This is a guest blog post from our partner BlackLine, written by Anders Liu-Lindberg, a leading advisor to senior Finance and FP&A leaders on how to succeed with business partnering.
Finance and Accounting have been in a decade-long transformation journey, and while some feel like there is no end in sight, we have actually come a long way already.
Accenture recently reported that 60% of traditional finance tasks are now automated (up from just 34% in 2018). However, far too many transformation projects have had the aim to simply reduce the cost of Accounting and Finance rather than increase its value. This is a key flaw as it just reduces the size of the finance function and leaves a lot of value on the table.
Instead, we believe F&A leaders should plan for how to use your newly freed-up resources. Automating your processes and increasing data quality delivers a lot of benefits if we understand how to use the numbers properly. It can enable accountants to transform into strategic business partners and use their time in a completely different way, adding a lot more value to the company.
In this article, we share our view on what a week in the life of an accountant could look like when a finance transformation is completed successfully. We will also discuss the skills and continuous enablement from digital solutions accountants need to excel in the future of finance.
The Ideal Week for the Transformed Accountant
Finance transformation is just as much a functional agenda as it is an individual agenda. If accountants do not decide to do anything differently, they will be left behind to do mundane work without a chance to be a business partner.
Hence, it is important that all accountants choose to work in new ways, and ideally, become a valued partner to the business. Here is what an ideal week looks like for a finance business partner in a transformed finance function.
There are naturally a few pre-requisites that need to happen to make this week a reality:
- Accounting becomes a centralized function that is largely automated with full responsibility for producing the numbers. This also involves all transactional processes of order to cash and procure to pay.
- A center of excellence for analytics is established to ensure most reporting and analysis is done in a standard way and is based on one set of numbers.
- The finance operating model is changed to transform accounting roles into business partners with proper upskilling, so they can embrace their new role with confidence.
Just imagine for a moment that most of your F&A teams already operate this way. How much value would be created and how would it change business stakeholder’s perception of Accounting and Finance?
We bet this would compel them to invest in more finance and accounting staff instead of additional sales reps.
How Accountants Succeed in This Role
To succeed in this post-transformation role, accountants must spend very little time producing the numbers. The most they would get involved in is qualifying input on accruals and manual adjustments, as well as creating ad hoc analysis on request from their stakeholders.
Getting to this state can only happen if processes are further automated and analysis of the numbers is made simple and easily accessible.
Also, we must provide accountants with simple solutions and processes they can use to engage with their new stakeholders in the business. We must recognize that this a hard behavioral shift for most accountants.
We have been used to having a relationship with the numbers, which shifts to people for the large part. Hence, we should invest in upskilling the team so they are trained on using the new solutions and processes and are provided with coaching and feedback into their practical application.
Your finance function can become a value generator rather than a pure cost-drain if you do all this. This is a fundamental shift and the real benefit of the decade-long finance transformation that we have been going through.
However, we must travel the last mile now and enable accountants to become business partners to realize the vision of the value-generating finance function. Are you ready to take the first step?
This blog post was originally published on the BlackLine blog.