Adaptability and collaboration will be key for the future of finance, delegates heard at the Finance Indaba.
In a session titled Finance 2025 Revisited: Recalibrating the Future of Finance After Covid-19, a room full of finance professionals enjoyed a vibrant presentation unpacking future trends with associate director for finance and performance at Deloitte Consulting, Andries van den Berg.
Powered by Workday, the session delved into the Finance 2025 report released by Deloitte and how the pandemic has affected the business landscape.
Deloitte released the report in 2018 to forecast finance trends in 2025. As this was pre-Covid-19, there are elements in this report that needed to be recalibrated from a post-pandemic lens: “We have had normal, new normal and no normal – and we need to see what that means for us,” said Andries.
Automation, smart insights, self-service, planning, cloud and the war for talent were some of some of the buzzwords in the initial report, and Andries took the time to explain how all these elements have developed and evolved in a 2022 context. It was clear that the pandemic accelerated innovation and plunged industries into remote-working models, but the recalibrated report uncovered how the eight finance trends Deloitte predicted in its initial report were affected by the pandemic.
The eight key elements were the finance factory, self-service, the role of finance, finance cycles, operating models, enterprise resource planning, data and workforce and workplace. Some of the key take-outs included a clear need for adaptability and being future forward, particularly in a global context.
Andries encouraged finance professionals to take a “long honest look” at their customised processes and look at what can be done to streamline them using the tools and platforms available. They also needed to be willing to adapt: “Invest in understanding this more. We aren’t Excel experts – we are finance experts,” he joked.
One of the other core ways of being more adaptable is embracing technology more. “We need to realise that the bots are here to take away stuff that we don’t want to do, so that we can invest that time elsewhere in the business. Think of a bot as part of your team,” he said. He also emphasised the importance of optimising the role of finance professionals: “Take stuff that is mundane or manual out of financial professionals’ responsibility and give it to bots or a low-cost Centre of Excellence to offer insights.”
Andries cautioned against snapping back into old habits and encouraged standardising all non-strategic processes. One of his key messages was to also embrace data. “We have to buckle down, look at what data is available and how to optimise it,” he said. He also said it is critical to put processes in place that make one trust the data and the numbers, encouraging the audience to make high quality and granular data a priority: “Think of data as an asset that needs management and work.”
Collaboration has also been forecast as one of the key elements for change. Andries suggested being conscious of the war for talent raging on since the advent of 100 percent remote-working and to be prepared to support the best people for the job to do it optimally. “Collaborate cross-functionally with other departments and let them help you solve problems,” he said.
Senior advisor Jo Ann Pohl, who introduced the session, concluded that technology and data were at the forefront of recalibrated finance trends for 2025. “It is not a question of humans or bots – it is the and factor and how we can work together. We are also in a position to collect data, connect the dots to gain insight and turn this into actionable execution,” she said.