Why it makes sense to turn your finance function into a powerful business asset

Giving members of your finance team the opportunity to grow professionally is good for their career and your company.

Are you making optimal use of the highly qualified personnel in your finance department? For many Australian companies and organizations the answer is undoubtedly no. Your finance professionals remain mired in the mundane—routine, transactional tasks that don’t require higher-level thinking or analysis.

This leaves little scope for these individuals to develop qualities and skills that could support the productivity and growth of their employers.

Free your finance team from much of the day-to-day work and it can be a whole different story. Given the time and opportunity, they will be able to develop a variety of higher level skills and abilities that will help them advance their careers and create greater value for your organization.

So what are some of these skills and how could they be used to mutual benefit? Here are a few.

analytical ability

In the past, finance was responsible for providing the leadership team with a snapshot of their organization’s recent performance: the proverbial bottom line, accompanied by some commentary. In today’s world, however, decision makers are looking for more than a picture of the past. They want to know what’s coming next month, next year and on the horizon. Predictive analytics can provide these insights, and accountants need to understand how to extract them from the wealth of business and customer data they have access to.

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Clearer communication

We live in the digital age and businesses are overwhelmed with information. But it’s all just so much noise unless synthesized and split effectively. Help your team acquire – and use – strong written communication skills, and you will reap the rewards: documents and presentations that convey relevant financial information to executives and stakeholders in a compelling and easily digestible form.

Stronger Relationships

Accounting used to be seen as more of a backroom job; well-suited to intelligent introverts who prefer crunching numbers to chewing the fat. That is no longer the case. As automation continues to replace tedious transactional tasks, companies are increasingly expecting their finance teams to step out of the shadows and onto the production floor or the boardroom. Help yours develop a broader range of relationship skills — think team building, employee engagement, and performance management — and watch them thrive with numbers and people.

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Get creative

The term “creative accounting” has long had a derogatory connotation. But while you might not want your organization’s financial affairs to be managed by a team of “creative accountants,” having a team of accountants who can think creatively is another matter entirely. Financially savvy people who can identify opportunities while mitigating risk are strategic assets. Give your employees more opportunity to focus on complex financial and non-financial issues and watch their ability to think outside the box increase rapidly.

business acumen

Numbers are an important aspect of business – but they’re not the only one. Be able to advise the C-Suite – or join them! – Finance professionals need to be able to see the big picture: how each element of the business works and works together. Walking in their peers’ shoes, or walking alongside them for a while, can provide that perspective. Empower your employees to take on challenging assignments, secondments, and special projects, and you’ll reap the benefits of the exposure and insight that these outside-of-the-box opportunities inevitably generate.

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technical skills

Technology is evolving at a bewildering pace, and professionals in every industry, including finance, who don’t commit to keeping up are all too quickly left behind. Empower your team to embrace new tools and technology, and you have a win-win on your hands: engaged, up-to-date employees and a more efficient, productive finance function.

minimizing grinding

Automating critical finance and accounting processes like financial close, accounts receivable automation, and cross-company financial management is one way companies can free up time and space for their finance teams to develop new skills. The term “financial automation” refers to the use of software to automate many repetitive tasks related to the finance function – think reconciling accounts and generating monthly statements and reports.

The shift to technology reduces the number of man-hours required to get the job done, and on top of that, reduces the error rate.

If you’re serious about maximizing the value your finance team brings to the company—while providing them with career advancement opportunities—then this may be the smartest investment you can make.

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