Becoming a “finance business advisor” is a goal I set for myself when I started my career in Finance at Accenture. Today, it’s a goal all Accenture Finance is striving for as we aim to advance as a strategic partner with our internal business runners and company functions as Accenture’s business grows in scale and complexity.

coworkers talking in a meeting

To meet today’s demands and those of tomorrow, Accenture Finance is implementing a Reimagined strategy that focuses on rethinking how we work. One major shift we’re making is to take advantage of automation and digital technologies to streamline work. This means that many of traditional finance activities, like processing transactions and “account, reconcile, comply, and report,” are already being done or will be done by technologies like RPA, analytics, and reengineering. This shift enables our Finance people to focus on the higher-value activities, such as planning, analyzing, and advising.

What is a finance business advisor?

In Accenture’s view, a finance business advisor is someone who has the experience and expertise to help, advise, and influence Accenture business runners and stakeholders based on financial information and business context.

The aim of such a role is to anticipate (plan), interpret (analyze), and influence (advise) the business to become true finance business value architects.

To be an effective advisor, good storytelling skills are also required. It’s not just about mastering the financial information, processes, and rules, it’s also about being able to tell the story behind the numbers.

Reskilling and a mindset shift are a must

Evolving our Finance people to become business advisors is requiring us to support reskilling—and the development of new, nontraditional skills. To meet this need, we’re adding new learning programs as part of our Finance Reimagined Learning Program. In addition, to our already vast finance fundamentals curricula, ProfitAbility Acumen, Problem Solving and Critical Thinking, Strategic Relevance, Storytelling Fundamentals, Design Thinking Basics, Collaboration and Cross-Cultural Teaming are just some of the learning courses available to support the reskilling of our people to work in new ways.

To support our transition to more planning, analyzing, and advising, our reskilling might look more like this:

  • Planning is no longer defined as the process by which we can put together a forecast and an annual plan that is based on past and current data. Instead, it will involve using analytics to predict trends, help spot next disruptions, and set ambitions related to business outcomes. It should focus more on the strategic business outcome than on the process to get there. For example, if the ambition is to gain market share, a plan that does not meet this ambition becomes irrelevant—it’s disconnected from the business goal. Hence, our finance business advisors should strive for meeting the business objective, even if this would require pushing back on the business leaders.
  • Analyzing no longer is about having all the data to explain what happened. Instead, it will be about interpreting the story behind the numbers, connecting the dots, and setting up the context to be able to effectively perform the next course of action. Unlocking the power of data will move away as an activity performed by individuals. This is where technology comes into play again. Our finance business advisors can instead pursue value by focusing on the relevant, remaining competitive in marketplace, and always supporting strong finance fundamentals.
  • Advising is about influencing, partnering to change, or enhancing outcomes. This in my mind requires a mindset shift at all levels of the finance organization. It’s one that goes beyond having the financial acumen to that of viewing one’s role as adding value by taking additional actions. These actions could include engaging in a business conversation, sharing the accountability on outcomes, stepping up and challenging decisions that may not meet or be aligned with the business and finance strategy, and in many cases, simply saying “no” and providing alternative solutions.

Going to the next level

Sharing accountability for business results, in particular, is one action I personally feel takes business advisory to the next level. It implies taking action, getting involved, and engaging in sharing the accountability of business results at all levels of the finance organization. Sharing accountability presents an opportunity for our Finance people to take an expanded role—one that engages us further with the business outcomes and with sharing the responsibility of the results, at all levels of a finance career.

Taking action may be in the form of questioning why something is done, wondering about the value of an activity, asking whether the business is benefiting from what the team is doing, expanding one’s networks of work, having difficult conversations when needed, and recognizing the value of learning from mistakes.

Evolving our roles in Finance to more planning, analyzing, and advising will likely involve not only new learning but just as important, also unlearning. In order to be able to embrace and learn new ways in general, we recognize a need to be an open and flexible to sometimes letting go and unlearning things. It’s something we’re acknowledging and encouraging as our Finance organization evolves.

Martin Kumert

Deputy CFO – Europe

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