Be Brilliant: How to Share Your Vision for the Future of Finance

It’s 2023: Where are the jetpacks and flying cars? These high-flying modes of transport are staples of science fiction. Yet we’re still stuck with four wheels on the ground.

On the other hand, old sci-fi never imagined the Internet, smartphones, or streaming media. Maybe we’re better off watching Netflix than running out of gas at 23,000 feet.

True Visionaries seek to solve problems as they look to the future. They help push their team forward by seeing the paradigm-shifting possibilities of what could be—and by effectively sharing those possibilities with their team, backed by real data.

What is your vision for the future of finance? What is the smartphone-level revolution you want to see in finance?

Even more importantly: How will you share that vision with the rest of the organization? When you have the ability to tell a compelling, data-backed story, you’re more likely to inspire action. And on top of that, you can develop your own thought leadership, showcase your talent, and advance your organization and your career at the same time.

Here’s how to get started, featuring advice from experts Elizabeth Pittelkow Kittner and Samantha Mansfield.

Take Control of Your Data

Visionaries need data to inform their prognosticating—it’s what separates vision from pure imagination. Finance leaders are already adept at working with data within their department, but it will take a bigger data pool to fuel your vision for the future.

It starts with consolidating data across the organization on a centralized platform. By working with live data streams rather than copying static data into a spreadsheet, everyone within the finance function can work from a single source of truth.

With this consolidated data, you can begin to surface insights that can bring your vision into focus. AI-enabled analytics can find patterns in data that humans might miss, making it easier to spot opportunities and will help you articulate your vision to others in the business.

When you can demonstrate value to the organization, you earn a place at the decision-making table. Over time, your data-backed vision can make you a trusted voice within the business, reliably providing great guidance to the C-suite.

However, it takes more than amazing data insights to earn that seat at the table. It’s just as important to reach out to other departments, get acquainted with their needs, and adjust your research accordingly.

“Finance leaders have the ability to show others how to make their goals and dreams a reality through funding,” says Mansfield. “A good Visionary listens to the ultimate goal of their client (internal or external to their organization) and helps them plan a path to get there. A good Visionary may listen more than they talk, challenging and inspiring others through courageous questioning techniques.” With data and insight on board, and good communication skills in place, you will be ready to help guide the business.

Prove the Business Value of Finance

Most business leaders don’t think of the finance department as a profit center. They see it as a necessary business function, but not necessarily one that contributes to ongoing revenue. A finance Visionary can turn that perception on its head.

Visionaries can elevate the finance function from scorekeeper to trailblazer. But it takes both data and storytelling skill to get stakeholders on board with your vision.

You may not think of data in narrative terms—you likely think of the ability to tell stories as pretty far outside your job description. But, says Mansfield, “Finance leaders that tell a story with the numbers have an advantage over many others. Being able to tell the story the numbers are saying is a valuable skill and one that could be practiced by more finance professionals.”

Storytelling is a skill that you can practice and improve over time. To get started, Mansfield says, “It is important to know your audience and connect the dots. Not everyone is interested in the same data, so know what is important to the people in the room and the level of detail they want and need to hear. Then make sure they understand the impact of the numbers presented.”

It’s easier to be persuasive with your data story if you can focus on outcomes rather than numbers, says Kittner.  “For example, if we add a new product or feature for a customer, here is the impact of that decision to the customer and on our numbers; if we consistently offer this new product or feature to more of our customers, then we will be far ahead of our competitors in terms of loyalty, repeat business, and recurring revenue,” she says.

Ultimately, the Visionary needs to tell a story that sets the business on course to take the right next steps. “Given the rate of change, business leaders are looking for the foresight they can gain from the financial data presented,” says Mansfield. “Finance leaders can point out where decisions should be made, and how the trajectory of the story can change through those choices.”

Telling the story within the data is not always easy. But with the right tools, you can automatically create and distribute interactive reports that will make the narrative clear and simple to understand. You can add data visualization to make insights come to life, demonstrating the value that finance adds to the company without relying on columns of numbers to tell the story.

Attract and Retain the Best Talent

Visionaries don’t have to work solo. In fact, part of moving finance forward is developing a transformative team. But it can be challenging to bring in top talent in the newly competitive job market. Remote and hybrid work means you can hire the best person for the job, regardless of where they live—but your competitors can, too.

Talent are looking for flexible, agile work environments. They want to communicate and collaborate remotely with co-workers just as easily as they could in an office building. And they don’t want to spend hours of onboarding time before they dive into meaningful work.

A dedicated finance platform can help with all the above, both by facilitating collaboration and by reducing onboarding time. Intuitive, easy-to-use tools are a firm foundation for higher team morale, greater efficiency, and increased effectiveness.

You can also more effectively attract talent by sharing and realizing your vision for the future of finance. As your team takes on a bigger role in the company, elevating the finance function and expanding its capabilities, you will be a beacon for others eager to follow your vision.

Visionaries in Action

Moneris is Canada’s largest provider of solutions for mobile, online and in-store payments. The Moneris finance team had become a bottleneck in the organization, with multiple departments relying on their spreadsheet-based data to make forecasts.

The team took a Visionary approach to solving this problem. They decided to adopt dedicated finance software that could automate the data analysis and report generation process.

Telling the story of how report automation would benefit the company was not a difficult task. It was simply a matter of demonstrating how much unnecessary time was being spent on these processes. Once Moneris had their dedicated finance platform in place, their finance team was able to save 15 hours per week—and the entire organization saved 30 hours per week.

On top of the time savings, the dedicated finance platform enabled them to develop capabilities for more accurate forecasting, investment evaluation, and data-driven decision making.

This empowers the sales and partnerships department to make decisions more quickly, informed by up-to-date data. The team has also improved forecasting accuracy and given the entire organization access to real-time forecast updates, promoting organization-wide agility.

Forecasting is one area where Visionary leaders can make a big difference, says Kittner. “Finance leaders can create future-looking forecasts (one to five-year plans) to help advise management and those charged with governance regarding the near-term and long-term impacts of decisions being made today.”

“For example, if we run a product with a low or negative margin, what will be the ongoing impact on the business? Are there other products that can make up that margin? Are we strategically okay operating with a negative margin product, or when do we need to make changes to improve profitability?” Kittner says. Answering these types of questions with data-driven insight can prove your team’s value to the executive suite.

Make Your Vision a Reality

Can you see your finance team giving a presentation that impresses the C-suite? Can you see yourself sitting in the CFO chair, helping to shape the future of the business? Finance needs Visionaries like you.

Finance professionals can focus, fine-tune, and achieve their goals with the right tools.


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