Acquiring and retaining talent is a top priority for many companies in 2022 and beyond. But amidst staffing shortages and new hiring and transition patterns within HR, wide finance skills gaps are highlighted and have many CFOs concerned about the future.
In a recent Blackline survey of C-suite executives and financial professionals, a third of CFOs named acquiring new talent as a top priority in 2022. Concern over talent acquisition was higher than many other key goals for CFOs, including organic and acquisitive growth, adapting to hybrid working models, and meeting environmental, social and governance (ESG) goals. In fact, the survey continues by noting that only 14% of CFOs are confident that their finance functions possess the competencies they need. Meanwhile, over a third said that team members were failing to keep up with other areas of the business in digital transformation.
Technology skills are a major concern; 40% of C-suite respondents said that they are worried their organizations do not have the skills to digitally evolve as quickly as their competitors. More than a third of C-suite respondents said they would like to automate financial close, financial planning and analysis, budgeting and forecasting, and accounts receivable processes, but feel a lack of experience and understanding of automation software among team members could prevent this from happening.
As a Gartner survey found early last year, developing digital skills is particularly challenging. Gartner noted that traditional, classroom-based training and formal coursework are typically unable to keep pace with the rapid evolution of technology. Furthermore, they don’t allow employees to immediately apply the skills.
Gartner advises finance leaders to first identify relevant digital skills and seek to develop them. Cloud-based, fully managed platforms can help to fill the gaps wherever skills are lacking.
Technology and Automation
Tools like robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence/machine learning (AI/ML) are the future of finance. While it’s never a bad idea to train staff members to use these emerging technologies, leading technology vendors have support staff that is adept at applying these innovations to your finance department. RPA and AI/ML can be used for cash management, forecasting, fraud detection and more.
Business Process Management
Cloud financial management solution implementations often fail to achieve their goals due to shortcomings in change management and a lack of understanding of these solutions, post-go-live. Gartner supposes that finance leaders and their staff need to change with the times and become more attuned to vendor-managed solutions. But the onus is also on the vendor to make sure the finance team is comfortable using its solutions and has access to all the functionality that they require.
Gartner noted that finance has historically struggled to comprehend and communicate data in context. Data-driven financial insights can help the greater organization recognize growth opportunities and key risks.
APIs are delivering ways for finance to deal with lower or unpredictable staffing levels through the enablement of the immediate transfer of data between systems with no need for time-consuming file transfers. Instant access to potentially unlimited data provides users with superior views into that data, as well as a better understanding of it.
Advanced analytics, or semiautonomous examination of data using sophisticated tools, enables finance teams to discover deeper insights and make predictions.
Business Partnering and Collaboration
Finance needs to do a better job of working cross-functionally. Operating as a siloed entity can lead to poor cash allocation and other problems, which can prove catastrophic when an unforeseen event (like a global pandemic or recession) happens.
API technology not only has the ability to connect your ERP to your bank. It can also unify your company’s systems, offering finance leaders centralized visibility across multiple departments. An open API platform acts as a conduit between disparate teams and systems, allowing for real-time connections to apps, data and new products and services.
Closing the Gap
The gaps in each of these skillsets go hand in hand, and better technology is the key to improvement. It is more than just automating manual processes to expand efficiencies for finance and treasury staff. Today’s technology, with APIs and other real-time enabling solutions, creates more opportunities for efficiency and cost-savings. So, the more comfortable emerging professionals become at using RPA, AI/ML, cloud-based solutions, advanced analytics tools, etc., the more they will in turn be able to do strategic work.
That said, as technology rapidly evolves, skillsets need to evolve with it. And finance teams have so much on their plates now that constantly upskilling may prove nigh impossible. That’s where leading third-party providers can come in to shoulder that technical expertise. Cloud-based liquidity platforms can bridge many of the skills gaps out there so that financial professionals can focus more on what they were trained to do. These solutions provide finance teams with real-time visibility, enabling data-driven decision-making.