In 2021, Tim Adler (editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk) created a whitepaper for us on the changing role of the Finance Director. In this whitepaper he discussed how the pandemic caused the CFO and Finance Director positions to evolve rapidly.
This evolution included digital transformation via Cloud technology, as they took on the role of a strategic leader more similar to a COO (with responsibilities such as agile decision-making and scenario planning to ensure business continuity).
Fast forward to today. Every aspect of a business (from Finance to HR) is powered by digital tools. The adoption of Cloud technology has profoundly changed every sector, with tangible benefits such as increased productivity, boosted efficiency, and more dynamic / valuable teams. It has transformed the way finance teams communicate and the speed at which they process data.
Although the road ahead is not without its challenges for CFOs and Finance Directors, they have a great capacity for driving substantial positive results in their arena (and beyond).
In this article, we cover how to build a finance team that can thrive in today’s world and discuss how to make your finance team feel valued and fulfilled (through effective empowerment).
Empowering your finance team
The pandemic highlighted the fact that daily commutes to the office, along with outdated software and corporate structures were not sustainable in the long term.
CFOs and Finance Directors have responsibilities such as staying up to date with the latest technology, onboarding new talent, and ensuring their existing team is well-equipped and cohesive. This helps to maintain employee wellbeing, while ensuring they have agility / adaptability in a world that is becoming more complex.
Here at Advanced, in June 2021, we commissioned our first Workforce Trends Survey, with over 1,000 UK business professionals and leaders having their say on key areas affecting work productivity during the pandemic.
We then looked at how challenging it was for finance teams and how to improve productivity moving forward. It was found that 44% of finance professionals agreed that the Cloud had supported them to work from home, with a further 48% seeing an increase in flexibility during the working day.
In short, productivity combined with Cloud accounting software plays a crucial role in empowering finance teams.
The adoption of the Cloud eliminates repetitive number-crunching thanks to the automation of transactional processes, freeing up time for more in-depth and value-adding tasks. It also facilitates uninterrupted focus on the key areas of analytics, scenario modelling, and planning, to support business decisions in real time.
The move to Cloud-based accounting software will ultimately lay the foundations for future benefits, such as better access to real-time data, advanced analytics, and artificial intelligence.
How to build a successful finance team in 4 steps
Embrace Cloud technology
It’s undeniable that technology has had a huge impact on our lives over the past decade, and financial services are not excluded from these effects. Digital transformation has led to innovation at an exponential pace, which continues to accelerate.
It’s now possible for businesses to confidently embrace the digital era. The Cloud is a core technology that enables finance teams to deliver impactful work in a strategic manner.
The past few years have seen a significant increase in Cloud adoption for financial management, and this uptake is spreading through other critical business functions too.
Those that are willing to embrace structures that are suitable for the modern business environment will see benefits such as enhanced productivity. They’ll have increased visibility of financial performance, while supporting consistent and pro-active decision making.
Empathy is key
Empathy is a soft skill that CFOs and Finance Directors have had to develop in recent times. Fear, uncertainty of the future, keeping up to date with the latest regulations, and adapting to remote working, are all factors that have influenced employee focus and productivity.
Digital adoption must be combined with strong interpersonal skills from leadership. Employee wellbeing is more understood and valued than ever. CFOs and Finance Directors should prioritise the mental health of their employees, along with the benefits that come with education, training, loyalty, and retention. People are the most valuable asset for any organisation. Giving them the resources they need is key for business prosperity.
The wider talent-pool
With new ways of working, there is a wider and deeper pool of talent too. The geographical location of offices is no longer a barrier for finance professionals when applying for new roles. This is because a large proportion of people can now work from home.
Since the pandemic, many companies have continued some form of remote working, whether that’s fully working from home, or in the form of hybrid working.
Ultimately, CFOs and Finance Directors now have the opportunity to source the best talent within the finance industry, without the prospective employee’s location being a dealbreaker when recruiting.
An injection of new talent, with a focus on Gen Z, can also help to improve overall digital competency and buy-in among the finance team, with Cloud-based accounting software replacing legacy systems. However, CFOs will still need to provide this tech-savvy workforce with the development opportunities necessary to continue their evolution.
A starting point for finance leaders is to consider upskilling their existing staff. Ideally this should feature personalised training based on preferred ways of learning, as well as regular reviews of technology training, to maintain relevance and to ensure they can continue future-proofing their finance team.
When the separate functions of the finance department aren’t collaborating and are working within their own bubbles, this can be extremely limiting in terms of productivity and data quality.
This setup often leads to information silos, meaning different parts of the finance team have their own version of the truth, which creates conflict and duplication. This may be prevalent across the whole business too if there’s no cross-departmental collaboration.
Finance Directors can avoid this by restructuring the finance department, making sure it’s easy for different parts of the team to communicate, share information, and work together. They should instil a culture of collaboration, removing the ‘us vs them’ mentality (if this exists).
They can improve collaborative working by implementing Cloud technology, as this allows them to work together regardless of their individual location. These systems help to break down information silos too, as there is a single version of the financial truth that everyone can access.
How Covid changed the role of the Finance Director forever
Covid accelerated the trend of the Finance Director becoming more strategic, taking on much of what used to be the COO role. However, to do that, they must be able to call upon accurate, real-time financial data that is accessed via the Cloud.
Tim Adler discusses the impact Covid had on the way the Finance Director works. He looks at what the pandemic did to the available talent pool for finance teams in the UK, while also providing a brief history of accounting technology.
Be sure to download our whitepaper about the changing responsibilities of the post-pandemic Finance Director.
About the author
Tim Adler is editor at ‘Small Business’, the top website for SMEs in the UK. Last year it was commended (alongside the BBC and the Daily Telegraph) for its excellence in journalism.
Learn about the ways our Cloud-based accounting software, Advanced Financials, can help to empower your finance team. And check out our Financial Management LinkedIn page to read similarly insightful articles.