It’s the busiest time of year for financial professionals. Whether you are a CFO, a tax specialist, or a member of the team in charge of closing the books and producing year-end statements, Q1 is crunch time. It’s the season for working late at the office (or working evenings at your home office), chipping away at that never-ending list of to-do items.
For CFOs, this may be an especially challenging time. Not only must financial leaders ensure that the task is completed, but they must also consider the impact of high stress on their teams. CFOs today are confronted with the dual problems of hiring and retaining qualified personnel. The technological landscape is also rapidly shifting, requiring leaders to devote significant time and effort to keep up with the pace of change.
Here are some of the most pressing issues that CFOs will face this year:
The 2022 Talent Shortage and the Great Resignation
In recent months, much has been written about the challenge that certified public accountant (CPA) firms and corporate finance departments face in finding qualified employees with adequate expertise. Since the outbreak of the global health pandemic, the job market has transformed considerably. Many baby boomers who worked in finance have already retired. These seasoned employees, who are on the verge of retirement, have decided to abandon the workforce altogether. Continued uncertainty about the future prompts them to retire earlier than they might have otherwise.
At the same time, there is a scarcity of young talent to fill the voids created by departing veterans. According to the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA), the number of young people taking the CPA exam has plummeted in the last decade. The job has an image problem for many young people; it lacks the glitter and get-rich-quick aura that millennials associate with other executive or technical positions.
Many companies have responded by incorporating more flexibility into their operations. For some, this may include outsourcing a portion of their financial managerial activities. For others, technological advancements have given relief by allowing tedious manual tasks to be automated, freeing up the remaining team members to work on higher-value activities.
Keeping Remote Talent Engaged
A closely linked trend is the shift away from typical office environments and toward remote work. Many employees have concluded that they don’t want to return to an office, at least not every day, after experiencing the perks of working from home.
Many people view remote work as a way to increase productivity. After all, it reduces commuting time and tends to reduce the number of useless activities that occur in a typical office setting.
At the same time, many feel something important is lost when a workforce goes fully remote. While it may appear that time spent conversing around the water cooler is a waste of time, it actually fosters vital cohesion and promotes a common commitment to the organization’s goals.
In the context of the aforementioned labor shortage, remote work can be a big advantage. It provides the flexibility and work-life balance that many of today’s employees desire. For financial leaders, the key challenge is to keep these workers engaged, while still offering that perk.
Many people are using collaboration technologies like online meetings, project management software, and cloud-based communication platforms to achieve this. There are sophisticated collaboration solutions for finance teams in particular to support improved communication. Dedicated financial planning and budgeting software, for example, may allow for the kind of collaboration simple spreadsheets do not. In the finance department, working efficiently through a single source of truth can go a long way toward sustaining cohesion and team focus.
Finance Meets Technology
More than ever before, the CFO’s office is strongly tied to the world of technology–to the point where some companies have integrated the CFO and CIO roles into a single job. As finance leaders look to achieve more with less, technology is filling the gap.
Over the last year, a lot has been written about robotic process automation (RPA). On the surface, it appears to be costly and complicated, but it does not have to be. Software engineering has always been about getting better results with fewer resources. Today’s situation is no different, except that technology is continuing to get better and do more.
Spreadsheet software has revolutionized financial teams during the last three decades or so. Teams can now perform tasks that once consumed hours of time in just minutes. Yet so many of these tasks could be executed more efficiently using purpose-built tools that incorporate stronger collaboration features and workflows.
Many businesses use Microsoft Excel to conduct ad hoc analysis and financial reporting on a regular basis. Most get their data into spreadsheets using comma-delimited data exported from their enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or other software. Another typical way is to copy and paste data from other sources into Excel.
Unfortunately, these methods are time-consuming and tedious. They frequently necessitate the user reformatting their data, adding calculations, and validating their totals. Manual error is a significant risk in this process. Copying and pasting a batch of data into an existing spreadsheet, for example, can cause issues if additional rows are added throughout the process. You must alter calculations, and if you overlook anything, you may end up with an incorrect report or analysis.
The good news is that a spreadsheet can still be useful for ad hoc reporting. For example, with Datarails FP&A software, users can continue to produce reports in Excel while leveraging the benefits of a connected centralized database of all organizational numbers. This means that instead of having to manually aggregate numbers for a particular cost center or branch, all the numbers are automatically synced within the Datarails database and can be pulled into Excel. Users can keep producing ad hoc reports within Excel while being able to pull information automatically from any system or source of information. This way, users keep working on ad-hoc reports as they’re used to while benefiting from an extended Excel environment that allows them to build on top of existing processes instead of having to replace them.
In 2022, CFOs are challenged to do more with less and manage a workforce with rapidly changing needs. By using technology to support the human element in the accounting process, CFOs can put their teams on course for a winning strategy this year.