The Future of Work
2023 Investment in Finance Teams According to CFOs
About the Author: Gary Simon, BSc, FCA, FBCS, CITP, is in the “Top 10” most viewed Leaders profiles on Linkedin in the UK. He is a highly sought after lecturer and trusted provider of ‘thought leadership’ and analysis about finance and business systems for CFO’s around the world. He is a Fellow of the British Computer Society; a Chartered IT Professional; a Fellow of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales; a Graduate of Queen Elizabeth College (now Kings) London University and the author of four books on financial software and information systems.
With prolonged inflation, rate hikes and the looming threat of recession still on the horizon, the markets remain volatile. Against this background, the Office of the CFO is facing the constant challenge of ‘right-sizing’ the finance function as the responsibilities and pressures grow but the supply of finance talent shrinks. This prompted FSN and FloQast to ask CFOs, in a September LinkedIn poll, how they plan to invest in their finance teams in 2023.
The results, drawn from 214 senior finance professionals in the FSN Modern Finance Forum, confirm that for the foreseeable future, CFOs plan to do more with the resources already at their disposal. There was a clear preference for training the existing finance team (46%) or using technology to create more efficiencies within the processes they use (37%). Broadly speaking, 12% of CFOs surveyed shunned the alternative options of hiring in new expertise (and 5% rejected the idea of reaching out to consultants.
There is undoubtedly an economic component to the results. For example, with macro-economic concerns weighing heavily, many organisations have instituted a freeze on new hires. There is also the added complication of many employees returning to the workplace after the pandemic – so not surprisingly, some businesses are waiting for the dust to settle before recruiting more people or bringing in consultants.
As it stands, the finance mantra for the moment seems to be “to do more with less,” which probably explains the popularity shared among CFOs of investing in both the existing team and process efficiencies. Modern financial solutions can help to underpin staff mobility and training as well as create opportunities for automation and process optimisation.
Train the Existing Team
In order to retrain people, finance leaders need to release the capacity to reassign workloads. But this can be difficult for a manager to properly assess and execute, without the support of modern task management software that records what work is being done and the time it takes to complete. Innovative software solutions such as FloQast, can give managers direct visibility into tasks. For example, within the Record to Report process, which provides accurate insights into the workload, revealing, perhaps for the first time, how best to reassign work.
Create Tech Efficiencies
Another way to free up team capacity is to create workload efficiencies for employees, which is why. many CFOs have identified digitisation as a key competency they plan on investing in 2023. Tools that can help create those efficiencies through automation and communication often liberate much-needed capacity for employees, almost immediately. But many organizations struggle to understand process efficiency across teams, departments, and functions. Frequently, they do not have access to objective, timely, and dependable measures of performance that could act as a springboard to enhanced productivity.
Indeed, 70% of accountants report being stuck in traditional tasks, with the Close being the most significant. This is where innovation and automation can help, by replacing perception and guesswork with granular information about tasks and workflow. Automating task management allows the finance function to identify and quantify persistent bottlenecks in the Close process and act as a platform for continuous improvement.
FloQast, for example, tackles the very issues of lack of awareness and transparent communication by creating an easy-to-read, follow, allocate list of tasks/processes for all to see, as well as automating communication through integrations with e-mail and popular collaboration tools such as Slack and Microsoft Teams.
Notwithstanding the current pressure to keep a tight lid on headcount, hiring freezes tend to be a cyclical and temporary setback. However, in a very competitive labour market, having modern, innovative technology can be pivotal in attracting the best finance talent when a hiring rebound arrives. Tech-savvy candidates don’t want to be shackled to old technology, and know that new technologies support a more productive (value-adding) and fulfilling role..
It is also important to bear in mind that hiring new heads requires a significant investment in training and perhaps months to truly extract value. Software that records tasks and workload while showing where processes fit within the overall finance function – along with responsibilities on the individual contributor’s level – allows ‘tribal’ knowledge to be efficiently shared and quickly enables a new joiner to be brought up to speed.
Consultants – Temp Resources
Although least popular according to the FSN poll, leveraging consultants can indeed help uplift processes, tackle technical support or simply act as additional temporary resource. However, it can take a considerable time to become fully productive.
Task management platforms enable external resources to hit the ground running more easily by laying out the entirety of the close process and other operational workstreams clearly for a consultant to review. In addition, these tools simplify the allocation and communication of work and status, effectively decreasing the time spent on management without giving up control of the relationship.
With so many global factors impinging on the finance function at the moment and recruitment out of the picture for the time being, smart CFOs know that they need to invest in training the finance team and automation if they are to remain agile and responsive to business, market, and regulatory demands.