The “future of finance” is one of those terms that everyone talks about but nobody can define. The simple reason for that is there is no one-size-fits-all solution. Transformative technology will play a key role in finance, but moving into the future by choosing a technology platform first is one of the reasons that more than half of the future of finance efforts stall. Finance departments that opt for a quick fix without upskilling their employees or transforming their business processes can end up wasting huge amounts of both time and money.
The pandemic added a new sense of urgency to quickly embracing the future of finance. Waiting to see what others do is not an option. A recent study from the Institute of Internal Auditor’s Audit Executive Center shows that, when execs want an internal auditor, 25% recruit for the traditional auditing skills of accounting, while 43% recruit for business acumen and 40% recruit for industry-specific knowledge. Without a holistic approach to preparing your professionals to the demands of the future, you could end up spending thousands of dollars on solutions that your staff don’t understand the benefits of and can’t fully leverage.
The emergence of sophisticated automation software and artificial intelligence requires finance departments to eschew antiquated notions about what makes a good financial analyst. Finance leaders today want their team to be seen as trusted advisors, not just scorekeepers. As a recent Accountancy Age article explains, “automation and artificial intelligence increase the dependency on soft skills, and faced with continued digital disruption, professionals need to hone in on these talents.” These soft skills include leadership, communication, emotional intelligence and critical thinking and problem solving. The article goes on to describe the accountants of the future as professionals who can “become business influencers and leaders, and position themselves as storytellers who provide foresight to business partners. They need to enhance their social and commercial skills to better tell the story of the business, generate new insights and business solutions, and collaborate effectively with colleagues and external stakeholders to improve both overall company and staff performance.”
So, how do you effect change within your finance organization on such a grand scale? Vendors offering technological solutions only provide training in those platforms. Before you purchase technology, you must first understand your staff’s bandwidth for change, what solutions are going to be most useful and effective for your organization, and how to effect the cultural change that will ensure a long-term return on your investment. Well-trained staff complement the new technology you implement. Staff that have not bought in to the transformation, are burnt out on change or aren’t trained in the foundational skills needed in the future, become unproductive and a drag on the team’s performance. Invest the time and effort in understanding your organization and formulating an appropriate business strategy first, then find the technology that will support that strategy.
This holistic change requires more than just understanding your business’ and finance staff’s needs today. The founder of MRA Learning, Mike Ramos, brings to bear over 30 years of experience in the accounting field, including stints as the director of CPE and training at the AICPA and senior manager in the professional development department at KPMG. MRA Learning has launched a curriculum of live and distance learning tailored future of finance training programs targeting the skills finance professionals need to fully leverage new technology and prepare for the future. We help senior leaders gain clarity around problem definition and skills gaps BEFORE they purchase new technology. Finally, we work with financial managers to formulate an internal communications strategy, or “change story,” that lets staff know how and why the organization is changing, why those changes are important and how they’ll benefit from the transformation. This practice alone makes a successful transformation three times more likely.
Surveys show that 72% of accountants prefer courses that “suggest personalized study content based on [their] specific progress, strengths, and weaknesses.” The business strategy and culture change needed to successfully embrace finance of the future are so profound and tailored that tailored seminars are really the only way to ensure that the entire finance department is “brought along” with the change and fully grasps the new skills required of them. Tailored training also provides an opportunity to interweave corporate messaging and internal communications strategies into the curriculum.
A recent Forbes article cautioned against buying technology for the sake of digital transformation. “Instead, buy based on your business goals and with your user in mind.” MRA Learning can help you formulate those business plans and implement a strategy that’s coherent, sustainable and enthusiastically supported by your entire staff.
MRA Learning offers a free consultation to help you better understand the status of your change program and suggest courses of action that will help you kick off your transition to the future of finance on the right foot, or get your stalled transition back on track.