Finance in the digital age

20 May 2016

 

Outside of work we’re used to using social media and other collaboration tools to communicate and share ideas with our friends and family. I recently attended an event at PwC, hosted by Jemma Ingham (PwC, Director), Brian Furness (PwC, Partner), Gerard Newman (PwC, Partner) and Mark Newton (Oracle, VP Applications), which examined how for digital natives this technology based, collaborative approach is an expectation in the workplace and has the potential to disrupt Finance’s traditional way of working.

Taylor Swift and the changing workplace

It is obvious to all of us that the world is changing dramatically. Economic shifts and rapid technological advances are causing fundamental changes to the finance environment. There are numerous articles written about the impact of software robotics and automation, big data and predicative analytics, urbanisation and the movement of wealth from West to East. While this is all very interesting what really fascinates me is Taylor Swift, or rather what Taylor Swift represents.

Before you worry that the Finance Matters blog is becoming a celebrity gossip site let me explain further. Taylor Swift is 26 years old which is the average age of an employee at PwC. Taylor Swift is an example of a ‘Millennial’, the generation that is coming to dominate the workplace and redefine working habits through increased use of collaborative technology.

Millennials work differently to older generations and have different expectations of what they want from their work. These digital natives want to work as they live: flexibly, innovatively and collaboratively. 78% of Millennials believe access to technology makes them more effective at work and as they come to dominate the workplace, Millennials bring with them new ideas, expectations and culture. They also place greater importance on skills such as collaboration.

Collaboration is a vital skill in a workplace increasingly made up of global teams working remotely from virtual offices. While the virtual workplace may seem like the sci-fi future to many of us, for Millennials it is the norm, it is how they expect the world to work. As the lines between work and life become blurred, employers need to develop a culture agile enough to allow their Millennial employees to succeed.

Fewer emails, more conversations

Finance has traditionally been heavily involved with the consolidation and verification of data. Hours are spent emailing spreadsheets back and forth, waiting for responses, and then attempting to reconcile conflicting data. However, the real value of the planning cycle is not the data collection, it is the conversations that happen around it.

Collaboration tools can change finance processes and ways of working in a very immediate way. This is seen in the implementation of cloud based planning tools, which allow data to be shared, verified and analysed by workers on different sides of the world in real-time. Successful collaboration tools allow Finance teams to focus less effort on data collection and more on having the conversations that generate genuine insight. For Millennials, used to instant messaging via social media, the heavy reliance on email by older generations seems very inefficient. At a time when social collaboration tools are cheaper, more secure and readily available than ever, it’s surprising how many finance teams are still emailing spreadsheets.

The advantages for Finance

The Digital revolution has led to the development of social collaborative tools that allow greater agility, rapid innovation, and increased employee job satisfaction and engagement. This has obvious advantages for Finance as it allows new ways of engaging, leading and reacting to customers; new ways of publishing and sharing information with regulators and investors; and new ways of creating insight and solving problems for internal stakeholders. One of our clients recently demonstrated this when the incoming CFO shared their ‘vision for Finance’ with the Finance team via a collaboration tool. The CFO encouraged the team to give their feedback and input via the tool, live during the meeting, which meant there was greater buy-in of the new strategy.

The Millennials are reinventing the workplace and creating living networks of ideas, insights, conversations and relationships. This enhances the effectiveness of the finance function and allows it to produce valuable and actionable insights. For more information please contact Brian Furness (brian.j.furness@uk.pwc.com) or Jemma Ingham (jemma.ingham@uk.pwc.com).

Jack Miall_0858Jack Miall
Associate, Consulting
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