Written by Hette Mollema, Vice President Benelux Workday
What do other teams in the business expect from Finance? If the finance team wants to be a full partner of the business, what should it bring to the meeting table? To add strategic value, other departments expect Finance to look more ahead and not just report on what has been. In other words, looking more through the windshield and less in the mirrors.
Of course, the arithmetical and accounting basis must still be in order. Finance remains responsible for the numbers. Modern (cloud) technology ensures that the entry of transactions and the pure arithmetical and control work can be automated – and much faster and more accurately. Good finance systems make relevant data available throughout the organization in a bite-sized format. Thanks to technological solutions, Finance could (and should) now have its hands largely free to deliver the right information to the business in a timely manner.
More than turnover and profit
And there is a great need for this. This year, the ongoing study on the transformation of Finance – ‘Finance in the digital era‘ – conducted annually by the University of Amsterdam, Workday, Agium and Finance on a Mission, revealed, among other things, that the other teams expect Finance to add more value to strategic decisions in the here and now. Not so much the reporting and accountability after the fact (although that remains important too), but precisely the numerical substantiation and insights to take steps forward. A sales director said in the survey that he hoped and expected that Finance could provide the business with an “outside-in” perspective, similar to the report that analysts prepare on the performance of the organization. A marketing director indicated that it would also be good, for example, if Finance included relevant social developments in the analyses.
Solid basis for strategic plans
Finance as a business partner: what is needed for this? Managers and directors of other departments expect Finance to be able to lay a solid foundation for strategic plans. Where are the risks, where is the room, and if that room is not there, where do we make it anyway? Especially in uncertain times, the value of Finance to the strategy and success of an organization cannot be overstated. The CFO and his team can bring a broader perspective to the table and immediately provide directors with up-to-date and relevant numbers to properly weigh decisions and plans. This doesn’t just apply to short-term decisions. The long-term perspective can also be well underpinned with Finance’s insights.
The report ‘Finance in the digital era’ also provides concrete tools to better fulfill the role of business partner. The financial professionals surveyed indicated that they still consider themselves to be strongest in the ‘traditional’ tasks: reporting, compliance and risk management. Where can we do better? Finance itself feels that technology and data skills need to be further developed (53%), collaboration with others could be at a higher level (64%), its own contribution to the transformation of the organization could be stronger (63%), and leadership competencies are lagging behind (62%). The teams from the other disciplines also surveyed in the study also find Finance strong in the traditional tasks. They feel the areas for improvement are mainly in leadership skills (35%) and in the skills to collaborate and inspire other teams (18%). So, in addition to making sure Finance has the right technology solutions, building true partnership within the organization is also a challenge. After all, Finance wants to be seen as a full business partner.