Strategy AICPA

10 Proven Strategies for Shaping Company Success

Sponsored by AICPA

Many finance professionals lack the analytical and communication skills to provide critical insights to executives. AICPA and CFO Magazine share top companies’ best practices for building competencies that enable agility.


A recent survey by Open University Business School found that 60 percent of learning and development senior decision makers expressed a belief that highly effective learning is “critical” to organizational success, because skilled staff can help companies to adapt quickly and effectively to market needs, disruption, and uncertainty.

This is particularly true on the finance team. Their role is not just about tracking, collecting and reporting financial data. Finance team members are increasingly called on to define business solutions. For example, they need to identify cost problems or revenue opportunities, explain what is causing them, as well as recommend alternatives or business decisions based on that information. 

Plus, they need to provide these insights and guidance both quickly and succinctly, because in competitive marketplaces, the first to market usually wins. 

But many finance team members lack the analytical and communication skills – and knowledge of the business lines—to provide critical insights to executives. This paper discusses best practices and opportunities that CFOs can consider in building and maintaining key competencies for finance staff.

For Chris Newman, vice president of finance for global operations at First Data Corp., on-the-job training and mentoring programs may not suffice for finance staff to gain the analytical skills they need to pick up on an anomalous trend in the P&L, for example, or the communication and people skills they’ll need to convince managers that the trend represents a problem that needs to be solved. “We have these young, smart kids and we need to invest in them and their passion in order to accelerate their knowledge.” Newman says. “If you only rely on internal training and on-the-job learning, you may miss new thinking and techniques.” Investing in outside sources of learning and development can help fill the gaps in business acumen and these key skillsets.

“Things are moving very quickly nowadays,” Newman says. “The economic cycle seems to be much, much quicker—and accelerating rapidly. This environment requires companies to be agile.” For example, business models are changing rapidly due to technological advances. Finance needs to help anticipate these changes, and CFOs need their finance teams to understand the implications and help guide the businesses to translate the impact into financial terms. An obvious example is the cost and revenue differences for businesses that create value through the ownership of assets versus businesses with platform-as-a-service models. If finance team members lack the competencies to quickly understand these trends and articulate their impacts, their companies can experience missed opportunities, competitive disadvantages, loss of market share, and/or increased compliance risk.

Finance analytics and other tools are also changing rapidly. That means that finance teams must adapt. In some cases, the rate of development and the potential capabilities for technology in the finance function have outpaced the human abilities to use the new tools to maximum effectiveness. 

Companies who make staff learning a strategic priority can help ensure business agility, mitigate risks and realize growth opportunities. Top-performing companies have found that the best outcomes for learning and development are the result of comprehensive planning that articulates key desired competencies for employees, assesses current competency levels, and addresses the gaps between the two. 

Leaders who implement effective learning plans for developing these competencies can seize unique opportunities to shape company success, expand the influence of finance, and advance their careers.

Download and read the paper: Strategies for Shaping Company Success. AICPA and CFO Magazine share ten proven strategies for building staff competencies and other CFO best practices.