Why it makes sense to turn your finance function into a powerful business asset
Giving the members of your finance team the chance to develop professionally is good for their careers and your business.
Are you making optimum use of the highly trained personnel who make up your finance department? For many Australian businesses and organisations, the answer is undoubtedly no. Their finance professionals remain mired in the mundane – routine, transactional tasks that don’t call for higher level thinking or analysis.
This leaves those individuals with little scope to develop attributes and skills that could support their employers’ productivity and growth.
Relieve your finance team of much of the daily grind and it can be a very different story. Given the time and opportunity, they’ll be able to develop a host of higher level skills and capabilities that will help them advance their careers and deliver greater value to your business.
So, what are some of those skills and how could they be harnessed for mutual benefit? Here are a few.
Historically, the finance department was responsible for providing the leadership team with a snapshot of their organisation’s recent performance: the proverbial bottom line, accompanied by some commentary. In today’s times, however, decision makers are looking for more than a picture of the past. They want to know what’s coming, next month, next year and over the horizon. Predictive analytics can deliver those insights and it’s incumbent on accountants to understand how to extract them, from the wealth of company and customer data to which they have access.
We’re living in the digital era and businesses are awash with information. But it’s all just so much noise, unless it’s synthesised and shared effectively. Support your team to acquire – and use – strong written communication skills and you’ll reap the rewards: documents and presentations which convey pertinent financial information to business leaders and stakeholders, in compelling and easily digestible form.
Back in the day, accounting was viewed as very much a backroom gig; well suited to intelligent introverts who preferred crunching numbers to chewing the fat. That’s no longer the case. As automation continues to supersede tedious transactional tasks, organisations are increasingly expecting their finance teams to step out of the shadows and onto the shop floor, or into the boardroom. Help yours to cultivate a broader range of relationship skills – think team building, employee engagement and performance management – and watch them make a success of dealing with numbers and people.
The term ‘creative accounting’ has long had a pejorative whiff. But while you may not want your organisation’s financial affairs managed by a team of ‘creative accountants’, a team of accountants who can think creatively is another thing entirely. Finance savvy folk who can spot opportunities and mitigate risk simultaneously are strategic assets. Allow yours greater opportunity to let loose on complex financial and non-financial problems and watch their ability to think outside the box increase apace.
The numbers are an important aspect of the business – but they’re not the only one. To be in the position to provide counsel to the C-suite – or to join their ranks! – finance professionals need to be able see the big picture: how every element of the business works, and works together. Walking in their colleagues’ shoes, or alongside them for a spell, can provide this perspective. Free your people up to undertake stretch assignments, secondments and special projects and you’ll reap the benefits of the exposure and insights these outside-of-usual-scope opportunities inevitably generate.
Technology is evolving at a bewildering pace and professionals across every industry, finance included, who don’t commit to keeping up will find themselves all too quickly left behind. Give your team the chance to use emerging tools and technologies and you’ll have a win-win situation on your hands: engaged, up-to-date employees and a more efficient, productive finance function.
Minimising the grind
Automating critical finance and accounting processes such as financial close, accounts receivable automation and intercompany financial management is one way organisations can create the time and space for their finance teams to develop new skills. The term ‘financial automation’ refers to the use of software to automate many of the repetitive tasks associated with the finance function – think reconciling accounts and producing end of month statements and reports.
Turning to technology reduces the number of human hours required to complete the tasks, and slashes the error rate to boot.
If you’re serious about maximising the benefit your finance team delivers to the enterprise – and providing them with opportunities to develop their careers in the process – it’s possibly the soundest investment you can make.