Posted by Glenn Gibson
Hear that? That’s the collective sigh of relief from finance departments around the country as they wrap up another financial year.
But with 2016-17 now officially underway, Financial Controllers (FCs) are already preparing for another 12 months of challenges and change as they manage a sector that is rapidly evolving. A report conducted by Ernst and Young found that 75% of Financial Controllers say that it is no longer enough to be ‘good with numbers’ and that the FC is now recognised as a business partner to the CEO. The shift requires a broader set of skills and responsibilities that are presenting FCs with problems their counterparts from a decade ago couldn’t have considered.
The Ernst and Young report found that recruiting skilled staff is rated as the number one challenge for FCs over the next five years. FCs are finding it increasingly difficult to locate people with the right commercial and high-level technical skills.
“As the FC’s role diversifies, different functions must be balanced, ranging across the spectrum from low-level data crunching to technical expertise, to interfacing with commercial business partners,” the report states.
As for solutions? “Clear recruitment strategies and an understanding of how changes at the top will affect the required skills set for the rest of the finance function are important in attracting and retaining the people you need.”
Being more efficient and productive is the mantra of the modern workplace, but it’s a reality that is felt more acutely by FCs and their staff. Jennifer Azra from the CFO Daily News agrees, saying that improving efficiency and reducing costs is a FCs bread and butter.
“It’s little surprise what’s behind the desire to streamline and boost productivity: reducing costs. And many CFOs consider this a career make-or-break issue,” she says. “The good news is, many of your peers are making progress: Nearly 70% of CFOs say their finance departments’ productivity has risen up to (and sometimes more than) 10% in the last three years.”
“You may want to pay less attention to the “softer” strategies, like improving morale, and focus more on the three that are getting the job done for your peers: improving business processes, improving technology and hiring more skilled and knowledgeable staffers.”
It was an approach adopted by one of Australia’s leading car dealerships, McCarroll’s Automotive Group when it was experiencing reliability issues with its existing technology. They turned to Fuji Xerox to help install a solution that would help streamline their printing process, boost office productivity and make the lives of its staff easier.
Fuji Xerox recommended and installed the DocuPrint M465AP from its SMART Series range. The new printing and scanning solution offered McCarroll’s unprecedented versatility in managing its printing, scanning and document management. One of its major benefits was the Stored Programming function, which took cumbersome processes such as scanning, saving and printing driver’s licenses and turned it into a one-touch process.
As the world moves increasingly online, technology-based solutions are moving beyond the realm of IT and influencing the operations of just about every department. Finance is no different. In an interview with the Global Banking and Finance Review, Talentia Software’s Managing Director Julie Windsor said that forward-thinking businesses have been quick to pounce on new-generation finance technology, particularly as costs for software solutions become cheaper.
“The advent of cloud computing, advances in mobile technology and the increasing importance of big data are all having an impact on the way that firms operate and finance professionals are increasingly taking notice of developments in technology,” she says. “One of technology’s biggest advantages from a finance perspective is its ability to raise the department’s strategic profile.”
“Thanks to advanced analytical tools, finance professionals can now provide real-time business information that can be used to enable informed business decisions, highlighting both where the best opportunities for growth lie and areas in which a company may need to cut back.”
Managing Cyber Security
While the integration of new technologies into everyday workplaces is helping drive businesses forward, it’s also exposing them to new risks in protecting data and financial information. Australian businesses are especially susceptible, with Australian companies the second–most likely in the world to experience a malicious or criminal data breach.
But Ryan Fathers from Schukra told Forbes that FCs will play a significant role in the future security of online data and financial records.
“In my experience, finance leaders play a very active role in mitigating internal risk by establishing a strong framework of controls,” he says. “Our finance department works closely with the IT team to maintain various system controls such as segregation of duty reporting, exception alerts and tools for monitoring access to key financial modules.”
“Network folders and financial spreadsheets are also subject to controls, such as user access restrictions and file password protection. These proactive measures have been paramount to limiting our exposure to fraud and safeguarding the integrity of our financial data.”