Strategy & Operations » Leadership & Management » How an FD’s role may have changed in a modern-day tech workforce

How an FD’s role may have changed in a modern-day tech workforce

Finance directors must focus on how finance drives the business, says Matthew Hardill, finance director at cloud-based IT resource specialist Cranford Group. 

As digital continues to evolve at a rapid rate, organisations are feeling the heat when attempting to do everything they can to stay ahead of the curve – and react swiftly to the constant changes that the industry presents.

The financial sector is no different, with pivotal decision-making influencing how enterprises become smarter, more streamlined and budget-savvy, in order to survive – and thrive – during the unpredictable economic climate.

Job roles within the tech industry are also stretched and varied – especially as the field navigates a shortage of skills on a global scale – and the same can be said for finance directors (FDs) whose positions will have developed over the decades.

For years, a professional that operated in the financial side of the business was always the go-to person who was in charge of the more ‘traditional’ tasks – such as auditing, planning and budgeting. It was often manually demanding work done by a small team that reported in directly to C-suite with their pivotal insights.

And, whilst those responsibilities have not exactly changed – and are still a must-have for FDs and their teams to manage – the ways in how they now work on a strategic level, have ultimately shifted.

The demands of digital have seen operations move at a quicker pace as the explosion of technology has brought about vast transformations on a global scale. And as a result, directors are required to be more than IT proficient to enable them to move swiftly with the times.

They must now look into more innovative ways to sustain long-term growth, keep their organisation’s financial heart-rate beating healthily, and remain a positive influence within an incredibly exciting industry.

FDs have no choice but to adapt, and continue to do so. They must have the understanding to know how to not only develop alongside online tech at the same speed, but also react positively to the array of changes that digital dictates.

Auditing, planning and strategy are therefore now more important than ever before. But there are additional requirements for FDs and their processes now – they have to be agile, smart and relevant, to name a few. But how can they continue to evolve at the rapid rate that technology does?

Embracing change

Digital transformation shows no signs of slowing down. Organisations – many of which might not have seen themselves as previously being innovative – are now looking into ways to disrupt the marketplace, and they need their teams to come along on the journey with them.

Employees able and willing to acclimatise to the vast changes new technologies present should be capable of embracing how a modern-day workplace operates. Possessing the level of understanding required to truly know what customers want from their brands – and the ability to tailor and tweak their approaches to suit their evolving needs – can prove to be a huge advantage for a firm’s overall growth strategy.

Recognising emerging trends, the latest piece of software or budgeting for the potential of cloud migration, are all additional decisions that FDs are required to make in today’s tech workforces.

However, those who are unprepared to go on the same journey, risk being left behind or facing many challenging months ahead.

Employees have so many more plates to spin now in this digitally disruptive era, and there is not a ‘one size fits all’ approach towards a company’s success. However, if FDs can interpret the outcomes of digitally-driven data well – and are able to translate that level of detail to further enhance their organisation’s prosperity – they can prove to be a huge benefit to a firm’s evolution.

In addition, from a customer’s point of view, their expectations have vastly evolved. They want information to be delivered to them personally, quickly and efficiently – something where finance plays a vital role.

Analytically savvy

Technology has the power to diversify back office functions. Those once repetitive, manual tasks for finance – such as setting up workflows and CRMs – can now be controlled by automated services.

Therefore, it is important for FDs to understand the level of data that the use of machines and AI presents. Why? Because having the crucial insight into whether or not a firm should be putting more – or less – resources into cloud usage, procurement or pay per play functions for example, can prove to be pivotal in forecasting and accelerating real-time decision-making.

As financial professionals embrace digital transformation, part of their role now involves consistently analysing the level of need for each technological investment too – and utilising the digital tools they have available to them – in order to provide the best outcomes and uncover hidden growth opportunities.

Yes, a human touch is still required for savvy customer service, but modern-day FDs should now be open to creating in-house processes using machines which complement their activity, ensuring that employees are released and able to be more productive in their day-to-day tasks.

There is a remarkable amount of emerging trends for finance professionals to harness in today’s technologically driven workforces, but each time the responsibility comes back to employees being open to change and utilising the tools which can help drive their business through this.

Strong comms skills

There is still a lot to be said about how imperative soft skills are, regardless of the job role somebody has.

As well as having swift decision-making skills and being agile to digital transformation, finance employees must have excellent communication skills from the outset. Why? Because they are the ones who have to clearly and precisely explain why something has been done, and what benefit it will bring to the whole operation.

Often the gatekeeper of a company, providing a strong level of support can not only help their own teams, but C-suite, stakeholders, board members and the entire workforce. Therefore, FDs have to be adaptable in their language, and remain approachable and present, as well as take the time to get to know their colleagues so their messages land with the desired effect.

Required to lead on meetings, manage difficult situations, be cool under pressure and exist as a reliable influence when making decisions for the good of the company, a modern-day FD now has to show empathy throughout. Having such a crucial skill can promote trust, authenticity and honesty between teams and empower an organisation to utilise its many voices, and work together during pressurised moments.

Additionally, technology presents FDs with even more ways to communicate more effectively. They can use automation and online tools to personalise comms, maintain dialogue via video calls and real-time updates for a streamlined approach.

Possessing strong soft skills can prove to be a real benefit for organisations, especially when the next crucial decision requires a clear, calm and collected character to deliver the advice needed, in order for a business to progress.

Always learning

Much like being able to adapt to change positively, FDs must also be willing to continue their own individual development, especially within the tech sector. Having key knowledge not only arms employees with the tools needed to make pivotal decisions, but they then also have a greater understanding of how new technologies work, or how the latest piece of industry insight directly affects their business.

Possessing this level of intelligence further helps directors to enhance their own skillsets which can be utilised effectively when creating innovative solutions to benefit customers.

It should not matter at what level an employee is at when providing personal development options either. Savvy enterprises should always be looking to upskill their workforces regardless of job roles – especially if they want to make their staff feel valued, trusted and a key asset for many years to come. Agile FDs want the same too – to be part of an organisation which cares about their voice, talent and skillset.

However, there is no ‘hard and fast rule’ as to exactly how FDs will prove to be a successful addition to a firm – everybody is different. What these employees have to do though – if they want to be a strong employee in a challenging sector like tech – is acknowledge that their job roles are more evolved than what they would have been five, 10 or 20 years ago.

Complementing their own skills alongside the technology available and utilising the ways in which modern-day enterprises now operate as digital transformation continues to progress, can help savvy FDs focus more on how finance drives the business – rather than the other way around.

 

 

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