Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Overcoming Barriers to Change in Your Finance Function

Di Seghposs
Senior Director, Product Marketing

Katie Eure is a visionary finance leader.

The director of finance at food retailer and distributor Alex Lee, Eure won the “Fast Finance” award at the inaugural Change Agents of Finance Awards, held at Oracle’s Modern Finance Experience last month in Boston.

Eure led her team through a rapid implementation of Oracle ERP Cloud, going live in only four months. She worked with various lines of business to get them on board and to adopt the change—and she noted that change management was one of the most challenging parts of the project.

In fact, Eure’s team pushed out the go-live dates for the procurement and expenses modules so that they could get comfortable with the new accounts payable process. It wasn’t a matter of the system not being ready; the people weren’t ready.

Eure shared the Alex Lee story during a session that I moderated at the Modern Finance Experience. “Change management is always going to be a bigger challenge than you think,” she told the audience.

The obstacles to change are one of the main topics in new research from the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA) and Oracle, Agile Finance Revealed: The New Operating Model for Modern Finance. The AICPA/Oracle research surveyed 480 senior finance professionals in North America, seeking to identify the teams (like Eure’s) that are operationally agile. The researchers found that agile finance teams focus on delivering:

  1. Greater efficiency through automation
  2. Better information to predict the future
  3. More influence to drive business outcomes

The research found that agile finance leaders are more effective at delivering forward-looking analyses that identify new business opportunities. The study also found that companies with agile finance teams are more successful at launching a new product or service, and are more likely to report positive revenue growth.

Identifying Barriers to Change

Unfortunately, only about 30 percent of the finance leaders surveyed felt that their own teams were operationally agile. They identified major barriers to change, which fell into three categories:

  • Structure
    • Complex organizational structure
    • Finance cannot access required data in a timely fashion
  • Systems
    • Systems are too complex or outdated
    • Processes are too customized or complex
  • Skillset
    • Current skill set of the finance function is seen as too narrow
    • Need more data analytics skills to deliver forward-looking analyses

For most businesses these days, change is not an option—it’s an imperative driven by customer expectations and the pace of innovation. Alex Lee recognized that they needed to overcome these barriers in order for their finance team to become agile. They replaced their outdated finance systems with modern cloud applications and introduced new, standardized processes to drive efficiencies.

But agility isn’t just a matter of putting new systems in place and being more efficient. The skillset of your finance team is equally important—especially as it relates to analysis and forecasting. Accenture predicts that, as more finance processes are automated, finance teams will spend 75% of their time on decision support and predictive analysis.

“Finance is doing things that it never could before thanks to digital technologies,” writes Accenture’s David Axson. “The finance organization will evolve from an expense control, spreadsheet-driven accounting and reporting center, into a predictive analytics powerhouse that creates business value.”

So, what does the future finance professional look like?

You can all read about it in the AICPA/Oracle research, which identifies the traits of agile finance leaders and benchmarks their success in creating a dynamic new operating model.

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