Finance teams are in a paradigm shift, replacing traditional processes with technology and automation, transferring the responsibility of recording data to software in order to focus on adding more value on business insights and decisions making. But is this where the shift ends? Or is it possible that the finance team we currently know will soon no longer exist?
As the role of finance moves towards the role of strengthening business performance and opportunity discovery, it can only mean that the structure and needs of the team will change as well.
Breaking Up is Hard to Do
The finance function will always exist, that really isn’t the question. The question is… what will the team look like? Finance will be charged with breaking down the barriers between departments in order to combine relevant data that comprises the story of the organization. It’s possible that we’ll see a new trend of breaking apart the finance team to act as department ambassadors, integrating directly with each team to port out needed information.
Penetrating each department is the best way to remove walls between department data so that it can be combined for more powerful insights. This will require not only team structure changes, but changes in responsibility in each department for software implementation and data management. Ownership of the data will ultimately need to make it’s way into the finance department in order to achieve an end to end picture of the business.
Emerging Career Specializations
The intense focus on data is bubbling up 3 key roles in finance that are paramount to success.
- Data Collection: Architecting systems to accurately collect and hold data is a foundational need. Historically this has fallen to IT departments, however, finance will need to start taking a strategic role because they will hold the key to driving the process towards achieving the right output. Most systems are not truly plug-and-play, especially for organizations looking at a large quantity of data from multiple departments. Successfully selecting systems, as well as effectively configuring it to get the needed output will come from technical knowledge mixed with knowing how the data will ultimately need to be used.
- Business Analyst: While this is not a new role, it will become a more prominent role. Having a business analyst that understand the financial side of the business isn’t simply enough, this role will also start bringing other departmental knowledge to the team and will be best suited as ambassadors to other teams. They will help bridge the gap in combing departmental data by having functional knowledge in multiple business areas and knowing how to combine the data to gain strategic insights.
- Storyteller: Often this is left to the business analyst, but it will soon become it’s own specialization. Being able to not only interpret the data, but successfully communicate it to key stakeholders, storytellers will make complex issues digestible across the organization, presenting it as a complete story on business performance. They will be responsible for the “sell” or instilling confidence in the findings and recommendations.
A New C-Level
CFO’s have historically been focused on how finance can add value to an organization, often with the preconceived notion that value is achieved through providing more insights and lowering costs. This focus is becoming outdated as finance teams shift towards being primarily centered around data analysis. Now that finance teams are analyzing data and using it to make recommendations, a new C-level executive is rising with a new purpose of making finance a strategic and innovate department.
The Chief Performance Office is focused on building organizational resilience, not only improving the business’s ability to withstand extreme or unforeseen events, but also allowing it to take advantage of and being confident to pursue new opportunities. The CPO will be involved cross-departmentally, with an eye on innovation – looking at new tactics and strategies to enable the finance team in data collection, analysis and stakeholder engagement.
These changes won’t happen overnight, but we can see that some are already taking root. Finance teams have already started the shift to data analysis, using automated controls for a more consistent end to end data collection process. As technology develops to become more predictive and automation capabilities expand, human interaction with data collection will be minimal and only focused on irregularities and exceptions. This will enable more change to occur in finance’s role in the company and its structure.