The skills gaps that corporate finance leaders have been grappling with for some time will stand out even more in 2020 and beyond, according to Gartner.
Based on a survey of more than 1,000 finance employees, Gartner has placed finance competencies into five categories, each one most ably performed by one of five distinct personas: “builders,” “doers,” “learners,” “persuaders,” and “strategists.”
The chart below shows that some skills, such as those relating to functional expertise, are already well-covered and relatively unlikely to be in high demand in the future. On the other hand, skills relating to IT fulfillment and finance analytics are already in demand and likely to be more so in the future.
Finance’s Emerging Competency Gaps
“Although it’s probably no surprise to most finance leaders that technical skills relating to data analytics, IT fulfillment, and IT innovation are in short supply, it’s not time to be complacent,” says Melanie O’Brien, a vice president at Gartner. “Finance leaders should review the competencies of their current teams to understand what personas they have and where they need to build capability. The more pronounced these skill gaps become, the harder the impact will be to mitigate.”
Here is a summary of the five personas and the kind of tasks they may carry out:
The CFO with a builder persona possesses skills relating to business navigation, cross-cultural awareness, social intelligence, and virtual collaboration. Builders know how to get things done, using both formal and informal channels.
They understand the nuances that drive the engagement of different kinds of employees (e.g., millennials and Gen Z) and champion diversity by distributing opportunities across a global team. They achieve this by connecting with others in a direct way that stimulates reactions and intelligent debate.
Builders are also adept at virtual collaboration: able to set priorities, establish workflows, and monitor progress remotely.
Doers have solid cross-functional expertise and good judgment. They can balance the need for timeliness against the need for a good decision. These skills enable good problem-solving ability; doers can ask the right questions and break a complex problem into simpler and more manageable tasks.
In turn, this makes them good project managers, able to delegate effectively and balance multiple responsibilities. Moreover, they demonstrate a service orientation by reliably meeting deadlines. They show resilience and persistence, encouraging others to stick with a problem until it is solved.
This individual can be invaluable during times of change. Learners are agile. They are able to adapt quickly to new environments and act confidently in them. They are open to new ideas, visibly support organizational change initiatives, and even help communicate such changes to colleagues.
Learners enshrine principles of continuous improvement by implementing mechanisms to monitor processes for continuous quality improvements and keep up to date on industry best practices. They tend to demonstrate entrepreneurship by suggesting changes in the department and understanding the risks and probabilities of success.
Persuaders demonstrate a fluency with multiple business functions, allowing them to effectively communicate the ideas of one department to another.
They are typically good candidates for finding meaningful insights from data analytics and are adept at the business translation required to keep such reporting finely tuned to the KPIs of the audience. They also understand evidence structuring: how to build a comprehensive body of evidence when creating insights and solutions.
This persona excels in the areas of business coordination, IT innovation, IT fulfillment, and vendor management. Strategists easily connect finance’s multiyear plan to business objectives and can suggest useful system implementations or upgrades as a result.
They are also able to build mutually beneficial relationships with IT vendors and maintain the kind of finance IT know-how that enables them to negotiate vendor contracts based on sound cost-benefit analysis.
“These five personas may not apply to every finance department, but they do provide a template for finance leaders to think about what types of people and skills they will need in the future and compare that to what they have available now,” says O’Brien. “This lays the groundwork for building the finance function of the future.”