How to Survive the Financial Evolution

Financial Evolution

Claudia Pirko, ANZ Regional Director at BlackLine, discusses how finance professionals can prepare for the looming financial evolution. She highlights on how finance professionals can prepare for the future and cope with change.

Looming Financial Evolution

Across the business world, finance professionals are experiencing a period of profound and rapid change. Shifts in technology, customer demands, and management expectations mean that the old ways of working are no longer effective. This is the beginning of the financial evolution.

As a result, many finance professionals are wondering how to position themselves to avoid being left behind. They want to better understand the evolution that’s taking place within the finance function and their place within it.

The situation being faced can be summed up in the acronym VUCA*: volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity. The acronym accurately sums up business conditions as they exist now. VUCA has become the new normal.

Becoming ‘Future Ready’

Having the capacity to be anticipatory of emerging technology and trends in business is one of the most important skills that a finance professional can have. It is vital that, rather than being focused on historic data and events, they are instead looking to the future and predicting what is likely to happen.

As identified by high-profile accounting professional and author Tom Hood, there are five key steps every finance professional should follow to become future ready.

These steps are:

  • Context: Be aware, predictive and adaptive. It’s only by having a clear perspective of the macro trends that are occurring in the marketplace that an individual can be ready to respond to them. The pace of change is not slowing and business conditions in the years ahead will be vastly different from what they are today. One of the biggest that will have an impact on the finance department is automation.

  • Certainty: Develop ways to predict with as much certainty as possible the impact these large trends will have on the organisation in the short, medium and longer terms. It’s also important to differentiate between trends that are certain (such as changing market demographics and government regulation) and those which only may happen (like conflict or natural disasters).

  • Capacity: Carve out and dedicate some time to focusing on the changes that are happening today. The alternative is to wake up in 12 months and wonder what actually took place. Ways to find more time to do this include making better use of automation and software tools, improving workflows, and focusing on your best clients rather than trying to satisfy everyone all the time.

  • Competence: Look for ways that the skill level within the finance team can be improved to ensure staff are able to handle the rapid pace of change without becoming overwhelmed. They need to be able to anticipate disruptions before the occur, solve problems before they arise, understand customer needs before they are communicated, and see new opportunities before the competition.

  • Core beliefs: Working to protect the core beliefs of both the finance department and the organisation as a whole will provide a solid foundation for future growth. Understanding the value the department delivers to the business will prove to be an effective driver when conditions become tough and demands for improved performance increase.

Coping with the Pace of Change

It’s clear that the pace of change being experienced by finance professionals is only going to continue to increase. The winners of the future will be those who can learn faster than both the rate of that change and also faster than their competitors.

It’s also important to understand how the finance function will continue to fit into the business value chain. Finance professionals record business events and translate them into data. That data, through analysis, becomes information and knowledge. It is this knowledge that will drive business decisions and support the future success of the organisation.

Increasingly, finance professionals will evolve into fully fledged business advisors, communicating and working with all areas of their organisation. By being able to adeptly translate information into knowledge, they will be able to anticipate opportunities and design pathways to take advantage of them.

Rather than feeling like a rabbit in the headlights when confronted with the pace of change rushing through the business world, the successful finance professionals of the future will be the ones that take steps now to ensure they can add value to their organisation in new and exciting ways.

For more insights from BlackLine, check out their article Risk Management through Finance Process Automation.

*Editorial Note: The acronym VUCA was coined by The U.S. Army War College to describe the world after the Cold War.

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