People Are The Engine That Drives Finance Transformation: Part 1

Nilly Essaides

Part 1 of a 2-part series

You could have 500 robots and the fanciest predictive analytics tool. But that won’t move the needle on enterprise performance – not if your finance team isn’t receptive to and adaptive of smart technologies. This was the overriding message from The Hackett Group’s Best Practices Conference in early May. The theme, Unlocking Digital Value, was supported by multiple presentations about robotics, the formation of global business services centers (GBS), and adoption of artificial intelligence (AI). But speakers made one thing clear: Without the right talent-development initiatives, even the most sophisticated cognitive technology won’t yield transformative change.

To realize the promise of digital transformation, finance executives need to do two important things:

  1. Ask the right questions about the talent challenge
  1. Start preparing their staff for the future

Four key questions

Here’s what finance executives must ask themselves today:

  1. What skills will their teams require to support the business as it seeks to optimize its digital transformation?
  1. What will the finance workforce look like in the next 12 to 18 months and three to five years, given the prominence of the millennials and the prevalence of smart technologies?
  1. What new career paths must emerge to accommodate new finance organizational structures that lack the traditional “ladders” for advancement?
  1. What finance talent development plans are required to prepare incoming and existing talent for the challenges ahead?

One of the big problems is that it’s hard to imagine what those new roles will be. Nearly half of the companies in The Hackett Group’s 2017 EPM/Finance Talent Profile Quick Poll said they did not know what the future roles will look like. Half didn’t have a talent strategy.

That may explain that, while 91% of finance organizations expect digital transformation to have a major impact on their service-delivery model, only 35% in our 2018 Key Issues Study said they have the resources and competencies to execute on their digital strategy. It’s imperative that finance closes that gap if it’s going to realize the benefits of digital transformation.

Our 2017 Digital Transformation Performance Study charted which finance skills are both the most important and are also the hardest for finance to find (see below). Among the most critical and hardest to find are: storytelling, business acumen, problem-solving, and analytics. While tech savviness is difficult to find, it’s not the most important. That tells us that the automation of finance will only enhance the importance of our uniquely “human” skills.

In Part 2 of this series, we’ll look at the steps several companies are taking to prepare.

As artificial intelligence takes hold, the organizations that gain a competitive edge will be those that leverage The Human Angle.

Nilly Essaides

About Nilly Essaides

Nilly Essaides is senior research director, Finance & EPM Advisory Practice at The Hackett Group. Nilly is a thought leader and frequent speaker and meeting facilitator at industry events, the author of multiple in-depth guides on financial planning & analysis topics, as well as monthly articles and numerous blogs. She was formerly director and practice lead of Financial Planning & Analysis at the Association for Financial Professionals, and managing director at the NeuGroup, where she co-led the company’s successful peer group business. Nilly also co-authored a book about knowledge management and how to transfer best practices with the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC).