Before we even get started talking about how you can transform your finance function we need to answer the big question, the WHY. Why does transforming finance matter? Sure, there’s a cost element to it where you can benefit from labour arbitrage by offshoring to cheaper location or automation where robots replace your accountants. But in the bigger scheme of things why does it matter? To us, it’s about the past and future of work that is work in finance. Prior to starting a career in finance, Anders had a short stint in HR to explore the people side of the business as he found it quite interesting. He wrote about it some years ago and about why he decided to abandon a career in HR. The business/frontline/operations simply didn’t find HR interesting. Well, guess what, in many companies, the business doesn’t find finance interesting either.
So why is it that the business doesn’t find finance interesting? Perhaps because they work with a lot of numbers which no one outside finance understands how can make a difference for the company. So, today, they’ll say
“Can’t we just automate and handle everything with robots? Do we even need finance anymore?”
There it is, on the brink of extinction, finance must find the answer and justification for its existence. That’s why transforming finance matters. We need to find the answer to why the business needs people in finance. It’s simple really. The people in finance need to make a difference for the business. They need to add value to the company and help business managers achieve their objectives and be successful. If you look around and ask the accountant closest to you (s)he will say (s)he wants to be this difference-maker. In fact, all accountants ever wanted was to make a difference for the company by producing high-quality numbers and insightful analyses that could help the business make better decisions.
Now comes the hard part. How do finance and accountants add value to the company? Anders has written numerous posts about finance business partnering and the value-adding element of finance, however, not all accountants can be finance business partners or the like. It requires a completely different skillset and they might not even like it. This is where the future of work comes in. What does an accountant that can’t become a business partner do? Specialize? Run backwards to other companies that haven’t transformed their finance function yet? Disrupt their careers and do something completely different? We don’t have all the answers but that’s the second answer to why transforming finance matters. We need to find more answers for those that can’t transition to the future of finance. Like in previous revolutions in the workplace, people have always found something else to do but isn’t better to have an idea about what that something is before reality hits you hard on?
So, we’re asking you dear network. What does the future look like for accountants? Some find answers in the specialization path but that won’t work for all. Others will run to companies that are further behind on the transformation journey but they can’t hide forever. Maybe they’ll make it to retirement but accounting education hasn’t changed much over the years so even today we educate accountants for something that might not be needed a few years out. What will happen to those new graduates? We’re looking for answers because we feel this is an important topic. We work a lot with and write a lot about what happens at the forefront of finance transformation but not so much about those left behind. Do you even agree that some are left behind or do you think there’s always going to be a place for accountants in finance?