I had finally had enough. With employers complaining accounting & finance graduates don’t have the right skills, with newly qualifieds frustrated they were not getting meaningful experiences to make an impact and most of the rest of us anxious about what the digital disruption from Industry 4.0 means for the future of the profession a few other leaders encouraged me to act and launch a podcast, video and blog series.
It’s called “Strength in the Numbers” because I fundamentally believe that strong finance & accounting plays an important role in having well-functioning societies for our families, friends, and communities. ‘The financials’, or what we call ‘the numbers’ that we’re responsible for are the common language we translate transactions between people, businesses and governments into so that we can all make better decisions about the success of our economies and enterprises.
And there are 5 million or so accountants & finance professionals worldwide, certified or in training, playing a key role in translating these numbers but also wondering how best to build on our existing strengths in these numbers during our current industrial revolution. Since our profession has been around since Babylonian times (see article) we’ve developed many different specialisms and strengths, across many countries with many diverse thoughts on what we’d like to achieve, challenges to overcome and how best to deal with the disruption from two main megatrends: the digitisation of our profession and finance business partnering.
Digitisation is being rapidly adopted in 3 main forms of cognitive computing technologies: robotic process automation (RPA); artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain, because these not only promise to, but are also removing the Dirty & Dull work we used to do earlier in our careers. Make no bones about it this will mean attrition of certain functional accounting roles (see article) however the optimists among us believe that on balance digitisation will free us up to add more value by applying a mindset from the second megatrend, finance business partnering.
Finance Business Partnering Impacts
This is the more human side of the megatrends. Put simply, finance business partnering means coming out from behind our desks to drive better business decisions by applying our strengths in the numbers, financial expertise, with the courage to speak up, to challenge, to hold up the mirror to the business and ask questions. We will be sitting in the middle of the table brokering and linking up points, adding a commercial overview and financial angle, as well as driving better outcomes. Yes some of us will need to get more comfortable interacting and having conversations that count with our business colleagues however we may actually end up becoming more irreplaceable (see article).
And this is what businesses want. They no longer want us to be bean-counters, number-crunchers or score-keepers (machines can do that better) instead they want us to be more like bean-cultivators, on the front-lines of their businesses helping them grow in more sustainable and profitable ways.
Finance the fuel powering organisations
When all is said and done regarding these megatrends and Industry 4.0, finance and cashflows will still be the fuel powering organisations. As much as this fuel is the result of intimately knowing the desires of our customers, developing leading products to meet these needs, and having excellent operational processes to bring this value to them, there’s still a vital role for finance and accounting to figure out how to continually do & translate these things into the most sustainable and profitable ways. And someone or some function will still be required to ensure that the financials and commercials are being done in the right way by other front-line departments like sales, marketing, product development & operations, tasked with these value disciplines around customer intimacy, product leadership and operational excellence.
Room to Improve
Ultimately, businesses generally want to do more business, make more money and reduce risk to enhance their overall value and most of accountants have the skills to potentially do a great job at delivering and driving towards these. I say potentially because when I look at the statistics we do have room for improvement.
In the past I used to get defensive when I heard the statistic that 9 out of 10 businesses failed, now I don’t, because I decided to look into the numbers myself and yes, after 30 or so years this is the case. Even if a business has been one of the lucky 3 out of 10 to have survived the first 10 years, only 1 is likely to make it past 30.
Now you have to imagine most established businesses must have accounting & finance professionals supporting them, so I can’t help but feel we could be doing better, particularly in these times of competitive collaboration or coopetition. So the purpose of launching Strength in the Numbers is to bring you free practical advice, real success stories and hard won lessons from leaders in finance and business not found in any textbooks to help you deconstruct the key strengths, strategies and qualities that you need to know to remain relevant, and:
- Show you how you can practically apply them so that you can elevate the impact, value, and difference you make for your organisations;
- To have a fun, rewarding, & successful career in accounting & finance.
These ideas are self-reinforcing: more successful organisations provide accountants & finance professionals with more valuable opportunities and those happier & developing in their careers help to drive better performance for organisations.
So it’s not only important that we keep developing and building on our strength in the numbers because it’s good for our careers, it’s also good for our organisations and back to my fundamental belief that it benefits wider-society too.
The Surprisingly Simply Way . . .
If these ideas interest you or you feel might interest one of your colleagues or friends then please let them know that Strength in the Numbers is launching November 30th with relevant podcasts, videos and blogs that we’re putting the finishing touches to. We’ve already recorded a number of episodes with leaders covering answers and insights into the topics above, with real, actionable and workable ideas for accountants & finance professionals to remain relevant, elevate our impact and have successful careers.
I’ve also been writing on these topics every week for a year now, so I’ve included links if you wish to know more on these specifically. And here’s a video link summarising the key points in this article:
One last ask
I do have one last ask of you. To get the word out there to those whom the show would benefit we’ve a voting competition to select a logo for the show.
So please share this article, you just may be the difference that makes the difference for others.
If you wish to stay up-to-date with the show launch please connect/follow andrewcodd on Linkedin.