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Digital transformation in finance functions

Technology provides finance functions with many opportunities to do things better. However, delivering digital transformation in practice is challenging. The Tech Faculty’s latest research report draws on interviews with CFOs and digital transformation leads to share real-world experience of change in finance functions and highlight common lessons and pitfalls.  

A long journey 

The digital transformation of finance focuses on two elements – improving the efficiency and accuracy of standard accounting and finance processes through automation, and spending more time supporting businesses with better information and insights.  

However, transformation doesn’t happen overnight – it takes a long time. Most finance functions have evolved over many years, and often have a range of systems and processes in place, supplemented by spreadsheets. Therefore, a lot of groundwork is required to standardise processes and improve the integration of data in order to make the most of new technologies.  

Small steps matter 

This led to a consistent lesson from our research – the importance of taking an iterative approach to transformation and emphasising small and continuous improvements over ‘big bang’ style change.  

This approach can help to manage the expectations of external stakeholders, who may be impatient for change, and to keep staff motivated. It can provide greater agility to respond to changes in technology and encourages constant learning about successes and failures in practice. It also enables finance functions to get started quickly with changes that will help them deliver more insight to businesses and demonstrate their increased value. 

People are the key   

Transformation requires a substantial reskilling in many staff and there was strong agreement amongst our interviewees that accountants needed stronger skills in technology and data. Most characterised the skill level needed to be that of an ‘intelligent buyer’ – enough knowledge to enable accountants to work with technology specialists, understand enough of the technical context to ask good questions and challenge assumptions, as well as make good use of tools. 

But transformation also requires a significant change in behaviour and culture.  To some extent, this is about attitude – the willingness of individuals to change – as well as the capabilities and skills to relearn and adapt to whatever is needed by the business. But strong leadership is also essential to communicate a vision and empower accountants at all levels to play their own part in the transformation. 

 The full report can be downloaded below.

 

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The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

The Institute of Chartered Accountants in England and Wales

ICAEW
ICAEW is a world leading professional membership organisation that promotes, develops and supports over 181,500 chartered accountants and students worldwide. ICAEW provide qualifications and professional development, shares knowledge, insight and technical expertise, and protect the quality and integrity of the accountancy and finance profession. As leaders in accountancy, finance and business ICAEW members have the knowledge, skills and commitment to maintain the highest professional standards and integrity. Together contributing to the success of individuals, organisations, communities and economies around the world.