“Logic clearly dictates that the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” – Mr Spock, Star Trek II
Mr Spock and Captain James Tiberius Kirk from Star Trek remains one of the most iconic partnerships in TV history and their relationship demonstrates the opportunities presented when CFOs and CEOs work collaboratively for the betterment of the Starship Enterprise (or company).
Kirk doesn’t believe in a no-win situation. A trailblazing optimist, he’s the inspirational leader with unwavering faith in the ability of his team to overcome whatever challenge lies before them. In contrast, Spock is the realist science officer and half Vulcan, driven by facts and logic.
Taken to extremes, either without the other to balance it is destined for chaos.
Once the back-office controller, the CFO is evolving towards the Strategic Advisor. In a report by Deloitte, the role is described as going beyond the traditional role of Financial Accountant or controller, but “more importantly acts in the role of critical sparring partner, supporter, trigger and catalyst for company-wide innovation and business growth.”
As government shifts its focus to measuring outcomes, finance teams are being required to capture and report on a variety of new data sets while cutting costs, reassessing risks and coping with general economic uncertainty.
Finance sits at the intersection of all that happens in the company, strategically, operationally and financially, yet many organisations have failed to implement changes to elevate the finance function to the position which would deliver the best outcomes for the organisation.
Chief Executive Officers can be likened to Captain Kirk, commander of the starship Enterprise. Reporting to him is the C-suite; Chief Medical Officer Leonard McCoy, Chief Engineer Scott Montgomery, and Chief Financial Officer Mr Spock.
Mr Spock was analytical, quantitative and data-driven and used his evidence-based logic to advise the captain and crew. On a starship boldly going where no one had gone before, Spock is the trusted advisor not only to the Captain, but the Chief Medical Officer, Chief Engineer and the Communications Officer.
What would happen if Spock was missing from the ship’s command centre? Separating Captain Kirk from his advisor is, as Spock would say, “highly illogical.” With finance operating in isolation from the rest of the organisation, financial plans fall out of sync with leadership, while leadership plans are often quashed by finance’s data.
Across sectors, 55% of CFOs say that their finance function has already transitioned to a more strategic role. The majority (71%) of CFOs believe finance is a driver and supporter of organisation-wide growth, innovation and transformation activities.
There are steps Finance professionals can take to elevate themselves as business partners:
- Automate the ‘drudgery’
Finance and accounting often find their team monopolised by mundane tasks, time which can be gained through systems and automation. If Finance doesn’t want to be identified as a back office function then the first step is not to act like one.
- Own your data
Data and analytics allows Finance to reflect on the efficacy of departmental processes, market performance and business decisions. But used correctly, data allows Finance to predict future results. Finance can use this data to offer an evidence-based opinion, rather than a summary of opinions from the leadership team.
- Think like a leader
Finance executives are naturally detail-oriented which can mean they lose sight of the bigger picture. While understanding the details is important, to elevate your role it’s beneficial to think more strategically about how your company is performing in comparison to other players in your market. Note that Mr Spock offers an opinion which is valued, rather than data points.
Unleash your inner Spock at the Transforming the Finance Function in Government conference, running in Canberra from 18 – 20 February 2020. Attendees will learn how to lead successful transformational change in the finance function while building capability and capacity. You may join us as a finance professional but you will leave a strategic business partner.
Live long and prosper.