Are you being left behind in the advent of technology?
I was recently asked to speak at an exclusive ACCA members event about the changing face of the finance function.
Technology today is developing at breakneck speed and businesses are having to adapt quickly to keep up with the demands of this technological advancement. There is no exception for finance! The demands of trading in not only a challenging economy but a world that is increasing data led have directly impacted the skills required in finance teams.
The last revolution in finance was the move from management accounting and information to “business partnering”. Regardless of your expertise in finance, accountants are now sat with the business, sometimes with the operations teams or “sales floor”. They are no longer informers and policers but more influencers and provide business counsel to their stakeholders. This is in reaction to businesses looking at more innovative ways to impact organic growth, increase margins and build a sustainable business. Speed to decision making is key and this is where being at the front foot of technology comes in together with accountants acting as true business partners.
Many of the large corporations we work with are moving more "number crunching" work to shared service centres (both onshore and offshore) and looking at ways to automate more and more of this type of work. This particular topic was something that was covered in a recent article published on our website here. This is being driven by the requirement to match the demands of businesses to keep their strategy agile to respond to the pace of change in the market place. This, in turn, requires businesses to be able to analyse data to drive through performance.
This shift in larger businesses will highlight the difference in skills required in these businesses versus SMEs. Of course, SMEs will go through their own journey of automation and use technology in the same way but finance roles will be broader so accountants will have to be experienced in more facets of finance. So what does this mean for people looking for advancement in their careers? We predict that there will be a larger division of the background of individuals working in an SME versus those who work for a large corporation and potentially it could become harder to move from one type of business to the other.
As result of this automation and focus on driving technological advances through finance teams, we are increasingly seeing a split in the finance function in large corporates between technical and commercially focused roles that are embedded within the business. When we speak about technical roles these aren’t the statutory or reporting roles necessarily but more of an advisory role acting as an interface between the process owners and the finance teams. Call it more of a business partnering function for technical accounting policy. This business partnering focus is being driven by the finance function at all levels and in fact with the advent of automation of finance tasks we will see more of a shift to this way of working.
What do you do to future proof your career?
Technology and automation are here to stay on the finance landscape and we need to embrace the changes that will ensue. Ultimately it should make financial roles much more interesting and rewarding and ensure they truly have a seat in decision making.