How Effective Is Your Finance Organization In Developing New Digital Skills?

Nilly Essaides

Digital transformation is having a big impact on how finance professionals work and the skills they need to perform changing roles. Finance is spending less time on transactional, repetitive activities. Professionals need to become better at doing other things like Big Data analytics, strategy formulation, and collaborating with the business. These skills are in line with current management expectations for finance: to deliver better insight, support digital transformation, and work effectively with business partners.

Is finance keeping up with these new demands? The answer is that there are still significant gaps between the skills finance has and those it requires to excel in the digital age. Our research indicates that the largest gaps are in analytics and modeling, technology savviness, and service design.

New digital tools are not only creating a need for advanced analytical thinking and understanding technology; they are also affecting how finance delivers its services to internal and external customers. Data visualization, mobile computing, and social media solutions are overhauling the way finance interacts with its customers. Finance must consider the needs of each group of stakeholders as it decides how to provide the necessary information.

A prevalent weakness in keeping up with skills demand

Most finance executives in our 2018 Digital Skills Poll reported that they are only somewhat effective in keeping up with the new demands. A fifth said they’re ineffective. That must change. Finance must realize the benefits of digital transformation and operate with greater agility to accommodate volatile market conditions and customer demands.

One problem is that many finance executives are unsure what the talent profile should be, given rapidly changing roles. In a recent talent poll by The Hackett Group, nearly half of respondents did not know what these new roles would look like.

Another problem is that finance has been lax in monitoring changes in demand and supply of skills and how to align them to their needs. Just over half of finance executives in our skills poll said they only informally track changes in skills demand and supply, and they link them only loosely to their finance talent strategy.

Five things finance can do to improve

  1. Augment the function’s strategic workforce-planning capabilities by working closely with the HR organization.
  1. Develop a vision for the digital finance organization and build an explicit talent strategy to enable it.
  1. Segment staff and identify critical roles vs. support roles.
  1. Customize a digital skills strategy for each segment
  1. Track the effectiveness of the talent strategy and adjust accordingly.

Talent today is scarce, particularly in growth areas such as advanced analytics. In fact, the skills gap is the fastest-growing business risk facing companies today. Our research shows that most finance executives look internally for new staff. That means they must pay close attention to their teams’ talent development needs and provide the right training and support to help close the skills gap.

For more on hiring top talent, see Three Steps To Narrow The Gender Gap In Finance.

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).