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Finance as guide and guard of innovation

‘Agility’ seems to be today’s buzzword of choice – but being agile is a fundamental part of innovation. Innovative companies move and change direction at lightning speed, and they depend on having the resources they need, when they need them. In other words: innovative companies depend on a world-class, agile finance team.

Finance professionals are the guardians of business resources and possibilities. From getting the most out of suppliers to allocating and prioritising funds, they can help an innovation agenda to flourish, unencumbered. And many are already evolving to do this.

Our latest research found 72% of finance professionals aspire to drive innovation around change management – and 65% are already acting on it. But while two thirds are working to help their organisation adapt, do they simply see this as a box to tick? Or does it reflect a bigger change in the relationship between finance teams and innovation?

Mindset changes

If you believe the stereotype, finance teams demand multiple justifications for every penny spent. You might therefore assume this department stands in the way of agility and innovation. But that isn’t the case. When it comes to the barriers to taking a new product or service to market, we found the pressure to deliver ROI was only cited by 7% of IT, HR and marketing professionals – the lowest rated factor on our list.

Many of us might also assume revenue would be the top metric for tracking progress, but customer experience and satisfaction is the leading KPI for finance professionals, recognized by 52%. Revenue growth actually sits in joint second place, right alongside employee productivity and data quality.

These changes to the traditional picture of the finance team suggest they’re well placed to support the agility needed for innovation. But innovation relies on more than agility. It depends on the right insights to make better decisions, the tools to act, and a culture that fosters innovation long-term.

When asked for the most important behaviours that support their organisation’s culture of innovation, finance professionals chose commitment from the leadership team, a clearly defined strategy and roles, and a clearly defined vision. So while the ground has been prepared for innovation within the finance function, there’s still a hunger for more clarity and leadership from senior management overall.

But with or without this senior steer, it seems finance teams are ready to make innovation possible. To learn how they’re doing this, read our full innovation report here.

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