Where next for finance?

24 January , 2022

Aiden Heke,

Chief Executive Officer

Australia, Decision Inc.

Mark Woodhouse,

Finance Transformation Advisor,

Australia, NMW Consulting

Four Key Trends Accelerating Finance to the Architect and Builder of Business Value

As finance leaders are you up for the challenge of taking Finance to the next level?


Technology advances and the worldwide challenges caused by COVID-19 have forced businesses to adapt in ways few could imagine.  Against this backdrop, it’s valid to ask how finance will evolve to be more relevant and impactful in the modern organisation.


Finance will always be a steward; custodian of the organisation’s assets, responsible for translating business events into consistent financial statements delivered to stakeholders.  But it is these core accounting skills that place finance in a unique position to define the levers that will have the greatest impact on business value; shifting the emphasis from traditional statutory profit-and-loss structures, useful for reviewing historical performance, to insights into what might happen in the future.

By deploying new technology, unlocking insights from data, designing efficient processes and changing behaviours Finance can transform the business to have a razor-sharp focus on the actions to drive value in the organisation.

In this paper we explore four key trends that have the potential to have a significant impact on the way finance professionals evolve to become the information architect and builder of business value.

1. IR4.0 Leveraging Technology and Data to transform

The Fourth Industrial Revolution (IR4.0) is changing how we live, work, and communicate; it is also likely to change the things we value and the way we value them.  We are already seeing how these disruptive forces are changing business models.


At the heart of this revolution is data. Data, and the insights and actions it can unlock are driving change at an unprecedented pace. We are seeing an acceleration in building data platforms, remediating source systems, and streamlining architectures. Yet the results are mixed. A recent McKinsey survey, Figure 1 above, found only 7 percent of Australian organisations rated themselves as ‘very effective’ at reaching their primary objectives in data and analytics.

Those that have been successful in their digital transformation are enjoying the rewards but clearly, project success is not guaranteed.  The traditional role of finance plays well into this space providing a view on the financial source of truth. But more than this Finance has the opportunity to become the architect of the lineage of data from events and translations of actions through to the drivers of shareholder value.

This architecture provides a framework to isolate and secure structured data providing the organisation with a lens on the key performance indicators of growth. With a fixed set of value driving measures aligned to growth the shift from reporting and analysis into insight is unleashed as the new breed of data scientists, data mining tools and AI trawl the oceans of data to find the causes of trends across these key performance measures.

In this role of information architect Finance is well positioned to lead the digital transformation journey by shifting the focus from data to insight through the lens of shareholder value.

2. The importance of human centric organisations with the rise of robotics, AI and Machine Learning

“Intelligent automation will represent the infusion of robotic and digital process automation with pragmatic AI and low-code tools.  These technologies will help businesses become more efficient and resilient while expanding their operations.”

       – Brian Hopkins, Forrester. “Top emerging technology trends to                watch in 2021 and beyond”


The continued penetration of artificial intelligence and robotics from transactional activity into ‘jobs of the head’ where judgement and knowledge are key seems inevitable and will have a profound impact in releasing human capacity to interpret and act.  For finance this should spell a welcome pivot into administering and managing automation; switching its focus into using insights to create the narrative for finance business partners to engage the business in focused conversations on business performance, opportunities and risks.

“After months of improvising, CFOs recognise that they need real budgets for 2021 to match resources with strategy.  But they also know that the business-as-usual budgeting process, with its traditional inputs and standard approaches, is no longer fit for the task.” 

   – McKinsey&Company

    “Memo to the CFO: A new approach to 2021 budgeting starts now”.

But there is an even bigger opportunity. In the past Finance has been guilty of diverting valuable business resources in planning, budgeting, forecasting and performance reporting processes that are ill focused, ineffective, disjointed and seen as a chore. And yet these are the most valuable processes to set direction, allocate resources, identify the ongoing need for course correction as well as the exploitation of opportunities and mitigation of risks. Revisiting and refocussing these processes to be faster more effective, collaborative and impactful is key.

Across these processes Finance has the opportunity to bring technology and access to quality data to bear in more meaningful ways. It must integrate data across the organisation, channelling insights to the right individuals and decision makers, becoming part of the process of governing the effective delivery of the business value chain. In this role finance moves from scorekeeper to a partner and builder of shareholder value.


3. Pace of Change and the agility to respond quickly

We only need to look back over the last few years to see the importance of agility, however, agility is useless unless the subsequent action is well informed.  Scenario and event modelling in a global marketplace where supply chains are so interdependent has never been so important.

For finance, this means integrating operational and tactical planning data into financial outcomes to create access to instant financial forecast updates. This ‘Raw’ snapshot view becomes the “Business As Usual’ starting point to work with the business to challenge assumptions, understand options, and evaluate interventions.

With access to a broader range of internal and external data finance has a valuable role in bringing a risk intelligent approach to weighting and evaluating scenarios and actions translating these into outcomes that can be reflected in updated operational, tactical, and financial outcomes and forecasts.

4. Societal Responsibility and ESG Reporting


There is no doubt that societal responsibility, sustainability, impact on the environment, and good governance are important influencers in determining future shareholder value. Governments and businesses around the world are stepping up their response to the climate crisis and stating their intentions to become carbon neutral. As a result, sustainability reporting is becoming increasingly important with most of the world’s largest companies now producing sustainability reports on which auditors provide assurance.

This creates the opportunity for Finance to play two important roles. Firstly, it has the skills to provide the organisations stakeholder with the assurance that it is meeting the standards adopted by governments and regulators. Secondly, it has the opportunity to architect and curate this data into reports that Executive teams and Boards can have confidence in, and act on.

In these roles, the capture, storage, and integrity of ESG data, as well as the translation into the impact on shareholder value, will be key and should follow the same governing principles as any other financial and operational data. This may involve the capture of new data and the development of new processes and controls not previously necessary.

The time is right to elevate your finance function to the Architect and Builder of shareholder value – are you up for the challenge? 


If you are there are some simple questions that you should be careful to evaluate.

    1. Can I balance my time and talent to achieve this aspiration safe in the knowledge that my judicial and steward responsibility to the organisation will not be compromised?
    2. Do I have a clear view of the end game and a roadmap that will create the momentum, and building blocks to get there but deliver value in short sprints along the way?
    3. Am I clear on how value is created across the organisation and the lineage of activities through to short term financial performance and longer-term shareholder value (including the impact of ESG)?
    4. Do I have the integrated operational and financial processes, systems and data that will enable this endgame?
    5. Do I have the commitment and support from my stakeholders to embark and be successful on this journey?

Need help in answering these questions?

Contact us

    Aiden Heke

   Tel: +61 2 9135 2968

   Email: [email protected]

Mark Woodhouse

Tel: +61 424 696 065

Email: [email protected]