Why the accountants hold the key to a data-led digital transformation

Accounting

Why the accountants hold the key to a data-led digital transformation

Posted 18 February

At Galway Business School, you can take up an Introduction to Accounting Course as part of the Springboard scheme.

Accountants are often held up as the safe ones in the business. As we said in this very blog, ‘they won’t go out of fashion, because they’ve never been in fashion…’

That’s true in a lot of ways and points to a career future which is pretty solid, but suggests a predictability which may not be entirely true because what it ignores is the fact that in any organisation, the accountants hold the power.

In fact, if you’re looking for a more buccaneering role, it may well be that of accountant. Because as companies are changing more fundamentally and more quickly than ever, there’s one figure in the centre of everything. Looking to be the one who leads the corporate charge into the digital future? Look no further than finance.

Digital transformation is key to the survival of many, many businesses. If the Covid-19 crisis has taught us anything it is that digital is the route to resilience. Yet many companies have fallen short in their evolution, and failed to deliver the level of innovation required. There’s often plenty of other stakeholders in those conversations - the marketing people, the techies, the supply chain folk and so on.

But, often, the accounting team is left out. And that’s a big mistake - because there are a number of reasons why the finance function holds the reins to real change:

Digital transformation is driven by data

The accounting and finance people ought to be the champions of the use of data: customer information, and corporate and employee data - the works. It is the accounting team who can structure the functions and deliverables of a company to the information the data gives - understanding where the demand is, and where the supply might be falling short. By knowing what the critical measures of a company are, an accountant can create a framework to collect the best data to help meet those deliverables, and begin the process of transforming a company based on experience to one based on the facts.

Risk management

The accountant is the controller of ‘enterprise risk’, with oversight on issues such as data privacy, cybersecurity, and regulatory compliance (think GDPR as one basic requirement).

There is no other executive who can walk the risk-to-reward tightrope as well, or as accurately, as the head of finance - measuring how data can drive decisions to increase the value of the company while, at the same time, staying aware of how missteps in the ownership and use of that data can cause serious issues. Knowledge is, of course, power.

Centralising the digital shift

Most organisations are, whether they like it or not, divided into silos - either of separate business units completely, or separate functions within that (manufacturing, sales, marketing and so on). The accounting team has the best holistic viewpoint of a business because they are the ones who understand what resources are going where in an organisation.

As companies become more digital, they tend to centralise because becoming digital means a company has to be more connected - sales from a website needs to be connected to delivery, manufacture, customer data and so on. The accounts team is best placed to organise these different functions so that they fulfil each other’s requirements, because they hold all the corporate information. They are the ones, therefore, who can drive and inform a digital strategy.  

Holding the digitisation to time

If the accounting people hold all the cards in terms of data and oversight, then they can also run the delivery of the timetable of change - making sure that digitisation and organisational change happen to a deadline. The accounts team can make sure that change doesn’t interfere with the ability of a company and its staff to deliver during organisational shifts, nor with the ability to deliver the transformation project on time, whether that’s weeks, months or years. Minimising disruption and maximising the ROI on the transformation.

Keeping an eye on the bottom line

Of course, in the end, the accountants are closely connected to the financial success of the company. A change that makes a company feel better about itself is no good if that transformation doesn’t deliver financial rewards - a company, generally, looks to make more money year on year so that its staff can share the rewards. The money people will make sure that whatever the digitisation and transformation processes are, they deliver on the bottom line.

So, forget the view of the accountant as the dull one. The accountant is an integral player in the team. The accountant is the revolutionary. The accountant is the one who will shape the company’s future success.

Don’t forget you can take up an Introduction to Accounting Course at Galway Business School, which you can follow remotely as part of the Springboard scheme. Or browse all of the Springboard business courses we have available.

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