A dazzling spectacle

By Rebecca McCaffry CPFA, FCMA, CGMA, Associate Technical Director — Management Accounting

During the Academy Awards on Sunday, the stars paraded on the red carpet for a dazzling spectacle. For those of us not lucky enough to live in Tinseltown, it provides a rare opportunity to see famous faces as themselves, rather than the parts they play.

Acceptance speeches—from the pre-recorded ‘could not be here tonight’ to recognising group effort; the political to the emotional; the too short to the rambling and downright embarrassing—have one thing in common: ‘I’d like to thank….’

Success is a team effort

Even the biggest film stars recognise that they can’t succeed on their own. Transforming natural talent, good looks or charisma into winning an Oscar requires hard work and great supporting cast, both on- and off-screen.

In the slightly less glamorous world of business, it’s not so different. Business leaders, like film stars, are often heard extoling the virtues of their staff: People are our biggest asset. We are all in this together. Teamwork makes the dream work.

But how true is this in reality? 

Our latest report with co-star KPMG International, ‘Finance Transformation: the human perspective’, launched last night, 13 February 2020, examines the ‘people’ aspect of transformation.

Transformation, in this context, is less about computer-generated imagery (CGI) special effects, and more about changing the way we do and support business. The old analogue ways are quickly becoming obsolete and finance professionals themselves run the risk of becoming has-beens.

The answer, it seems, is to invest in technology. Lots of technology. In fact, most of what we read about finance transformation is about technology. But the best technology, like the best film cameras, requires an experienced crew and director to achieve award-winning results. 

In an increasingly digital world, are we neglecting the human perspective? 

We asked finance and HR leaders around the world to share their experience of finance transformation. They told us that the critical success factors for transformation are:

  • Workforce motivation to make or embrace change
  • A growth mindset
  • Strong leadership

All of these factors are led by people. Frequently, we see business leaders dazzled by the latest technological must-haves, resulting in the lion’s share of time and resources being spent on purchasing new gadgets or software rather than investing in the people who will implement them.

This underinvestment in skills-development presents a problem. The most significant skills gap—digital skills—pervades finance roles, at all levels. With change as the new constant, we need to consider whether our current skills are still fit for purpose.

Sustaining a lucrative career

Our research also highlighted the importance of a growth mindset—lifelong learning is an approach beloved of many a method actor. Finance professionals must recognise that the skills they developed through their professional training are not an automatic passport to a sustainable, lucrative career. As the silent film stars found to their cost, there is more to success than showing up and looking good. We all need to learn new ways of working.

We all need to learn new ways of working together. The lure of new technology can be as dazzling as the bright lights of Hollywood, but without the right supporting cast, success can be elusive. Businesses achieve maximum efficiency and cost-savings when the leaders invest in the people who implement the technology.

If you’d like to learn even more about the value of working together, check out the full ‘Finance Transformation: the human perspective’ report .