It’s time to fully equip your finance and accounting teams to add greater value to the broader business in 2018, and contribute to creating the company’s competitive advantage.
During the last ten years, new finance technology has shifted to the cloud. Revenue recognition, financial reporting, tax and global regulations have evolved dramatically. Shared services models have grown further. Businesses have begun moving to increasingly digital services, such as subscription-based revenue streams.
Most importantly, automation is now enabling the finance function to move from a primary focus on quantitative, detailed, and repetition skills to adding soft skills, analytical expertise, and broader business-related experience.
These progressive changes are building the landscape for the exceptional accountant. But additional support and training are needed for your teams to thrive and transition into the elevated roles opening up in organizations.
Elevating Finance Performance
Manual processes create risk―both the risk of errors that can lead to misstatement, and the risk of disengaged, burned out employees that can lead to a high level of turnover―that impacts the bottom line.
These tedious tasks bury your teams with a workload that prevents them from contributing in ways more meaningful than producing the obligatory financial statements, especially during the financial close. And this deprives your organization of the value they could be gaining from the strategy and analysis that highly skilled accountants have the potential to perform.
New technology automates the most tedious tasks, allowing the finance function to transcend traditional number crunching and fully utilize their skillset. This generates a higher level of satisfaction that increases both engagement and retention.
It also opens the door for accounting and finance professionals to become more adaptable and prepared as technology continues to change the corporate landscape. Those who can track and interpret these changes will always be ready to integrate new, more efficient tools that can elevate the finance function to higher levels of value for the company.
Combining Continuous Accounting & RPA
One of these tools is Robotic Process Automation (RPA), which unleashes accountants to focus on strategic operations. It performs the time-consuming, mundane tasks so that F&A professionals can tackle the complex, higher-level accounting that requires in-depth knowledge, analysis, and nuance—such as evaluating financial reports, investigating accounting anomalies, or preparing corporate taxes.
The right RPA tools can also transform the financial close. With the larger, manual workloads automated, there is no need to wait until period-end to perform traditional close processes. Instead, they can be embedded within day-to-day activities, eliminating the end-of-period spikes and aligning the rigid accounting calendar more closely with the broader business.
We call this a Continuous Accounting approach, and it is the key to becoming an Exceptional Accountant. By fundamentally shifting the way accounting and finance is done, it frees your teams to provide high-value services in areas like fraud detection, compliance, data analytics, technology strategy, and business advice. The result is a more efficient close, more timely and accurate financial data, and a more engaged organization.
With this operating model, Exceptional Accountants can finally become experts on the company’s business, as they tap into the skillset that drew them into this professional in the first place. They can now apply their knowledge, expertise, and instinctual ability to uncover compliance issues and immediately see evidence of fraud.
As they embrace automation, a culture of continuous improvement is cultivated that keeps the finance function forward-thinking, engaged, and equipped to deliver full value. Having time for analysis also enables them to identify shifting market conditions that are impacting the bottom line.
Equipping Accountants to Become Exceptional
To create this kind of culture and equip your professionals to become the exceptional accountants of tomorrow, it’s essential to help them begin cultivating the skills they need today. And as you know, the most impactful leadership happens from the top down.
Here are the first three skills for your accounting and finance teams to master. These should also dominate your developmental focus, so you can confidently lead your teams to the next level.
1. Data Analysis Providing leadership with historical data is no longer enough. There is now a heightened expectation not only for predictive data, but the ability to distill “Big Data” into concise, decision-driving insights. Developing a theoretical and practical understanding of data and analytics is the first step toward truly adding value to the entire organization.
Leadership Tip: Be specific about the kind of insights you and your fellow finance executives need, and show your teams how to distill this information. Eliminating the guesswork and inevitable uncertainty will fast-track them to success in this area.
2. Effective Communication We’re living in the Age of Information, and exceptional accountants must learn how to communicate their analysis and insights in the most effective manner. This requires critical thinking and strong written and oral communication skills to convey pertinent financial information to executive teams and stakeholders.
Leadership Tip: Ask your teams for feedback about your communication abilities in a way that makes them comfortable enough to let you know what they really think. This can open the door to an honest discussion about how they can improve, while simultaneously showing you how to lead by example.
3. Relationship Building
As automation streamlines transactional tasks and frees time, human interaction will increase. This means that thriving in tomorrow’s business world will take more than water cooler-level conversation. Strive to strike a balance between managing numbers and people, in order to work well within a team and learn how to motivate and engage your employees and colleagues.
Leadership Tip: Begin by building deeper relationships with your teams and learn what motivates each one of them. This will create more effective teams and give you invaluable information about how to inspire and engage when it matters most.
Navigating the New Landscape
The new financial landscape is exciting, for while it’s defined by continual change, each day can be better than the last.
Automating the most tedious tasks frees the finance function to focus on complex, higher-level accounting and transform the financial close with a Continuous Accounting approach. This leads to a continuous improvement mindset that can benefit the entire organization.
Equipping your teams with the skills they need to succeed will, in turn, create competitive advantage for your company. It will elevate the role of finance to establish confidence in your accounting processes and insight into your operations. And it will empower you and your teams to become truly exceptional.