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Three Ways for Finance to Sharpen its Digital Skills

Jan 29, 2019

The finance talent market is being upended by the relentless introduction of new technologies and business models. The Hackett Group’s 2019 Key Issues Study found that talent is the second largest business risk facing companies this year, and the one projected to grow the fastest.

Very often, conversations about the digitization of finance lead to the subject of job losses. But that’s only part of the story. While smart automation will replace some human work, it will also free up FP&A’s time to focus on value-added activities. Meanwhile, greater use of AI and machine learning is set to complement, not supplant, human intelligence.

FP&A must adapt their staff’s skills by upping their analytics acumen and data-management and technology savviness.

More widespread use of data visualization, AI and machine learning will let FP&A professionals do what they do best: Create value by providing leadership with the right insight, at the right time, and in more easily digestible ways. They can leverage predictive analytics to better support management decision-making. To do that, however, they must adapt their staff’s skills by upping their analytics acumen and data-management and technology savviness.

Unfortunately, most finance organizations are not keeping pace with these talent demands. The Hackett Group 2018 Digital Skills Poll discovered that only 19 percent of finance functions have the skills they need today and are well positioned to anticipate and respond to future demands. Less than 30 percent formally track how talent needs are shifting and link them to their talent-management strategies.

How to Close the Gap

It’s incumbent upon FP&A executives to retool their teams to prepare for a digital world.

1. To find the right people, they should conduct broad-based digital project awareness campaigns, so everyone is aware of what initiatives are in the works and how leadership foresees the evolution of the digital finance organization. Without a broad context, professionals will not be able to self-assess and embark on initiatives to update their own skillsets.

2. To attract people with the right skills, they need to improve the workplace environment and offer flexible hours for digital natives. They must also shed finance’s traditional image as stodgy and old fashioned. It helps if executives make more frequent public appearances and present their organizations as dynamic and exciting.

3. To develop digital skills, they should offer a combination of on-the-job learning and online training. Learning by doing is an effective way to train existing staff and dispel digitization fears. At the same time, web-based delivery appeals to millennials and inherently requires a certain degree of technological savviness.

Finance has to quickly close the gap between its existing competencies and the skills it requires to thrive in a digital world. While that’s an ambitious goal, it’s not unachievable. In my upcoming session with Charles Solomon, Global Program Manager, Finance People Experience Program (PEP) with HP Inc. at AFP’s FinNext conference, I will share The Hackett Group’s perspective on the finance talent context, specific critical development areas and how finance digital leaders are already lessening the difference between the skills they have and the skills they need.

If you would like to learn more about training your FP&A team to stay ahead of upcoming technology demands, please join us for our session at FinNext 2019 in Las Vegas.

The early deadline to save $100 is coming up soon, so register here by February 8.

Nilly Essaides
Senior Research Director of Finance/EPM
The Hackett Group