Years ago, emerging technologies and digital transformation were disrupting the world as we knew it. Now, the pandemic has strengthened and accelerated these forces — quickly reshaping what it means to operate a successful finance organization.
A new report from Deloitte looks to the year 2025 — sharing predictions on the future of finance. It revisits a 2018 paper on the same topic, recalibrating each prediction given the immense change we’re currently witnessing. Among the trends explored throughout the report, perhaps the most important is talent — as talent strategy has transformed more rapidly than anything else.
While organizations globally sent their people to work from home, CFOs discovered new ways of working that simplify processes and power greater strategic thinking to ultimately improve business results. While we expect a “return to work” in some form soon, operations will not look like they once did. CFOs seeking to forge a more effective and efficient finance organization should take stock of these lessons learned.
Finance leaders have traditionally focused on cost reduction as the key motivating factor for operational changes. While cost remains crucial to decision-making, leaders should be mindful of other opportunities and factors to level up their operating models. Successful organizations will be set up to accommodate — and capitalize on — hybrid work models.
Remote work has proven its value during the pandemic. Not only does it provide significant cost efficiencies via a dispersed workforce, but remote work also balances demand for employee flexibility while opening up opportunities for innovation. For example, closing the books fully remote was never considered a possibility in the pre-pandemic landscape. Now, it’s not just possible; it’s becoming the norm. Collaborative technologies and virtual worksites have also generated greater potential around off-cycle reporting and self-service.
CFOs looking to offer new value and generate tangible business outcomes will capitalize on these hybrid operating models, emphasizing end-to-end processes, on-demand offerings, and improved coordination within their workforce.
New and expansive operating models open up needs within the workforce. In a challenging talent market where seemingly every function, business line, and industry competes for top talent, CFOs faced with this dilemma should ask themselves: How do I access more talent in more locations through different delivery modes to fill the gaps on my team?
With the broader acceptance of hybrid work, it’s likely that other modes of delivery, including contractors, freelancers, and gig workers, could fill the gaps of many finance teams. We are in an increasingly tight talent market, not only in the United States but globally. Hybrid and remote models provide finance organizations access to global talent pools and specialized resources they might not have previously had.
Savvy and effective finance departments will also expand the roles and skillsets for which they’re hiring. Many leaders recognize a broader shift in needs and capabilities as CFOs become more integrated within the C-suite, armed with better financial insights and larger strategic thinking. This shift is dependent on technologies like artificial intelligence and predictive analytics and powered by talent with expertise in those areas.
Keeping operations and insights flowing within the finance organization means reducing reliance on the IT function.
Keeping operations and insights flowing within the finance organization means reducing reliance on the IT function. We’re seeing various departments beginning to hire data scientists for their own needs, and this is a critical pivot finance leaders will have to make to leverage new digital tools. While traditional finance skills remain essential, those with digital savvy will be in great demand. Finance leaders can encourage rotations and other development programs for the existing workforce.
CFOs should also look to acquire those with solid business acumen to bolster the finance organization — analyzing the swaths of financial data to make sound, impactful decisions while always keeping in mind the business’s broad strategic priorities. Moving forward, finance professionals will play a more significant role in informing strategy and, therefore, they must have a more comprehensive understanding of potential opportunities and risks.
The world is continuing to reimagine what work looks like — and that is equally true for CFOs and the workforce that supports them. There are significant opportunities to improve performance and reimagine what finance talent can do, and leaders should be looking to make these changes or be left behind.
Mike Danitz is a principal in the finance and enterprise performance practice at Deloitte Consulting, LLP.