In my very first real job, I was constantly reminded by my boss to “do things the way they have always been done, it’s easier that way” And “don’t reinvent the wheel James”. Admittedly, it was the early 2000s and my boss was nearing a well-earned retirement, but even back then it struck me that this was exactly the opposite of what we should be doing. Instead we should be constantly challenging the status quo, the normal way of doing things to find a new and better way wherever possible.
The technology revolution has accelerated this idea at lighting speed. Technology in all walks of life, including enterprise applications; and our world of finance systems, has changed the game. Now more than ever, you must innovate or your business and your career will grind to a halt very quickly.
So, how should finance systems experts view innovation in order to evolve and keep their careers moving forward?
Change is often met with resistance at first, but the revolution in finance systems is seen by many as a change for the better as it is creating a new and improved way of doing things.
CFO’ s are demanding shorter time to value and so are embracing smaller bite size improvements to their finance processes rather than the long extended big bang, all at once approach. As a result, finance systems teams driving these changes can focus on fewer key improvements at a time and make a real difference quicker.
The custodians of the finance systems estate must also be agile, flexible and constantly on their toes as new tools are being released all the time. What is best in class now may not be in 12 months’ time or an add-on from an entirely new vendor may become available to improve a key process. It is vital to not be married to just one system.
A part of this evolution in process improvement is the way that requirements and change are organised. We are taking more and more candidate briefs that are asking finance systems experts to reverse the requirements gathering process on its head. In the old word, teams would sit in workshops for weeks on end building a book of process improvements and the systems design strategy to match. It’s now in reverse in many cases. You review what the vendor has made available to you and build requirements from there. If it’s of value to your finance teams roll it out, if it’s not keep it switched off. This change in approach requires a sharpening of certain skills, in particular finance partnering, communication and co-operation with finance stakeholders.
How to stay ahead of the game
To paraphrase the legendary golfer Gary Player’s, famous quote, “it’s interesting, the more I practice the better I become”. Even the greatest sports, artistic and musical talent spend hours every day perfecting their game. For professionals in the finance systems eco-system, there are numerous ways to learn every day and the information is at our finger tips to see where the innovations in finance systems are heading.
Finance systems experts cannot rely on sitting back and working in a safe bubble and must show their partnering and learning spirit and get out there into the business to show where improvements can be made. This needs to be done externally as well, by taking advantage of the numerous (and free) peer to peer learning, networking and other industry events that are available.
What is my reply now on innovation and that mantle from my original boss? Not only do you need to reinvent the wheel, you also need to reinvent the whole car, the track and the entire environment in which you are driving. Only then can you keep your finance systems career moving forward.
In our recent employment survey dedicated to the Digital Finance arena we asked the question ‘What do you believe will be the most important topics of innovation for 2017?’ One of the top answers was ‘visualisation and dashboards’. In other words the presentation of the right data to the Office of Finance in an accurate, meaningful and accessible way.
eu-solutions is a business dedicated to the Digital Finance community. We have supported the CFO office since 2006 and operate in the centre of a network of talented finance IT professionals that partner with finance stakeholders every day to deliver robust finance systems solutions.
As part of that commitment we like to share our insight about what is important to Digital Finance professionals today. Strategic Reporting seems to be one of the hottest topics of the day.
A changing finance culture
The concept of finance being merely a support function, sitting somewhere in the building that nobody goes to, is well and truly gone. Savvy businesses are putting finance executives in charge of insight, analysis and strategy, and so, EPM and Digital Finance experts must give finance executives the tools that they need to perform meaningful analysis and make the right decisions at the right time.
Technology is everywhere and is such an integral part of our everyday life that we hardly notice it’s there anymore. Just look at our children and their ability to navigate technology! The business and finance world is no different. We now have a generation of finance executives all the way up to the boardroom that are completely comfortable with technology. They operate their lives on mobile devices and similarly they want easy access to their financial numbers on a screen and to have them to hand in their bag, in their pocket.
And yet, we still see finance executives walking from meeting to meeting and on the plane with mountains of paper to navigate. The CFO office is asking for a better way and the tools are out there. I believe it is the custodians of the digital finance systems – finance systems managers and administrators – that can bring this reporting revolution to the CFO Office.
The presentation mile
The days of excel are numbered, we all know that (even though it is still over used). I am working on the assumption that our community has embraced new digital finance core platforms – the ERP and EPM layer. There has been considerable investment into these platforms over the last 20 years and whilst they are constantly being improved, the foundation is there.
We believe the agenda is switching to the reporting layer – the presentation mile, the polish if you like, that can take the data churned out of the ERP & EPM tools and present it in a usable and accessible format.
Digital Finance experts – take the initiative, carry the baton, and soak up the praise
EPM experts and those experts managing digital finance systems act as the perfect intermediary between IT and finance. They bridge the gap and are able to establish what finance partners want and how to deliver it to them through technology innovations.
There is a crucial process to follow to ensure effective digital reporting. In our opinion it is the CFO Office (and not IT departments) that should be driving strategic analysis and so the process must begin there: with finance executives defining which are the KPI’s linked to their operational effectiveness.
It is then the role (and opportunity) of finance systems managers and teams to translate these needs to create the right data architecture and put in an effective data governance and then implement an effective reporting platform on top of their existing ERP & EPM system.
We believe our community of professionals in Digital Finance and in particular EPM, are in pole position to carry the baton for this reporting revolution. Take the initiative, make the changes, give finance executives the tools they need to perform at their highest and feel the praise flood in.
About the author
James Porter is a Managing Consultant at eu-solutions, a recruitment business dedicated to the Digital Finance sector, in particular ERP, EPM & Analytics. We manage a community of Finance IT professionals – Insight Partners – across Europe and the US that are available for interim and permanent assignments www.eu-solutions.com
In our recent employment survey dedicated to the Digital Finance market, we examined the important factors affecting finance systems talent today. We discovered, yet again, the finance ERP, EPM and Analytics market is evolving at a rapid rate. Professionals must innovate to ensure skills remain relevant in today’s Digital Finance market.
In our latest blog we have been looking at how all of this is affecting Systems Administrators and what topics should they follow to stay ahead in the changing world of digital finance.
Systems Administrators perform a vital role in the daily management of those financial applications (EPM, ERP or Analytics) critical to the smooth running of the finance operation. These important resources are central to the daily maintenance of the application but also act as a central partner in projects to improve finance applications according to the changing needs of the business.
So what are the top 3 areas to think about?
Speed of change
In the traditional world, finance applications, whether they be dedicated to day to day ERP operations or to decision support processes in EPM and Analytics, were designed up front.
They were then implemented over a lengthy period to create (hopefully) a sophisticated system designed to cope with everything that was required. Systems Administrators are now expected to keep this bespoke application relevant to the changing needs of the business and also keep performance optimised by tweaking the infrastructure and applying patches.
The digital era and the speed to which new applications can be introduced has turned that on its head. We are operating in a rapidly changing landscape and what was right last year, or even last month, is not right for now.
Cloud applications give clients the opportunity to start small and grow from there. New applications being implemented in the ERP, EPM & Analytics world come with more limited out of the box functionality and improvements are released to you by the technology providers on a periodic basis.
In some ways businesses have limited input into what functional enhancements are provided to them, but Systems Administrators must review these changes and decide how to release them to their user community.
Systems Administrators looking after Financial ERP, EPM or Analytics applications must keep abreast of the changes and releases that their technology providers are providing. The technology providers and partner community provides regular and useful information through community platforms, events and content on new functionality being released. It’s open and free information.
Data Integration was considered to be the most important topic for 2017 by respondents to our Digital Finance survey.
We also highlighted the wide choice of ERP, EPM & Analytics platforms and applications available to the CFO office and the large number of data sources available to pull data into your finance platforms today.
Systems Administrators must be up to speed with the latest data integration (and data governance) methodologies, deploying technical infrastructure experts when required but also skilling up to a sufficient level to maintain the feeds and API’s to your finance application.
We are dedicated to our Digital Finance community and aim to give our contacts a little food for thought. Our input is top line but we hope with this short blog we have encouraged you to do further research and prepare yourself for the changing digital finance world ahead.
Some additional reading that might be helpful:
Our 2017 report into the Digital Finance employment market looks at a range of topics to help you secure your next position and for employers to attract and retain finance systems talent. You can download the full report here:
James Porter is a Managing Consultant at eu-solutions, a specialist resource provider in the Digital Finance market
Hiring is a process, and like any other process, the quality of it has a major effect on the individuals involved. As an employer involved in the hiring process your mind-set is often focused on trying to find the best candidate for the position, and rightfully so. But, recruitment has become so much more than just hiring. Of course you need to be focused on finding the right talent but as a business you’ve got to open your eyes to the indirect results that can occur as a result of your recruitment process. These indirect results can have real impacts on your business, not just your hiring, but also your bottom line.
In this article we discuss the impact to your business when hiring in a specialist niche field such as finance systems (EPM, ERP & Analytics) and offer some advice on how to maximise the candidate experience.
The candidates you reject should be nurtured – they still have value to you
In a specialist field like finance systems, a lot of the candidates that apply for roles with your business are either already customers (the business they currently work for uses your product) or they could potentially become customers in the future. Therefore you have to ensure that your recruitment process, which is essentially a consumer touch point with your brand, needs to promote your business in the best possible light. If you fail to provide substantial feedback, what kind of brand message are you sending to those individuals, who are not just candidates but potential customers? If you create a bad candidate experience, candidates will both consciously and subconsciously attach that negative candidate experience with your brand. The question you need to ask yourself is this: should the time come for them or their current business to purchase a product like yours, are they more or less likely to recommend you?
As an example, we recently worked with a specialist tech company in the EPM sector. All parties – agents, client managers, but most of all candidates invested a lot of time and emotion into the recruitment process. Sadly, there can only be one hire in this case so a number of candidates were left disappointed. The client was extremely mindful that all applicants that had been through the process were of course specialists in EPM and could be potential advocates for their brand and potential applicants for the future. EPM is a small world! They ensured all left with in-depth feedback on why there were not successful this time and have committed to staying in touch.
Some remain hopeful of joining the client one day in the future, purely because the process was so professional and challenging. We received feedback that candidates would recommend the client’s technology to their current employer when the opportunity was right. This is an example of how powerful creating a positive candidate experience can be.
What can you do to create a positive candidate experience?
Being unsuccessful in a job application is tough for anyone. This is even more pertinent if the candidate has made it through various stages of the application process. It’s your responsibility to hire the best candidate for the position but it’s also your responsibility to make sure the unsuccessful candidates leave the process feeling positive about your brand. Here are two simple ways to make sure this happens:
1) Make the process challenging – But don’t overcomplicate
Hiring someone is a big investment. Your company invests a lot of resources into both looking for a candidate and in that candidate themselves so we understand the desire to create a complex hiring process. Make it challenging and always recruit to your highest – but don’t create unnecessary layers to the recruitment process. An over complicated process doesn’t always guarantee quality. Make sure that when you plan your process you give considerable thought to whether each step is really necessary and what you can do at each stage to ensure that the experience remains positive to all candidates. Studies show that 55% of job seekers feel that an unnecessarily long recruitment process contributes to a negative candidate experience.
2) ALWAYS provide feedback
It can be easy to forget about those individuals who didn’t get the role but we urge you not to. Failing to provide open and honest feedback only reflects badly on your business. You must remember that, especially for those candidates who got very close to being successful, should you be looking for talent again in the future you may wish to tap into one of the candidates that didn’t quite make it the last time. Not all candidates fail because they are poor candidates. A lot of the time one individual just fits better with the particular role on offer. You need to make sure that you nurture those individuals that aren’t successful so that they still want to work with you in the future and so that they remain potential customers. Work with your recruiter to compile feedback for each candidate and schedule in a phone call or an email to give the individuals meaningful feedback. You’ll leave the candidates feeling more positive about your business and more likely to promote that positive feeling to those around them.
Hiring talent has and always will have a considerable impact on your business but you’ve got to make sure that you’re taking advantage of changes in the market place. The hiring process has become crucially important to ensuring you hire the best talent and leave candidates feeling positive about your brand. Make sure that you invest in this process so that this consumer touch point remains a positive one.
James Taylor is head of marketing for eu-solutions, a specialist recruitment company in the EPM, ERP & Analytics market
Why Solution Architects are the ‘go to’ profile in modern finance systems
In my recent blogs I have been looking at the changing world of finance systems, a concept industry analysts’ are calling ‘Modern Finance’, and the impact these changes are having on skills in the workplace. As a company that specialises in providing resources to finance systems and finance change programmes around the world we are constantly striving to support our candidate community by providing feedback on the in-demand skills in this changing world.
This month, it’s about the importance of Solution Architects – a group essential to the success of finance systems projects and that I believe are becoming more and more important in modern finance.
A Solution Architect focuses on converting functional requirements into a robust design that will ultimately constitute the blueprint for the finance systems solution. It’s a two way process and a good Solution Architect must be able to feed back to the client whether they are going the right way with their development plan – do they have the right resources and in the right place? Are we using the right technology or platform for the job in hand? Is the strategy right and will it meet the required process change?
A good Solution Architect will also often manage the development plan and is best placed to meet all these questions that are essential to the success of a new finance systems initiative
So why are they becoming even more important in the new world of modern finance?
A new era
Make no mistake – we are in a new era of finance and a new era of finance systems. The cloud has completely changed the landscape – financial management applications and platforms are in theory simpler to adopt (but not necessarily simpler to implement, more of that later) and require a lower involvement from internal technology teams. Even for complex and larger businesses, where more complicated applications need to be built, technical development skills are sitting offshore. As a result of the absence of close to hand technical teams, the tools are increasingly put into the hands of financial teams and users to implement and manage.
Customers also have a far greater choice of applications and we are seeing a much wider variety of vendors and tools making up the overall ERP and EPM finance systems client estate.
The technology still needs experts
Is it wise to leave the running of all financial management application and platforms exclusively to the finance office? I would suggest that the strategy for finance analytics applications should sit with finance as these professionals are more analytical in their mind set and ultimately own the process.
However, what about issues such as process control, data integration, or data management? I recently heard of one client in the US with 76 different planning / modelling use cases that were spread around the organisation, all on the cloud. Without a smart approach to architecting the solution from the start, there is a danger that the age old problem of silos will once again appear and there will be a lack of process control and data management in the centre.
Are Solution Architects the answer to these problems?
We are in a changing landscape and the professionals that can advise on a best practice approach to designing and also running a financial management platform, from start to finish, will be the winners in this new world. These are the skills in demand.
Simplification is key. I am getting a lot of feedback from senior finance systems professionals about the need to simplify design and especially on the need to advise clients on how to cut out unnecessary processes and waste. Currently most applications offered in the cloud and new emerging platforms offer less functionality than older on premise legacy systems. Much of the time though these legacy systems have been highly customised and over complicated over the years creating a lot of wasted time and money with over-engineered processes.
Simplification is a good thing but clients need to be advised and guided to cut out the right parts of a system and process and in the right way. Newer, more agile and specialist applications are slowly replacing the cumbersome ERP and EPM systems but this needs to be done carefully and guided by skilled (and experienced) architects. The finance systems house needs to be taken apart slowly and brick by brick to avoid the whole thing falling down.
Experience counts for a lot. Finance systems experts and Solution Architects that have grown up in the old world of legacy ERP and EPM systems are in pole position in my opinion to benefit from the new era of modern finance and modern finance systems. This experience is vital to be able to offer advice to clients on the pitfalls of having the wrong design, wrong resources, wrong process, and wrong controls in place. Only then will new finance systems initiatives be successful.
James Porter is a Managing Consultant at eu-solutions, a business that provides specialist finance systems resources – Insight Partners – to clients in Europe and the US.
Here at eu-solutions we have been supporting the office of the CFO in their quest to transform finance for well over 10 years. We have provided the finance systems experts – the technicians, engineers and change managers i.e. the technology component for finance transformation initiatives around the World.
As a result we have built a wide network of candidates that we can make available for interim or permanent assignments whatever finance change the client is trying to achieve. It is a community we call Insight Partners and in our support of that community we aim to offer constant tips on how to stay ahead of the market by keeping skills relevant and by following market trends.
One of the regular themes we are hearing from the market is the importance of good project management skills. Job specifications are asking for it and it seems analysts and all the employment futurists out there are recognising the importance too. In a Deloitte study on the impact of technology on jobs and the future of work, the consulting group looked at those skills that have fallen in demand over the last 10 years, which are at risk from automation and which skills will grow in demand going forward. They found that Business and Financial Project Managers was a category with one of the highest increase in jobs created over the last 10 years (110,000) and which had one of the lowest probabilities of automation (11%)
In previous blogs I have highlighted the changing nature of finance systems and the skills required to be successful in the new world of Modern Finance, for example the importance of business partnering and being comfortable with newer concepts such as data-science, visualisation, analytics and security. I would add project management to that list, especially as the growth of cloud adoption in finance and accounting systems gathers pace.
Why is that the case?
Finance tools are getting simpler to use
Sounds like it would be counter to the argument but I believe that the changing nature of finance systems applications, especially those offered via a SaaS model has increased the demand for good financial project management skills. That is not to say that the products are less rich in functionality or not capable of dealing with complex financial scenarios and models, but rather they are simpler to use which has put the products more into the hands of finance users. The interface is easier to understand but the product still requires finance systems experts to be on hand to manage the projects to configure finance applications, promote user adoption and deliver excellent training.
A wide choice of finance systems applications
Reviewing analyst reports and talking to sales professionals in the world of Modern Finance, there really isn’t a single suite of back-office finance systems platforms and products to fit all requirements. Whatever the finance function is working on changing – whether it be financial operations, GL systems, risk, treasury, planning and modelling, consolidation, reconciliation, close management, dash boarding, you name it, there is a massive choice of applications on the market. It is conceivable that a business may have multiple applications, from many different vendors, all sitting on the cloud, all completing a separate task.
The millennial generation
‘Millennials’ are extremely comfortable with switching applications – no vendor loyalty there! But, a seamless transition requires process management to ensure the correct user adoption and the right services are being delivered to the business. Finance systems experts are central to this process change and must manage key projects to ensure it is a success.
Increased systems and cloud integration
This expansion of applications has brought about the need for more and more integration. In my last blog I highlighted the growing importance of systems integration and increasingly cloud integration as businesses bolt on new applications to their existing EPR and EPM landscape. Start-ups can implement a Greenfield suite of SaaS applications to manage business processes but most medium and Enterprise sized businesses have deep rooted systems in use and it is not viable to rip everything up and start again. Instead these organisations are turning to a stepped approach to decommission certain parts and add new cloud and SaaS functionality one stage at a time.
Finance systems experts are once again central to this process and play a key role in managing projects to knit together the jigsaw of finance systems applications. It cannot be a function left entirely to IT teams and requires the SME’s (subject matter experts) to facilitate this change.
In conclusion, the world of finance is changing as we move to the world of Modern Finance requiring finance systems candidates to have strong project management skills to facilitate this transformation. Software development skills and a deep understanding of a single specific ERP or EPM application will be in demand but we believe the growth in choice and the changing nature of back-office finance systems and the movement to the cloud will require finance systems experts to have a broader skill set, not least project management expertise.
Association for Project Management https://www.apm.org.uk/
From Brawn to Brains. Deloitte report on the impact of technology on jobs in the UK http://www2.deloitte.com/uk/en/pages/growth/articles/from-brawn-to-brains–the-impact-of-technology-on-jobs-in-the-u.html
James Porter is head of eu-solutions, a company that specialises in providing Finance Insight Partners – skilled finance systems technicians, project management and sales resources – in the World of Modern Finance
The marketplace for technology solutions dedicated to financial management has changed dramatically. The emergence of the Cloud has completely changed the game for enterprise applications and has created both a vastly increased choice of solutions for the CFO but also a new way of deploying the technology required for running finance on a daily basis.
So what is the impact on project resourcing? What do Finance ERP, EPM & Analytics professionals need to consider in the changing world of Modern Finance and what considerations does the Office of Finance need to look at before embarking on a new ERP or EPM project?
New project methodologies
The perceived wisdom is that projects to deliver Cloud solutions for back office finance and accounting functions are quicker and simpler to implement. Whilst we hear of many stories of the rapid deployment of Cloud applications, sometimes bringing in new systems in a matter of weeks, this only tells of half the story.
Often these short projects, greenfield projects are at smaller businesses with little or no recognised existing ERP or EPM technology solution in place (other than excel).
In contrast, larger businesses with a more mature ERP and EPM structure in place are looking to more of a step change in systems and applications, sometimes running a hybrid of on premise and Cloud applications. Increasingly, the Cloud and SaaS option within a business is becoming the Tier 1 application and system of choice for a particular process but there has not been a sea change.
These larger evolving system strategies call for a new agile approach to projects as businesses take smaller steps but repeatedly over a longer period. The era of big bang is over!
IT vs Business owned
One of the key features of SaaS based finance applications’ is the decreased need for hardware which reduces reliance on IT departments. Most finance ERP, EPM and Analytics applications can now be owned and managed by the business function, which will typically also own and manage new projects. Projects should be more straightforward without the need to change servers, hardware, and infrastructure but will still require expert business process change and project management expertise.
Evolution rather than revolution
According to Gartner, many Cloud ERP projects are doomed to fail by 2018, due largely to the poor integration of an increasingly varied and wide suite of finance applications, some of which are based on premise and some in the Cloud. Integration is not a new issue and was a key challenge to previous, more traditional ERP projects first time around, but Gartner highlights this as a significant issue for the next generation of finance systems projects.
As a result, consulting and professional services companies are telling us of greater demand for upgrade projects into clients existing ERP infrastructure rather than wholesale changes. The pattern seems to be towards bolt-on tools and smaller enhancements and in maximising the current ERP and EPM infrastructure rather than starting again.
Cloud integration is not a breeze
It requires a new way of managing applications, both from a storage and security point of view – where and by who will your critical financial data be hosted and managed? But also, from a level of business ownership – these technology tools are now in the hands of finance executives and business users requiring a new approach to process management and support and administration of the tools.
Contrary to the messages coming out of the sales and marketing machines at the large technology companies, we are not necessarily seeing a revolution in Cloud adoption for finance, more of an evolution.
Concerns remain about security but it seems what is also at stake is the challenge of integrating a wider variety of applications (both on premise and Cloud) within what is often a very mature and bedded in ERP and EPM technology portfolio and the supporting business processes. This is not an easy thing to change and requires experts to advise and implement this change and create a truly efficient finance system.
Techno / Functional experts in the world of back office finance ERP, EPM & Analytics have to shift to keep up. The skills required to survive in this new world of Modern Finance in the Cloud involve business consulting, project management, process improvement along with specific tools knowledge.
You need to expect a shifting of work patterns as well. Shorter more agile projects will become the norm – the so called Gig economy – but projects will often be part of an overall and longer term evolving systems strategy creating repeat assignments if you play your cards right.
James Porter is a Managing Consultant at eu-solutions, a specialist recruitment company in the world of financial ERP, EPM and Analytics
Leadership teams around the world invest heavily in talent acquisition and are constantly challenging their organisations to find the best talent to ensure growth of their business. But are businesses applying the right balance when looking for that talent? Are they too focused on technical skills at the expense of values and personality?
In this modern world businesses still hire predominantly on technical skills and on the depth of a candidates’ CV. If you hire predominantly on skill and closeness between the current role and previous experience are you really placing importance on the right characteristics? Yes, you do get an individual with a level of skill that matches the requirements of the role. But, is that really the most important component? While skills are vital to any role the question you need to ask yourself is this: If skills can be taught (which most of the time they can), shouldn’t you place greater importance on values, character, and synergy between the individual’s personality and that of the business? Those are components that (generally speaking) you either have or you don’t. You can teach someone to think the way your business does. You can’t teach someone to be entrepreneurial, driven, or innovative. But you can teach someone how to perform a set of functions and responsibilities. You can train someone to use a particular platform or teach them a particular method of doings things. If skills can be taught and values cannot (or at least they are far more difficult to teach) why do businesses always place skills as the most important aspect in talent acquisition?
At eu-solutions we are firm believers in hiring for attitude and values first and technical skills second. Instead of focusing too heavily on technical skills rather think about what values you want and need in your business. Are you looking for individuals with commitment, ambition, drive, teamwork, and communication? If you are, then focus your search on candidates with those characteristics first and then look at technical skills second.
We like to advise our clients to push the boundaries of tradition and look at how talent acquisition can be adapted to find the best candidates for your business. This requires looking at Human Resources from a different angle and looking deeper into what matters the most to your business. We find that those businesses who hire for values first and technical skills second tend to have stronger teams, stronger businesses, and longer-term growth.
Innovation has revolutionised so many different parts of our lives and continues to be one of the most important factors for the CFO today. With leaderships teams responsible for driving culture in their organisations, a good place to start is Human Resources and how the process can be adapted to find what really matters to the business. Will your business thrive based on hiring candidates on skills first and potentially compromising values? Or are values the most important component to your business and its culture? If so, we recommend hiring for values first and technical skills second.
For the last 10 years eu-solutions has delivered finance systems talent to organisations around Europe. Demand for these skills has remained high as the office of the CFO has continued to embark on projects to change, improve and transform finance operations. Yet the pipeline of available candidates with the right skills to deliver on these projects has been in short supply – making it increasingly difficult for finance executives to fill vital positions and deliver on vital deadlines.
This skills shortage will not improve quickly and could also worsen following the UK’s decision to leave the EU as the finance systems community and the wider STEM sector in general, has relied heavily on bringing talent from overseas and in particular from EU Countries.
Whilst the UK’s position in the EU and the impact this will have on hiring overseas talent remains uncertain, I believe we will certainly see a short term effect on skills supply. We have first-hand experience already, of a reluctance from EU candidate’s to now come to the UK to work – firstly due to worries about their long term stability here in the UK and secondly, and perhaps more importantly, as they now perceive the UK as unwelcoming. There is a danger that the UK economy will operate in a vacuum for a significant period while the political, economic and social negotiations and debate rages on.
So, the finance systems market, and in particular niche areas of EPM, Analytics and many parts of the ERP eco system, has experienced a significant skills shortage and we expect this to continue and potentially worsen. What can businesses do to address the issue?
One challenge we face as recruitment experts in the finance systems market is client expectation towards technical skilling. We are often asked to source candidates with all the necessary functional and finance partnering skills, but ALSO lengthy experience with a particular finance tool, believing such a candidate can hit the ground running from day 1. The problem with that strategy is companies are fishing from a small pool and when competition for the talent is high, positions remain unfilled for a long period of time creating delays to projects and extending deadlines.
And is there a guarantee that these types of candidates will be the best qualified for the role anyway?
There are a number of alternative options that clients can turn to. You can buy in resources from a consulting partner or interim contractors from the independent market to bridge the gap. An additional route to consider is an academy model, or what we call ‘step-up candidates’. We have an excellent background in sourcing step-up candidates – which are essentially finance professionals with strong functional skills, finance partnering, analysis and so on with an appreciation of technology and crucially the right personal attitude, which is something that can never be taught. Where they lack experience of a specific finance systems application you can bridge the gap with boot camp training. In other words, hire for attitude, train for skills.
Some of the benefits of this route are:
Greater staff retention
Candidates are more likely to stay with you if there is an upward curve of development and training
Better chance of developing a star
Will established professionals bring baggage with them from previous clients or challenges? With a step-up candidate you have the raw materials to build and develop the professional from the bottom up into a top performer.
Talent comes in all shapes and sizes
One size does not fit all and so looking at your hiring process in a new and creative way and towards a step-up candidate will open up the opportunity to hire new and dynamic profiles that could change your business.
We are not recommending a lowering of standards but instead encourage hiring managers to take a fresh and creative look at finance systems talent. Businesses must not compromise on standards and must hire to the highest level they can.
We strongly believe that step-up candidates offer a more efficient and ultimately more successful route to bringing finance systems talent into your organisation. As one client that specialises in providing EPM services said to us recently, “I have hired 15 professionals that initially required a step-up in technology skills but had the right attitude and soft skills. We have developed them in certain EPM technologies and consulting competencies and I have not lost one of them since. Many experienced candidates that I interview could not hold a candle to that team”
A strong endorsement for step-up candidates and the notion of hiring for attitude, training for skills.
In the current workforce millennials represent a significant portion and their size and impact on the workforce is only going to grow. Therefore it’s important for businesses to understand what attracts millennials to a company, what drives them to stay in a job, and what motivates them. While the millennial generation do in fact want a lot of the same things from a job as previous generations, there are a few key differences such as the need for greater flexibility in a role, more innovation, and even the desire to climb the ladder at a quicker pace.
If employers don’t grasp what it is that attracts and motivates millennials then they will suffer not only now but into the future as well. Strategic plans need to be developed in order to align the corporate culture with both the existing workforce as well as the growing millennial base. Failure to do so will result in the best talent moving elsewhere to other businesses who have taken steps to give millennials what they are looking for in a job.
Here are 4 tips to help create a culture fit for millennials:
1) Open communication
Breaking down the barriers of communication is a huge priority for millennials. 9 out of 10 millennial employees are more motivated when they know where their work is going.They want to feel engaged with their company, their fellow employees, and their business leaders. Millennials want to feel like their voices and ideas are heard and can have a potential impact on the success of the business. Creating an environment where open communication is central to the corporate culture is a great place to start in the evolution of a culture fit for millennials.
2) Remove hierarchy
The traditional hierarchical model in the workplace isn’t supported by millennials. Millennials prefer a work environment where there is less vertical authority and more individuals at the same level in terms of treatment and interactions. Millennials are looking for their boss or superior for mentorship rather than authority. In fact 79% of millennial employees would like their boss to behave as a mentor to them.
The more rigid and traditional the corporate culture the less likely millennials are to want to be a part of that culture. The attitude of millennials is one of “work to live” rather than “live to work”. Work-life balance is absolutely paramount to millennials. Millennials want to enjoy a successful and fulfilling career but want to have a life where work is not the most important thing in their lives. Flexible working hours or remote working is a huge plus for millennials. Where traditional culture requires a 9 to 5 office based work environment, millennials are searching for a culture where they have the flexibility to work either remotely or to work when work is needed. They question whether it’s necessary to sit in an office all day even during those times when things are slow. In fact, 89% of millennials would prefer to choose when and where they work as opposed to a 9 to 5 office based job and 77% say flexible work hours would make them more productive. If there is one area of the corporate culture where businesses can adapt to suit the next generation of millennials it is this area of flexibility.
4) Encourage friendships at work
Millennials are looking for a community and friendly environment at work. In fact 90% of millennials want a workplace to be sociable and fun. Millennials are looking to meet new people and make new friends at work. Businesses can encourage this kind of culture by holding social events such as drinks after work, work parties, team bonding activities, etc. Creating this kind of culture will help break down barriers between employees allowing them to get to know each other on a more personal level which will in the long run help to build a stronger team.
It’s important to remember that for a business with an eye on the future and on securing future millennial talent, the culture of a business is becoming more important than ever before. In a world where the top talent have a number of options available to them, businesses need to do more to bring that talent in. Creating a culture that fits perfectly with the needs and wants of the millennial generation is the perfect place to start.