As digital transformation brings in cloud-based software to simplify workflows and enhance controls become more commonplace, the role of the accountant changes from the traditional ‘numbers-counter’ to a data-driven business analyst and advisor. Gone are the days of reviewing what’s already happened in the rear-view mirror. Finance teams are now expected to forecast the future, providing the information required to help shape the strategic agenda of the business and execute it. The ability to do so relies heavily on being able to access and integrate information from all around the business in real-time. According to McKinsey, the average CFO now has at least six non-finance department heads reporting into them in order to do so.
The relationship which arguably now requires the closest collaboration is the one finance has with IT. Prior to this technological and strategic shift, the two functions had little to do with one another. But now as data becomes permanently crowned king, companies implement new technologies and launch digital initiatives meant to modernize or wholly transform their operations; effective finance and IT collaboration is nothing short of essential.
The CIO and IT function bring many valuable insights to the CFO’s and finance teams’ table. First and foremost, as the technology needed to surface strategic insights to accountants becomes more and more sophisticated, expert input is required. The IT teams have the knowledge to help ensure any new systems implemented integrate with existing software and make data more accessible. This includes enabling non-tech specialists to work with data directly and create more value for the company without IT’s ongoing assistance.
IT can also help raise finance’s understanding of the plethora of new cloud, artificial intelligence, and blockchain technologies touted as the future of modern finance. They can also help to identify new applications for boosting productivity. Trintech’s Adra Suite, which automates tasks like transaction matching and balance sheet reconciliations, can give accounting and finance the power to focus on more complicated tasks. IT’s position as a voice of technical authority within the organization can also help finance to harness these technologies, as they’re well-positioned to support any business case for investment.
But what can finance be doing to ensure they are fostering a more collaborative relationship with IT? They must gain a deeper understanding of their role and responsibilities, and ensure efforts aren’t being duplicated. Both teams have a vested interest in addressing cybersecurity risks and meeting compliance demands; work closely together to invest in systems and develop processes that meet both the team’s objectives. Finance should review existing ways of working and ensure that they’ve been evolved in a way that will reduce IT’s pain points and support their objectives. For example, sharing financial documents over email is a big no-no. Hosting and sharing content in a secure environment in the cloud is a much better alternative.
Ask coworkers from both sides of the fence to suggest ideas on how the two can work better together, and invest in team-building efforts. It’s well-proven that teams who know each other better, work more effectively together. Last but not least, don’t wait for a major project to arise to start on the above. There is much that can be gained from IT and finance supporting each other’s day-to-day work, as well as bigger technical transformations.
With IDC forecasting that global investment on technologies and services to digitally transform businesses will reach $1.97 trillion. And the increasing pressure on finance to support this and the increasing overall pace and efficiency required of operations, the need to collaborate effectively to ensure maximum ROI, efficiency and security is urgent. Some CFOs and CIOs are already catching on. Research by Robert Half shows that 82% of CFOs say they collaborate more often with their company’s CIO today than they did three years ago. But for those who aren’t, we’d urge you to start building a stronger friendship right now.