The importance of finance teams for business success is increasing as finance professionals contribute to strategic planning and innovation to drive the business forward.

Traditionally, finance teams have focused on the numbers and on complying with regulations. This focus meant finance teams were accounting-based but, as the business landscape has evolved, the finance team’s remit has also changed.

The CFO is now a strategic business leader. Technology advancements have made this possible by automating many finance functions, freeing up finance professionals to contribute more meaningfully to business strategy.

To meet continually changing organisational needs, finance teams need to evolve in five key ways:

  1. Gain new skills. To add significant value, finance teams must learn to effectively leverage data. This means finance team members need to possess a strong understanding of data and how to analyse it to achieve useful insights. This may mean they need to retrain or upskill.

  2. Embrace technology. The increased use of artificial intelligence to automate parts of the finance team’s role will reduce manual tasks so team members can focus on contributing creatively to the company’s success.

  3. Collaborate and communicate. As the finance team’s role becomes more complex, developing strong relationships throughout the organisation will make collaboration easier and more successful. Building a team with a mix of skills and experience is likely to deliver the best outcomes.

  4. Welcome change. Given the rate of digital disruption in Australian businesses, it’s crucial finance leaders ensure everyone in the team is ready to embrace new approaches and technologies. Without their buy-in, any attempt at transformation is likely to fail.

  5. Finance leaders are increasingly relying on data and insights to drive better business decisions.

    To do this effectively, they must be disciplined in identifying which questions they want to answer so they only use the relevant data to get the required insights.

    The purpose of the data is to gain insights, and the purpose of insights is to deliver business improvements. Any data-related activity that doesn’t fit this purpose is likely to be a waste of time and resources.

Companies with finance teams that are empowered to innovate and plan strategically are more likely to outperform their competitors. Setting the finance team free will see it become the enabler of intelligent information for strategic decision making.

To achieve this, CFOs and CEOs need to embrace the changing role of the finance team, augment their existing skills, and experiment with new technologies and approaches.