IT is making finance more than just a numbers game

Matthew Hardill, FD at Solutionize GlobalHardill: businesses must keep pace with change

As digital work practices continue to evolve at a rapid rate, the financial sector is struggling to stay ahead of the curve and needs react swiftly to the constant changes the industry finds itself facing, says Matthew Hardill

For years, the finance professional was always the one in charge of the more ‘traditional’ tasks – such as auditing, planning and budgeting. It was often manually demanding work done by a small team that reported in directly to C-suite. And, whilst those responsibilities have not exactly changed, the ways in which they now work on a strategic level, have.

Modern directors are required to be more than IT proficient to enable them to move swiftly with the times. They must look into more innovative ways to sustain long-term growth, keep their organisation’s financial heart-rate beating, and remain a positive influence within an incredibly exciting industry.

FDs have no choice but to adapt, and continue to do so. They must know how to, not only develop alongside online tech at the same speed, but also react positively to the array of changes that digital dictates.

Auditing, planning and strategy are therefore now more important than ever before. But there are additional requirements for FDs and their processes now – they have to be agile, smart and relevant.

Organisations – many of which might not have seen themselves as innovative – are now looking at ways to disrupt the marketplace, and they need their teams on the journey with them.

Recognising emerging trends, the latest piece of software or budgeting for the potential of cloud migration, are all additional decisions that FDs need to make in today’s tech workforces. And those unprepared to go on the same journey, risk being left behind.

Employees have so many more plates to spin now and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach to success. However, if FDs can interpret the outcomes of digitally-driven data well, they can prove to be a huge benefit to a firm’s evolution.

And customers’ expectations have vastly evolved. They want information to be delivered to them personally, quickly and efficiently.

Technology has the power to diversify back office functions. Those once repetitive, manual tasks – such as setting up workflows and CRMs – can now be controlled by automated services. Having the crucial insight into whether a firm should be putting more – or less – resources into cloud usage, procurement or pay per play functions for example, can prove to be pivotal in forecasting and accelerating real-time decision-making.

Part of their role now involves consistently analysing the level of need for each technological investment too – and utilising the digital tools they have available to uncover hidden growth opportunities.

A human touch is still required for savvy customer service, but modern-day FDs should be open to creating in-house processes using machines which complement their activity, ensuring that employees are released and able to be more productive in their day-to-day tasks.

New code: IT should drive the business

There is still a lot to be said for how imperative soft skills are.

Finance employees must have excellent communication skills from the outset. Why? Because they are the ones who have to clearly and precisely explain why something has been done, and what benefit it will bring to the whole operation.

Often the gatekeeper of a company, providing a strong level of support can not only help their own teams, but C-suite, stakeholders, board members and the entire workforce. Therefore, FDs have to be adaptable in their language, and remain approachable and present, as well as take the time to get to know their colleagues so their messages land with the desired effect.

Required to lead on meetings, manage difficult situations, be cool under pressure and exist as a reliable influence when making decisions for the good of the company, a modern-day FD now has to show empathy throughout. Having such a crucial skill can promote trust, authenticity and honesty between teams and empower an organisation to utilise its many voices, and work together during high-pressure moments.

Additionally, technology presents FDs with even more ways to communicate more effectively. They can use automation and online tools to personalise comms, maintain dialogue via video calls and real-time updates for a streamlined approach.

Much like being able to adapt to change, FDs must also be willing to continue their own individual development, especially within the tech sector. Having key knowledge not only arms employees with the tools needed to make pivotal decisions, but they then also have a greater understanding of how new technologies work, or how the latest piece of industry insight directly affects their business.

It should not matter at what level an employee is at when providing personal development options either. Savvy enterprises should always be looking to upskill their workforces regardless of job roles – especially if they want to make their staff feel valued, trusted and a key asset. Agile FDs want the same too – to be part of an organisation which cares about their voice, talent and skillset.

There is no hard-and-fast rule as to exactly how FDs will prove to be a successful addition to a firm – everyone is different. What these employees have to do if they want to be a strong employee in a challenging sector like tech – is acknowledge that their job roles are more evolved than what they would have been five, 10 or 20 years ago.

Complementing their own skills alongside the technology available and utilising the ways in which modern-day enterprises now operate, can help savvy FDs focus more on how finance drives the business – rather than the other way around.

  • Matthew Hardill, is financial director of cloud and technology focused managed service provider, Solutionize Global of Wakefield, Yorkshire