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Embrace new technology. Or become irrelevant. Is your business ready?

Finance needs to be forward-thinking and embracing technology, says accountancy body ACCA.

Every business has a technology gap. The bigger the gap, the bigger the problem – but few sectors are going to experience the impact of new tech more than Finance and Accountancy. Preparing now for the inevitability of change is even more vital for these functions, and forward-thinking should be your strategic priority.

A new initiative by ACCA – the global accountancy body – has highlighted 10 key drivers that are set to force change upon business processes, people and services, and more specifically how the Finance function within those businesses will need to prepare and adapt to meet these transformative challenges.

Challenges such as digital, risk, the global economy, politics, legislation, cyber security, ethics, even climate change – are all set to impact business and the Finance department in potentially unimagined ways.

Technology – more than just Automation and AI – is the most likely to create the most seismic impact on the Finance, Audit and Accountancy functions. The industry is in a race, even if they don’t realise it yet – a race for future relevance.

ACCA has identified four broad imperatives for any CFO or Partner looking to optimise how technology can add – and not detract – value from their organisation:

  • to understand how to use the information available to them to provide strategic insight in real time;
  • to think forwards not backwards and maximise the use of technology to do this;
  • to ensure they have in place effective and efficient processes that satisfy the overall business requirements of finance,
  • and to capture, measure, report and predict future performance in a much more agile manner to support better and quicker decision making.

Preparation and readiness now is key. No technology has ever made an impact without first being adopted by people. The sooner you recast this challenge as one of people and processes, the sooner you’ll make progress.

0% Ready – Where to begin?

You feel bewildered by the technological landscape. You know adaptation is critical to avoid a technology deficit, but you don’t know where to place your digital bets. The fact is, it’s not survive, but thrive. Do nothing and you risk being removed from the strategic decision-making process and marginalised at the leadership table. Nix that immediately by reading our ACCA report: ‘The race for relevance – technology opportunities for the finance function’.

25% Ready – Made a good start?

You’ve spotted an opportunity. New technology means the finance function can recast itself as a strategic actor on whom the business depends not just for historic information, but for agile predictions of future performance. The question is how. Technology won’t transform anything unless you first understand what the business needs from the finance function. From there you can build a strong, relevant case for investment in automation, which will free up time for more strategic capabilities.

50% Ready – Halfway there?

You know that this is about more than just technology. It’s about people and processes too – both within and outside of the organisation. You need to work out your future skills mix while also forming a strong partnership with IT. They’ll help you turn what feels like a technological leap of faith into a robust plan for how to get the most of implementation. The sooner you do that, the quicker your business will adapt and reap the rewards. To that end, ACCA has identified six imperatives for success.

75% Ready – Feeling confident?

You’re in a good place. You’re aligned with the business and your partnership with IT is already yielding results. You’re ready to turn your plan into a fully fledged roadmap. It needs to be practical, relevant and inclusive of different technological maturity levels – from analytics through to artificial intelligence. It’s time to reach out to other functions. What data and analytics do they expect from finance, now and in the future? Get their criticism, expertise and eventual buy-in as early as possible. For more, see ‘The CFO’s Guide to Technology Roadmapping’, by ACCA and IMA.

100% Ready – So, what’s next?

Congratulations – you haven’t just upgraded your tech capabilities, you’ve changed your mindset as well. In turn, you’re achieving significant business impact. Now, continuity is key. New technologies will continue to emerge and with them, new risks and opportunities. Whether it’s cloud, RPA, advanced analytics or AI – continue to investigate, interrogate and where appropriate, adopt. In the meantime, why not share your success and together with ACCA, promote best-practice across your industry?

Ready for what’s next?

The ACCA has a strong track record in always looking ahead to anticipate change and understand its impact on business, finance and accountancy.

Now they are starting to work in partnership with employers around the world to help support them get ready for that change.

As part of this new initiative, they have looked at ten major drivers of change, and are inviting employers to explore just how ready their businesses are to cope with them.

Find out more on the ACCA website and use the interactive tool to assess your business’ readiness to challenges such as:

  • Blockchain and its impact on Audit
  • The great AI takeover
  • The new Skills gap
  • The rising importance of Ethics
  • China’s Belt & Road initiative
  • The impending Talent crisis
  • Coping with unmet Training needs
  • Trans-border business & a global economy

Is your business ready?

To find out more, and use the ACCA self-assessment tool, go to:

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