One of the big touchpoints for this year’s User Conference in Toronto was unexpectedly, family. Prophix COO Alok Ajmera referenced his children’s interaction with technology to highlight how far the friction has fallen in our interaction with machines. One speaker told of his child’s command to Google Home “OK googoo, choochoo!”, in a bid to get it to play Thomas the Tank Engine. Keynote speaker, futurist Tom Cheesewright called back to these stories with his own reference to how technology has changed youth culture, highlighting the ten thousand TV shows his own children can now choose from, instead of the two broadcast channels to which he was limited.
These were the direct references to family time, but there was a less direct reference as well. An acknowledgement that this is a role that has its busy periods, whether it’s wrangling the budget through approval or closing out the year. And in those times, too often work intrudes on family life.
There were also though, some very positive stories. In the workshop on building a more modern finance function, participants responded to feedback from finance professionals around the world via the Future-Ready Finance audit with stories of their own. Stories of processes that had been automated, systems integrated, and behaviours changed. People spoke of a more future-focused finance function that can devote more time to strategy and planning and less to the day-to-day mechanics. And that as a result, offers a more predictable workload and fewer interruptions to family life.
It was a useful reminder of why we invest time and effort in trying to transform the finance function. Yes, the business case for investment in better tools, training and processes will be made on ROI, but there’s also a very strong case to be made for improving the well being of people in the office of finance, and their families.