12th November 2019
Business Finance

The Future of Business Finance & Operations

The digital transformation has already made a profound impact on all traditional business models across almost all business sectors provoking significant and dramatic benefits including reduced costs, increased speed of delivery, easier collaboration in vertical businesses and greater levels of transparency and reliability of information. Great news!

Logically, the digital transformation is also provoking profound effects on Business Finance & Operations. Good news?

Said effects extend to jobs and ones in Finance & Operations professions appear to be those most threatened. Ongoing innovation, including artificial intelligence and robots, are predicted to intensify this transformation. New software applications that are capable of producing accounting information without any human intervention are presently being implemented. Bad news?

According to a survey published recently by Emoluments, two thirds of accountants are bored at work. Brings back haunting memories of the infamous Monty Python sketch entitled The vocational guidance counsellor portraying, five decades ago, the profession as boring and dull. Worse news?

The combination of these two phenomena sets to condemn the Business Finance & Operations profession.

Or does it?

The Finance & Operations function has always been fundamental to assisting businesses set and achieve their strategic objectives. Surely more relevant than ever?

Historically, particularly during the economic crisis, finance & operations professionals have been under intense pressure and resource constraints. Most have focused on performing key basics: processing, checking and analysing information. Too much time and energy merely spent doing rather than proactively adding value to the businesses.

We live in times of volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. Transformation in business has become a constant and the Business Finance & Operations function is placed at the epicentre. Exciting opportunities abound, it’s time to up the stakes and shift the focus.

There is now huge impetus to improve the agility of businesses with Finance & Operations contributing to achieve sustainable profitable growth embracing digital technologies and advanced management practices. Fantastic news!

This transformation will demand that finance & operations professionals develop a broader skill set to provide the analytical insights and strategic guidance to assist management adopt new digital business models.

On jobs, surprisingly also great news. Lower-skilled routine jobs are progressively being replaced by higher-skilled non-routine jobs that require insight, digital expertise and other softer people skills. According to a recent UK based study, four times as many new finance & operations jobs have been created than those lost as a direct result of technological transformation.

Attributes of an agile and effective Business Finance & Operations Function include:

  • Integrated, cross-functional teams, typically in Shared Service Centres environment
  • Standardised operational & accounting processes
  • Empowered by cloud, digital technologies & robotic process automation
  • Data analytics and artificial intelligence facilitating enhanced Planning & Analysis
  • Predictive analytics for Enterprise performance management

The initially perceived threats appear to have evolved into Opportunities:

  • In areas where there are huge volumes of transactions, technology will be harnessed to increase security and optimise the analysis. However, where judgement and subjectivity are the differentiating factors, technology cannot replace human intervention. Most finance & operations professionals will be able to focus more of their time on generating tangible value for the organisation by finding creative solutions to everyday problems.
  • A more challenging, motivating and rewarding future with fewer accountants bored and/or drowning in Excel spreadsheets.
  • Successful professionals will continually develop new skills in innovative areas.
  • I am particularly excited about the implications of ongoing innovation and have high expectations concerning:- Predictive analytics, Simulation modelling and Cognitive analytics.

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