It's hardly a new statement: Today's finance executives are being challenged to continuously add value. No easy feat considering finance is generally focused on outputs rather than improvements of the finance function.
This requires finance executives to be catalysts for change in evolving the role of finance from a transaction processing and historical reporting focus to the role of a strategic business partner who is responsible for the overall performance of the organisation.
Over the last few weeks, I've had numerous discussions with Chief Financial Officers and Financial Directors around what the future role of finance looks like. The constant feedback I get is that finance executives need to get best-in-class finance functions in order to achieve what the business expects from them and their organisation. This is critical in order to navigate today's complex business environment.
Most finance executives see the evolution of the finance function as best achieved through making changes to Process, People and Technology (finance transformation), but is it really best in class finance function that we are seeking? Or an intelligent finance that is continuously progressing? A solution which can navigate through the forces of change in our business environment – something that enables us to influence and shape organisational strategy and performance.
The latter requires more than just leveraging the best technology tools and applications, it's about process efficiency and having the right talent and organisational structure.
Today's businesses are heavily impacted by internal and external pressure that forces organisations to shift or adjust their business strategy more frequently than ever before, those forces are:
Simply identifying the forces needed to make changes and implementing them is not enough, you need to make sure your transformations are made with the future in mind. Market forces change all the time. If you make one gigantic transformation today it will likely be outdated in the next few years – the key to success here is small, incremental changes. An intelligent finance function continuously progresses by making slight and small amendments, which is a lot easier than one big transformation that has to be repeated every couple of years.
Remember finance is about driving efficiency, better control and providing insights. If you continuously ask and answer the questions outlined below, you should be on your way toward intelligent finance. As for the how to get there, we'll leave that for another day.