Agile Finance: What, Why, and How

In our 2022 CFO Benchmarks survey, we asked CFOs and other Finance leaders what their top priorities for digital transformation were. Roughly half said speeding up analysis (48%) and making data more accessible (55%) were their top priorities.

The goal for developing these capabilities is more flexibility and versatility — in other words, Agile Finance.

This term is relatively new, but it hits at the heart of what digital transformation in Finance is for. It’s a handy term that makes the intangible process of digitalization more concrete.

But what, specifically, is Agile Finance? Why does it matter for Finance leaders?

And most importantly, how can your Finance team achieve it?

What Are the Features of Agile Finance?

An Agile Finance function combines modern automation and artificial intelligence (AI) technologies with a team that knows how to use them—and how to share their findings with their colleagues in a way that directly informs business decisions.

But Agile Finance is not constrained to the Finance department. It requires a strong, collaborative relationship between the Finance team and the rest of the organization. It also requires centralized access to current Finance data at any time and from any authorized person within the company.

Speed, direction, and collaboration are all required for truly Agile Finance. When a company has these pieces in place, they can shift directions quickly and effectively when circumstances change.

There is an Urgent Need for Agile Finance 

Digital transformation is speeding up in Finance departments across the country. If companies want to keep up, says Tom Hood, EVP Business Engagement & Growth at AICPA-CIMA, they need to move towards Agile Finance quickly: “The business environment has accelerated by at least five years through the pandemic, increasing the speed of business,” he says. “This is resulting in much faster cycle times and the need for more efficient decision-making inside businesses.”

Not only do Finance teams need to implement advanced automation and AI tools, Tom says, they also need to “provide the new skills needed across their finance and accounting teams.” It is only with the full array of digital transformations that make up Agile Finance—advanced tools and a data-savvy, collaborative staff—that modern Finance teams can stay competitive.

Invest in Smart Systems and Smart People

The first step towards an Agile Finance function is investing in tools that facilitate automated reporting and modeling, AI for deeper and faster analytics, and a central data repository that allows anyone within the organization to access Finance data at any time.

However, when talking about the key features of an Agile Finance team, Janet Schijns, CEO of JS Group, takes automation and more advanced tools like AI as a given. On top of these, she says, are “a team that commits to greater cross-business collaboration, delivery of truly data-backed insights, and personalized decision support to meet future business demands, as well as current ones – and deliver this in a timely manner.”

An Agile team shifts the role of the Finance department from scorekeepers to active participants in guiding the organization. This means having data-savvy employees who can quickly and persuasively communicate their findings to just about anyone in the organization.

Transform Your Business with Agile Finance

The culmination of a digitally transformed Finance function is Agile Finance. Companies whose Finance departments haven’t begun this process are being left behind—and companies who aren’t moving quickly to reach a fully Agile Finance function are at risk of joining them.

How does your Finance team measure up to the industry? Check out the 2022 CFO Benchmarks to learn more.


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