Finance Managers are not spared – automation dictates that they too must go back to school

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Automation, Artificial Intelligence and Robotics are rendering many jobless, and according to this BBC Study, no one seem to be safe. As many experts in the field of Robotics/Automation/AI agree, jobs that have more manual and repetitive tasks are more likely to be replaced in the next decade than jobs that require forethought and decision making. It so happens that in most companies, Finance Managers are focused on performing manual repetitive housekeeping tasks, tasks that are being taken up by automated processes. To be productive therefore, Finance Managers must now go back to school to acquire new skills including strong skills in computer and data analytics.

The Big Four global accounting firms namely KPMG, EY, Deloitte and PwC have already realized the need to rethink their hiring criteria in realization of how technology is transforming the workplace. Instead of looking for candidates that are talented in understanding just the financial terms and philosophies, the accounting firms are now looking for people who can also innovate and most importantly unlock value in companies’ performance data in order to enhance the way the entire company operates.

Writing on this subject, Dee Houchen who is the Senior Director of Product Marketing, Oracle EMEA, explained, “The modern finance managers cannot just be attuned to the obvious but also be inclined to pursue the unknown and manage the unexpected. Sometimes the business will have a question that requires educated speculation. For instance, a toy manufacturer might want to know if its new action figure will sell better in some markets than others. Other times the boardroom will have questions about sales after the fact. Consider the case of the same toy company that sees its action figure sell much better than projected in a particular market, and that will no doubt want to pinpoint the reason so it can replicate its success elsewhere”.

In addition to the computer and data analytics skills that today’s finance managers are expected to have, the Wall Street Journal added “critical thinking, a willingness to ask questions in the pursuit of value and a whole gamut of people skills” as necessary “soft” skills that finance managers ought to have since they are those who will ultimately shape the finance department’s contribution to the wider business.

The finance team also needs to understand the sociology of the organization. They need to be skilled in presenting new idea and persuading other lines of business as they work more closely together. Today’s finance professional is therefore more analyst than mere number-cruncher. They need the freedom of lateral thinking to ask the right questions of the data they collect, and the ability to test the validity of their instincts. It falls to CFO and wider business to give them this flexibility. Without it even the most skilled individuals will struggle to deliver on the business’ needs.

The age of “Industry 4.0” has made businesses more technology-intensive than ever, and finance has become instrumental in helping companies capitalize on their technology investment. The automation of traditional processes like accounts reconciliation and financial close has freed up finance executives and their teams to add value like never before.

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