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It’s time to take an Amazonian approach to technology in Finance

By Andy Burrows

With all the scare stories about “robots taking our jobs”, it’s easy to get the impression that we’d rather have robots doing jobs because they’re better than us.

Recently, I had to do a 2-minute presentation on the subject of why Finance should pursue automation opportunities. And I was given a PowerPoint slide with 10 or so bullet points full of buzzwords, telling how automation can reduce cost, improve customer satisfaction, improve consistency and traceability, support strategic platform upgrades and accelerate innovation, amongst other things.

Even my own eyes glazed over as I started to talk it through, so I cut to the real point.

Forget the buzzwords!

Forget the buzzwords. Humans are better than robots!

Robots don’t have intelligence.

Robots don’t interpret anything.

Robots don’t take action on information.

Robots don’t make strategies.

Robots don’t care if they win or lose.

Robots do:

Do repeatable,...

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Out with the old (resolutions), in with the new (intentions)

cfo leadership Jan 22, 2019

By Talita Ferreira

I no longer set New Year’s resolutions. I think it is far better to set intentions.

If we follow the latest developments in neuroscience, we can rest assured that our brain, if used correctly, can be a very powerful tool. Although, we currently only use a fraction of its capability and get caught up in the noise of our self-doubts, limiting beliefs and repeat dialogues.

Setting an intention is key to bringing about a change or a desired state or goal. The various synonyms for intention are purpose, aim or plan. Setting intentions can play a key role in activating our subconscious mind to help bring about a goal or desired result. The word ‘intent’ originated from the Latin word ‘intendere’, which means to stretch towards.

 

My first encounter with intention was a few years ago when I read the book ‘Synchrodestiny’ by Deepak Chopra. I was trying to find my purpose in life. I knew I wanted to leave corporate life but...

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Thinking Strategically About Finance Transformation

By Andy Burrows

Finance Transformation should be thought of as a strategy. I get the impression that we don’t think of Finance Transformation like that. We tend to think that the business has a strategy, and functions like Finance just do “transformation” programmes.

I’ve argued in the past that, generally speaking, the CFO’s strategic blind spot is the Finance function itself. In another article, I suggested that CFOs are spending too much time business partnering, so that they don’t give enough strategic thought to the Finance function.

So, this article is all about how we can be strategic about Finance Transformation. In fact, as I said at the beginning, it’s more than that. We ought to think of Finance Transformation as the vehicle for Finance function strategy.

Thinking about strategy makes a difference

My definition of strategy is that, “strategy is a plan of action to achieve an aspiration or overcome a problem.” And...

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Next Generation Finance Skills - a business and personal challenge

By Andy Burrows

What are the skills needed for Finance in business in the next generation? One of the biggest current challenges for the Finance and Accounting profession, the individual Finance professional, and Finance functions in general, is around skills.

It’s not just a problem of what skills are needed for the future. But whose responsibility is it to create the career pathways, the learning opportunities, and to ensure the right skills, mindsets and behaviours, prevail?

In an earlier article, I looked at what’s really happening in Finance in the realm of automation and technology. I argued that it need not be all about RPA and AI, as the media and software companies would have you believe. There are plenty of other tools we already have in the toolbox, some are more robust and stable, and some are much lower cost. Automation isn’t new in Finance, and RPA is just the new kid on the block (and that would make AI a babe in arms!).

But what I want to point out...

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Please can we stop saying that the future of Finance is all about RPA and AI! It’s not!

By Andy Burrows

So much ink has been spilled about the impact of technology and automation in Finance – RPA and AI and the like - that it’s starting to get a bit tedious. From reading all this stuff, anyone would think that there’s a robot army lining up to make us all redundant! And it’s written as if it’s at the forefront of everyone’s minds in Finance.

On the ground, in the real world of Finance in real world business, it’s not like that!

And we all know deep down that it’s hype! Who sponsors the conferences and the accountancy publications and the webinars that are spouting this stuff? The software vendors!! There’s a vested interest in inflated claims and understated costs/risks.

And yet it feels like the whole Finance and Accounting industry looks down on you if you’ve never heard of RPA, haven’t got a cloud ERP project planned, or you’re not talking about analytics and predictive modelling.

What we need...

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Business Performance Reporting - It's Not All About the P&L!

By Andy Burrows [originally published September 2016]

If you are going to be successful in managing your business, you need measurement. You need facts that tell you how well you are doing and where you need to improve.

And those measures of success are much broader than just financial measures, such as profit, cash, margins, etc, however important they are.

How do you make sure that your business is heading in the right direction? How do you make sure that your strategies are working? How can you even tell if your strategies are being implemented correctly?

Is profit the only measure of success? Does profit tell you anything about whether you are achieving your vision?

Let’s say my vision was to become number 1 in a particular market. How would I know how close I was to achieving that? Not by looking at my profit in isolation.

And just asking that question leads to other useful questions that clarify what I am aiming at. For instance, what does becoming number 1 mean? Number...

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5 Ways that CFOs Can Radically Improve the Effectiveness of Exec Meetings

By Andy Burrows, 22 October 2018

During my career, I’ve sometimes worked at the top level in Finance, and had the privilege of sitting alongside other functional heads in the “Senior Management Team” or “The Exec”, or even “The Board of Directors”.

Obviously one of the chief ways we stayed in touch with each other, and with what was going on, was to have “Management Meetings” on a regular basis. Normally, the main meeting would be once a month, centred around the management accounts. And sometimes we would also have weekly, less formal meetings.

When you’re more junior, you see the FD or the CFO going off to these meetings. And you have a picture in your mind of what goes on. You picture high powered discussions, with quality arguments and analysis, talking strategy and making sensible decisions.

The reality is often quite different. The meetings are often frustrating, boring and nowhere near as useful as they should be....

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The Future CFO – 4 Ingredients for CFO Success in the Modern Age

By Andy Burrows

[Published 23rd July 2018, edited 20th September 2018]

To be successful the future CFO will need to be all about mindsets and methodologies.

My presentation at the AICPA-CIMA Finance Transformation conference in London this year would have been entitled, “the DNA of the future CFO”

And since I now can't do the talk because I'm having cancer treatment, I'm letting you know my basic thesis, right here! 

But am I out of step?! I mean, surely the future CFO is going to be all about digital technology, automation and predictive analytics? Well the Finance Transformation conference is hearing plenty of perspectives on all those things from people more qualified than me!

Would you like to hear a different perspective? I knew you would! Here we go...

So, here’s what I mean by mindsets and methodologies. Four essential ingredients for being a successful CFO in the future. Four parts to the DNA of the future CFO.

1. The future CFO must...

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How to Define Value Drivers – a Simple Technique for Business Strategy and Performance Measurement

By Andy Burrows

[Published 13th July 2018]

Getting business strategy right is not easy.

The definition of strategy is simple enough: “a plan of action to achieve an aspiration or overcome a problem”. And the process of arriving at the plan sounds so easy: define the objective (vision, aspiration, problem), assess the current state and therefore the gaps, and decide how to get from where you are to where you want to go.

One of the things that makes it difficult is knowing where to start in assessing the current state. There are so many factors you could take into account. It’s sometimes difficult to see the wood for the trees.

And performance measurement has similar issues. I’ve written previously about the need to make sure you’re looking at the right performance measures – KPIs.

What we need in both cases is to be focused on the “performance drivers” or “value drivers”.

So, in this article I want to introduce you to a very...

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How to Develop KPIs That More Than Count

By Andy Burrows

[First published 7th September 2017]

This article looks at how to go about developing Key Performance Indicators (KPIs).

If you’re interested in this topic enough to start reading, you’ll know that KPIs give you a richer view of performance than the normal accounting stuff that we produce in Finance. You’re also probably painfully aware that there are so many metrics to choose from. And that can make you wonder whether you’re looking at the right things.

So, the common question is, how can we develop the right KPIs?

But, before we get to that, I want to do through three things:

  1. Give a simple definition of a KPI
  2. Clear up a couple of misconceptions
  3. Take a stab at a description of what a good KPI is

That should head us in the right direction…

What are KPIs?

A simple definition of a Key Performance Indicator is that it’s just a specific way of seeing how well things are going with something. That sounds quite general, but I’ve...

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