Earlier this year, Tim Adler released a whitepaper on ‘The Changing Role of The Finance Director’ which covered how the pandemic has seen that the role of the CFO and Finance Director rapidly evolved over the past 18 months.
This included digital transformation through Cloud technology as they took on the role of a strategic leader with a remit more like the COO through agile decision-making and scenario planning to ensure business continuity and survival.
Fast forward to today. Every aspect of a business, from Finance to HR, is run with digital tools and software. The adoption of Cloud technology has changed every industry sector with proven benefits in increasing productivity and efficiency. It has revolutionised the way we communicate and the speed in which we process financial data.
Although the road ahead is not without its challenges, CFOs and Finance Directors will have a great capacity for driving meaningful change in these areas.
Empowering Your Finance Team
The pandemic has shown that the daily work commute to the office accompanied with outdated accounting software and structured corporate models won’t hold up long term.
CFOs and Finance Directors have the responsibility of staying up-to-date with Cloud technology, onboarding new talent, and ensuring their existing finance team are all on the same page in a way that’s agile and strategically adaptable as the world becomes more complex, without sacrificing wellbeing.
In June 2021, Advanced commissioned its first Workforce Trends Survey with over 1,000 UK business professionals and leaders having their say on key areas affecting work productivity since the start of the pandemic.
We then looked at how challenging it has been 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 their working day.
In short, productivity combined with Cloud accounting software will play a crucial role in empowering finance teams. The adoption of the Cloud eliminates mundane number-crunching thanks to the automation of transactional processes and tasks freeing up time for more interesting and valuable work. It also allows for uninterrupted focus on the key areas of analytics, scenario modelling and planning to support business decisions in real time.
The move to Cloud accounting software will ultimately provide the foundation for the future benefits of access to real-time data, advanced analytics and artificial intelligence.
Embracing Cloud Technology
It can’t be denied that technology has made such a huge impact in our lives over the past decade, and financial services are no exception. Digital transformation has created innovative Cloud technologies at a rapid pace – which continues to grow.
The bottom line is that organisations can, with confidence, embrace the digital era. The Cloud is one of the cornerstones of technology that can enable finance teams to deliver high-value work in an agile and strategic manner.
The past 18 months have seen a significant uptake in finance teams adopting and using the Cloud for financial management, and we will see its usage spread to other critical functions in business too. Those that dare to reimagine their entire business will reap the benefits with unprecedented productivity gains and increased visibility of business information, while supporting consistent and pro-active decision making.
Why Empathy is Key
Being empathetic is a new soft skill that CFOs and Finance Directors have had to develop over the past 18 months. Fear, uncertainty of the future, keeping up to date with the latest lockdown rules and adapting to working remotely are all factors that have understandably hindered focus and work productivity.
Adoption of digital technology must go together with strong interpersonal skills. Employee mental health is absolutely critical right now. CFOs and Finance Directors top priority needs to be ensuring not only productivity amongst their finance team, but also loyalty and retention. Remember, people are every organisations number one asset, and giving them the tools and the environment to succeed is the only way business will prosper.
The Wider Talent Pool
With new ways of working comes a wider and deeper pool of talent. The job market has identified that geographical locations of offices are no longer a barrier for financial professionals applying for new roles. This has come as a result of the pandemic, with lockdown restrictions seeing a vast majority of people adapt to working from home.
Over time, many firms have decided to keep a large portion of employees either continuing to work from home, hybrid working by coming into the office up to three times a week or sticking with bi-weekly or even monthly instances where employees commute to the physical office. Ultimately, CFOs and Finance Directors now have opportunity to source the best talent in the finance industry, without office location being a dealbreaker when recruiting.
An injection of new talent, with focus on Gen Z, can also help improve overall digital competency within the finance team as Cloud accounting software replaces outdated systems and processes. However, CFOs will also need to provide new and current finance team employees with the resources, training, and development to be effective as their roles evolve.
A starting point for CFOs and Finance Directors would be to consider a digital upskilling program. Ideally this would feature personalised training modules based on preferred ways of learning and regular technology onboarding reviews to future-proof their finance team.
How Covid Changed the Role of the Finance Director Forever
Covid accelerated the trend for the finance director to become more of a strategic adviser, assuming much of what used to be the COO role. However, to do that they need to summon up accurate, real-time financial data kept in the Cloud.
Tim Adler discusses the impact of Covid on the way a finance director works. He also looks at what Covid has done to the available talent pool for finance teams in the UK, as well as giving a brief history of accounting technology.
About the author
Tim Adler is editor of SmallBusiness.co.uk, the #1 website for SMEs in Britain, which last year was named alongside the BBC and the Daily Telegraph for the excellence of its journalism.
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