Three ways finance teams evolved during the pandemic
It’s hard to believe that we have been dealing with the COVD-19 pandemic for over a year. As business leaders have been forced to adapt to challenging and fast-moving circumstances, CFOs have helped their organizations navigate the uncertainty and remain economically sustainable.
I’ve spoken to many finance leaders and professionals recently about what they’ve learned in the past 16 months, and it is a lot. Many are a bit weary from keeping up with the latest changes and impacts of government relief programs while also continuously helping their businesses reforecast and reproject. However, this time has also presented new opportunities to use what they’ve learned to stretch their roles to help their organizations adapt and thrive into the future.
Here are the top three takeaways finance leaders learned from the pandemic:
Working in a remote environment — which was mostly never done before
Remote or distributed working has become a new way of working for CFOs, VPs of finance and FP&A directors who have had to learn how to lead teams in a new environment. They not only use innovative technologies to manage their teams, but also link in with their peers, stakeholders and industry for long-term growth and innovation. The model for the future is hybrid, with a majority of people wanting two or three days in office and at home.
Implementing technology to accelerate the strategy — helping to navigate through this situation and making the finance function work even more effective
Technology allows finance leaders to spend more time focusing on the activities that will offer the greatest value to the business. For example, in the early days of my career, closing the books used to take up to three weeks. With technology such as the cloud, finance teams can shorten the close to three or four days. This allows CFOs and finance teams to spend more time analyzing data and advising the business. That’s why it’s so critical to develop skills in data analytics so that finance teams can turn data into insights that improve business performance, decision-making, budget planning and growth.
The opportunity lies in enabling teams to do the same things leaders are doing and encouraging them to more innovative or by using technology to free up their time. They then can provide value to the business and you can count on them to take on new roles and responsibilities.
Moving up the value chain — taking on the ‘role stretch’ as value partners to the CEO
CFOs have been moving up the value chain and in a position of extending themselves to help the CEO run the business by making it adapt and thrive, in what we call a “role stretch.” The stretch between keeping the numbers right and analyzing the future.
And, in times like these when you have to move quickly, teams must have the knowledge and skills to take on broader responsibilities as it becomes an “all-hands-on-deck approach.” That’s why it’s important to focus on upskilling to ensure they are ready for unexpected challenges. This, too, means investing in the appropriate technology setup to navigate smoothly through new obstacles and constraints. Otherwise, you may find a team struggling to close the books function and the stewardship function, which is equally important.
Many have identified that, although they have focused on things such as digital transformation, they haven’t kept up with upskilling the team to manage it as it brings different skill sets.
Overall, the need to build skills and embrace a digital mindset to deliver on the added opportunities as finance teams becomes even more critical to business sustainability and ongoing success. Management accountants must take steps today to transform, upskill and evolve to enhance their value and employability to be well-positioned to adapt and thrive into the future.
Tom Hood has been a longtime thought leader and driver of change within the accounting and finance profession. He will present at ENGAGE 2021 July 27 and 29. You can also connect with him on LinkedIn, and on Twitter.