opportunities from the growth of data and use advanced analytical tools to drive insights that deliver business outcomes. They champion ever-growing multi-rich data sets and use smart data to generate brilliant forward-looking analysis to support decision making.

The digital playmaker: is a technology evangelist, who is an analyst and champions technology adoption and data governance within the organisation and sees remarkable possibilities with emerging digital tools in transforming the organisations in which they work.

The above roles may not be full-time roles, but a combination of behaviours and skills that are core to accounting and finance. Change, data and tech, all rolled into the “traditional” world of accounting and finance.

Read more article about the digital CFO, here!

But what about you, your role, your identify?

Clearly, this new digital agenda is different to our traditional role and different from “finance transformation” which was focused on process efficiency and outsourcing, so we will need to redefine ourselves. And as I am finding, moving from CFO to Finance Transformation Lead to Founder of Generation CFO, explaining what you do and the value it brings to your audience is super important.

Following a branding masterclass I took a few years ago, I came across a ton of thought leadership on “brand” aka business identity, and I think we can apply it here, to ourselves in accounting and finance.

What do you want to hear the business saying about you?

“Chris is a great finance business partner, CEO next stop?”

“Chris is providing more and more information in these complex times, it’s amazing!”

“Chris is helping us invest in data and digital projects that can help us create value, what an enabler.”

“Chris has transformed finance processes from month-end and planning to POs and payments, keep going!”

How different is this to the businesses current view?

“Chris is great with numbers, keep doing that!”

“Chris provides some great reports and commentary, what a guy.”

“Chris is very focused, he loves spreadsheets!”

What can we do to bridge the gap?

Sometimes you don’t know, what you don’t know, and we are all guilty of thinking our role is the most important and working in silos, but for us to close this gap, we need to be much more aware of what our customer (actual customers and our internal stakeholders) need and align our finance strategy with that.

Of course, we need to fulfil the traditional accounting control role, but these roles and processes are the ones most able to be automated, so let’s start that journey, so we can concentrate on the other bits.

Let’s take one step into the new identity of the digital finance function, and try to take one step out of traditional accounting and finance… that’s all it takes to start!

So, where does that leave me and Generation CFO?

I am still working on a job title and role “elevator pitch” but I know with a sharp focus on my customers and the community, whether online (FiMIND) or offline (CFO Debate London), I will be able to address your needs and help you shift towards a wonderful career in the digital finance function… Not in 10 years, not in 2, but now!

See you online soon,

Chris