Finance has long held the role of steward of a business’s capital. But is it time for the function to tackle an additional role?
Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) are well-positioned for change. Accenture research has found more CFOs working to identify future sources of possible business growth—and thus setting the growth agenda for their organizations.
But becoming a business partner who contributes to the organization's strategy requires change for CFOs and the Finance function. Chief among the goals should be to cultivate agility.
Challenges stand in the way
Like Financial Services firms as a whole, CFOs and the Finance function face social, economic and technological change compounded by escalating regulatory pressure. Addressing the regulatory issues alone leaves the function with less capacity to re-think day-to-day activities such as reporting, compliance, planning and forecasting. Complicating matters are growing concerns that include these large-scale global trends:
Potentially dramatic turnover among S&P 500 companies that are losing ground to new, nimble competitors1
An unrelenting state of disruption that is creating havoc for nearly three in four companies across all industries2
Finance functions that, according to most CFOs, are too reactive3
Technological change is a particularly powerful force within the Finance function, where groups previously built data warehouses to store structured data to aid reporting and respond to business queries. Today, technology helps CFOs create data lakes that store structured and unstructured data—and that likely hold answers to questions no one’s yet thought to ask. New technology, in short, equips the Finance function to react quickly to insights—increasing its agility.
Why agile is essential
Agile functions are better prepared for a wide spectrum of activities, from delivery and product innovation to leadership and organizational adaptation.
The 2019 Business Agility Report identified four key benefits for organizations that report high levels of agility:4
Increased revenue, brand recognition and market share
Shorter turnaround times and high-quality offerings
Improved relationships with customers
Greater transparency and higher employee engagement
The gains are obvious but the path to getting there may not be as evident. For the Finance function, agility should be pursued with an eye on the function’s potential role as strategic advisor. Among the questions CFOs should consider:
Do we still have capacity to find new value opportunities, once we have met our recording and reporting responsibilities?
What more might the business want, beyond our recording and reporting support?
Do we have the right people, skills, data and technology to fulfill a new mission?
A focus on agility can help Finance embrace an incremental investment mindset across the function, and develop the capability to evaluate these investments based on small bets.
Want to get there now?
For CFOs ready to build agility now, we suggest these five steps to help them begin:
Decouple supply and demand, aiming instead for product management that aligns delivery to strategic objectives. Quicker decision making can result when product areas (demand) and teams (supply) are aligned vertically.
Build a “return on teams” mentality by funding technical excellence and empowering dedicated, cross-functional, high-performing teams. By cultivating tenured talent with historical knowledge and experience, CFOs build teams that can excel as units of capitalization.
Review and fine-tune Finance’s portfolio, assessing progress and demand more frequently. This lets the function make small bets and permits iterative and incremental planning that aligns with longer-term strategies.
Build systems to support transparent, accessible real-time data while decentralizing decision making as much as possible. A cross-functional portfolio team can handle strategic oversight, direction and budget allocation.
Shift from thinking in terms of large-scale projects to creating incremental commitments within product areas and delivering on them quarterly. This supports setting ambitious goals that can be tracked via key performance indicators to quantitively manage and measure results.
A strong change management effort can bolster an effective agile transformation. Fostering a people-centered approach that measures individuals’ adoption of the agile mindset is likely to gain the best results for Finance.
Can we help you begin?
An agile Finance function makes better use of capital, improves its cooperation with IT and other allied functions, and drives more overall flexibility. An agile function also delivers better support for the business, including an ability to identify and drive growth opportunities. Is it time for your Finance function to take a more proactive seat at the table?
Learn how Accenture can help you begin your agile journey.
1 “Comprehensive Disruption, Learn to Thrive Under Pressure,” Accenture 2017.