As organizations move beyond ASC 606 / IFRS 15 projects, many will be noticing changes in their work day. Roles have changed, new systems and processes have been implemented and a huge amount of data is now available. Some finance teams have pivoted well to the new demands, others have not.
With much talk of future finance transformation projects - AI interests, Robotics Process Automation (RPA) and bots - how do managers address the demand for a new skill set?
We recently discussed this idea of 'life after revenue recognition implementation' with a panel of revenue experts. Representatives from Intuit, Red Hat, Sprint and KPMG discussed how technological advancements have impacted the finance office today and how they are grooming their teams to make the most of these changes.
Below, we've summed up a few common threads that emerged during their discussion.
Match your business needs with your people
All of the participants spoke about how your current business needs should match the skills of your people. If you need to network, collaborate and interact with other departments you need people who can do that. Not only do you have to think of today's business challenges, but you must know and hire for the skills you need in the future or work on building those skills within your team.
The skill set of today's (and tomorrow's!) finance professional is increasingly 'tech capable.' As finance becomes increasingly systemized and automated, it makes sense to have people who know systems and understand transaction flows. They need to go beyond being great at data input or auditing. Jay Franklin, Director, Revenue & Cost Accounting at Sprint, commented, "you really need someone with the analytical mind AND the systems mind."
Our panel agreed that accounting knowledge is "table stakes" and the base that everyone should have. However, the great employees are those who have the mindset to be able to trace transactions in a logical and analytic manner.
Mark Flournoy, CAO at Intuit told us the accountant or finance member of the future is going to need to know how to run things end to end, how things are impacted end to end, and how and when to get out of the mechanics of it and drive the business. These are the skills he looks for in his team.
Grow the people you have, to get the skill set you need
Jenn Anderson, Senior Director - America's Controller at Red Hat puts great thought in to managing her team as the company transforms. Jenn shared that Red Hat's growth has been rapid and the effect on the finance office has been challenging, "we're learning that our transactional activities are growing so fast that we can't keep up with them."
Automating routine processes and working with the existing team to up-skill and grow individual careers has been positive for Anderson. Spending time to locate and train for the skill set Red Hat now needs in their business has enabled a more analytical and process-oriented team. Anderson notes, "teaching process so they can understand upstream and downstream impacts," was a priority.
Focusing on growing employees internally is a huge cost savings, Anderson definitely sees the payoff of investing in the people she has right now. "It's amazing how people are actually willing to grow their career when you put a little bit of effort into it and give them the opportunity."
The panel agreed that often times developing current employees to meet future needs can be much more cost effective. They understand your unique business, your culture and have an established, trusted relationship.
Automate where it makes sense
People are not at their best when doing routine tasks. Once these tasks are automated, you can use your people for the thinking, planning, analytical and creative aspects of finance. Understanding the bigger picture of the organization and pairing that with the finance office operations allows people to do their thing.
Empower with process improvement
By turning to process improvement your team can work on helping finance support the organization in the best possible way. Even with automation in place, processes still need guidance and analysis from the team. Very few systems can ever be ‘set and forget’ in the finance arena.
- Your people who know the manual system should also know how your automation works, where the gaps are and how each piece fits together.
- Note where your roadblocks are that stop you achieving business goals. (If you are dealing with bottlenecks that seem impossible to solve The Goal – A process of ongoing improvement is a great read.)
- A process that has worked in a manual environment may no longer be efficient in an automated environment. If you truly know your system and your process end to end, you can quickly adjust to take advantage of automation.
The new accountant
The stereotypical view of the boring accountant is disappearing. Aptitude Software’s #thisismyaptitude campaign – kicked off at RevConnect 2018, our annual rev rec user conference, showcases finance folks and their unique abilities --- their aptitude. No longer the stereotypical "pencil pusher,” the campaign showcases the new accountant, the new finance person, all with a technological competence.
Jenn Savitzky, Director of Revenue Accounting at Activision Blizzard is a self-confessed "people person." Her first-hand experience at RevConnect included meeting a large group of interesting finance professionals with different personalities, interests, skill sets and backgrounds.
She observed, "Maybe there was a reason for that stereotype, but here we represent all different kinds of personalities, kinds of interests, skill sets, backgrounds - so yeah I think that the nerdy accountant is maybe still there, but we're all different and cool nerds."
For the new accountant, it's no longer just understanding the concepts of finance but having the ability to integrate with the organization's needs, bring clarity to enhance decision making, keep firm control in a changing environment and of course, to tap into their unique aptitude!