People are the most important asset of any business.
Today, organisations are transforming their finance functions — investing in new and emerging technologies to streamline operations and drive efficiency. However, underinvestment in people can spell disaster for transformation programmes and the wider organisation. In an increasingly digital world, are we neglecting the people perspective?
By employing data analytics and artificial intelligence and providing finance professionals with the skills to work proactively with new technologies, businesses can improve insight and accuracy and drive data-enabled decision-making.
The key to success is developing the digital, technical and people skills that will bring out the best in the technology, maximising insight, influence and impact.
Equally, finance professionals must commit to lifelong learning and upskilling, so they can keep pace in this ever-changing business ecosystem. This important investment benefits both the individual and the business.
Finance transformation: the human perspective explores the
extent to which organisations are focusing on the ‘people’ aspects of finance transformation.
As a founding body of the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants®, CIMA® is dedicated to helping our members navigate changes in the profession, so they can lead communities, businesses and organisations to greater success. That is why we
are focused on delivering future-ready professionals.
Digital disruption is spurring organisational changes.
Companies need a persistent focus on talent to ensure Finance has access to the high-level analytical, design thinking, and technology skills needed in the future. It’s people, not robots, who are the key to better insights and analysis — simply buying new technology doesn’t help you to truly transform.
ANDREW HARDING, FCMA, CGMA
Association of International Certified Professional Accountants
Partner, Finance Transformation,
KPMG in the U.S.
The world has changed immeasurably since this report was first published in February 2020.
The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic stopped business in its tracks, often permanently. Governments scrambled to firefight and protect their citizens, while hospitals readied themselves for worst-case scenarios.
Against this survivalist background, aspirational transformation
projects took low priority. Yet, in many ways, the novel coronavirus has had an accelerating effect on transformation. The digitally driven future was closer than any of us
A poll of finance professionals and CEOs conducted during the Association’s Agile Finance Reimagined webcast series in May 2020 indicated that, while two-fifths of respondents had paused their transformation initiatives due to the pandemic, over half had accelerated their finance transformation plans.i By the end of July, 67% reported that they will continue with or accelerate digital transformation efforts, with a further 17% planning to revisit these initiatives in the coming months.ii
Switching from office-based to digitally enabled remote working, while transformative to working practices, processes and personal lives, is only part of the story. We need to move beyond short-term emergency measures to more sustainable, flexible operating models supported by the right technology.
Association researchiii identified that, until now, how we work has been dictated by the technology available to us. But to successfully navigate and influence our new normal, we must tailor the technology to the needs of our business, and our people.
More than ever, business continuity relies on the flexibility and agility of the finance function. Planning and implementing changes to business models and working practices, whether temporary or permanent, require finance to take a more consultative approach to the business. Digitally enabled efficiency and productivity are crucial to success in this regard, with the improvement of informed decision-making, planning and budgeting reported as key focus areas.iv
Yet despite this focus on transformation, skills training is limited. When asked about building future skills for finance professionals, two-thirds of respondents said they either had no training programmes or very limited programmes in place. Only 6% considered that their organisations had a mature 'skills-building programme'.v
In a climate of change where revenue streams are unreliable and cashflow is the top priority, it is undeniably tempting to put transformation and skills training on hold, focusing instead on a day-to-day survival and recovery. But in times of crisis, finance professionals are key to business continuity. It is more important than ever to invest wisely in our people, building the human resilience needed to navigate the business through, and beyond, the challenges facing us.
Finance Transformation: the human perspective explores and highlights the pivotal role of people in finance transformation, using insights from finance and HR professionals.
Read on to discover more.
In recent years, technology has had a huge impact on business models and value creation. It has revolutionised the ways organisations engage with their customers, optimise operations, research, design and launch products and support the productivity of employees.
These broad changes to systems, processes and working practices require new approaches to finance, as traditional roles, responsibilities and core finance activities like month-end reporting lose relevance. To keep pace with the rapid rate of change in the wider business environment, finance functions need to become more agile. Finance professionals also recognise this: the 2019 ‘Mind the UK Skills Gap’ report found that 58% of workers consider the ability to adapt quickly to change in the working environment to be of prime importance over the next five years, up 10% from 2018. vi
In 2019, Agile Finance Unleashed: The Key Traits of Digital Finance Leaders found a strong link between organisational strength and
finance agility.vii Successful organisations are those that have invested in the finance skills that support digital business models. Yet the study also identified an imminent threat: only 10% of CFOs believe that their finance teams have the skills needed to support their organisations’ digital ambitions.
Even in organisations that appear committed to skills development, investing in technology takes clear precedence. KPMG International’s 2019 Global CEO Outlook survey found that while 44% of CEOs plan to upskill more than half of their entire workforce in new digital capabilities, less than a third (32%) prioritise workforce investments over those relating to technology. viii
It is often said that an organisation’s greatest asset is its people, and the rise of the ‘intangible economy’ has seen non-financial and intangible assets such as intellectual property, customer relationships and human capital making up most of a corporation’s net worth. ix
But in an increasingly digital world, are we neglecting the people perspective as we work to transform our businesses?
New joint research from the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants® and KPMG International set out to find an answer to this important question, using a global survey and case studies of good practice.
‘If you’re seeking to transform an organisation,
what you’re seeking to do is change a complex
system of people, culture, processes, organisation
Robert Bolton, Head of Global People and Change Centre of Excellence,