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5 skills you need to succeed in a digital economy

By Barry Payne, Director, External Relations — Management Accounting, Association of International Certified Professional Accountants

Digital transformation has significantly changed how finance teams work over the past decade. The coronavirus pandemic only accelerated this as people and businesses increasingly seek digital experiences and solutions to stay relevant. In this “Go Beyond Disruption” podcast, I discuss how businesses can become more resilient. 

Through conversations with CFOs worldwide, I’ve learned about the skills and competencies that finance teams need to thrive in these uncertain times and beyond:

  1. Learn and apply transformative technology

    The pandemic fast-tracked digital transformation adoption by businesses. This ensures that we continue to protect and serve customers with new business models.

    You’ll be in a great position when you build the necessary skills to support this rapid transformation and master new technologies. Resources such as the Digital Mindset Pack give you the deep insights to understand and apply new technologies in your workplace.  

  2. Analyse and present data comfortably

    Knowing your way around technology is important — but knowing how to make the most of your business data is more critical.

    The finance leader of a Fortune 500 manufacturing services company told me recently, ‘We need to be able to tell the story in a more convincing and succinct way’. He spoke from experience: After struggling to figure out how to transform his organisation, he and his business and finance teams whittled down a thousand-page management report to a set of dashboards. 

    Changing how you generate, analyse and present data may be challenging because you must think and work differently. Resources are available to help finance and accounting professionals improve data analysis skills:

     •  Perceptions about analytics-aided audit quality
     •  Using data analytics to drive today’s businesses and train tomorrow’s accountants
     •  Closing the skills gap in data analytics

  3. Critical thinking and strong communication

    Learn how to ask the right questions and tell powerful stories to help people make informed decisions.

    Combine an inquisitive approach and powerful storytelling with the ability to leverage technology and implement a deep understanding of business support, and you’ll be a powerful leader at your organisation.

    The Agile Finance white paper and video series offer ideas on how to reimagine your business to thrive in changing times and hone your communication skills.

  4. Mastering the basics

    Iain Mackay, CFO of GSK, discusses getting the basics right in  ‘Finance basics to beat the coronavirus.’ According to Iain, ‘It’s about finance excelling in its core responsibilities and doing them consistently and sustainably in very difficult operating circumstances. The finance team should be able to contribute flawlessly to the overall continuity of the business’.

    Mastering technical basics provides the starting point to adapt to the latest updates in accounting and finance areas. Despite what we may have studied years ago, we need to be constantly learning and adapting to stay on top of our profession.

    Two key areas — risk management and scenario planning — have changed drastically over the last few months. If you’re want to increase your knowledge in these areas, the COVID-19 resource centre can help.

  5. Agility and a willingness to learn new things

    Among all the skills we need to learn, agility is perhaps the most important.

    A CFO of a global gas manufacturer and supplier told me, ‘Agility is about how flexible we can make an organisation, a process or even an individual’. This same CFO also stressed on the importance of pace, which is about ‘how quickly we can remove constraints and adjust processes to create impact’.

    Embracing agility means treating learning as a continuous process throughout our careers — the more we learn, the better we adapt to an evolving world. When we’re agile, we’re also more prepared for opportunities.

    To cultivate this mindset, McKinsey & Company offers strategies to emerge stronger from the COVID-19 crisis — a toolkit that you can use no matter how your role evolves. You can also check out the CGMA Competency Framework to guide structured conversations as you build a ‘no-regrets’ toolkit of your own.  

How can you cultivate these five skills?

  • Consider these questions when you speak to your teams and leaders:
  • How has the current crisis changed your thinking on how you develop yourself and your people?
  • What critical competencies do you require to meet your current and future business priorities?
  • How do you align roles and ways of working to these critical competencies?How can you engage your colleagues in conversations that validate your understanding?