Voices from Accenture Public Service

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Accenture recently conducted research into how the digital world is redefining public sector finance, and we found that developing new finance talent is high on the agenda for many leaders. At the same time, they are interested in creating an environment that empowers employees inside finance and across the broader organization to be more productive, do more engaging work and create greater value. These goals are imperative to thrive in today’s digital environment, but how do we go about shaping that team and establishing that environment?

Identifying the necessary skills

Soon, if not already, automation and artificial intelligence will take care of a healthy portion of the traditional “comptroller-type” work. In fact, the public sector finance leaders we surveyed say they are aiming for an average of 41% of finance tasks to be carried out by technology within three years.[1] When technology takes on transactional work, it makes room for people to focus their energy on more value-added activities. In this environment, many of the current skills in today’s finance workforce are outdated.

In addition, finance work has long been about looking back rather than looking forward. But today we are more interested in a predictive approach to finance. It has become critical to understand how to gather insights from data, build an investment case and make decisions that will create value for the organization. These tasks require a different set of skills. For instance, digital is driving the need for data science, analytical, agile, innovation and value-driven skills – see Figure 1.

Finance leaders need to know what skills their workforce is missing before they can fill the gaps. To do so, they can profile existing teams to see what skills they have and what skills they need to match supply and demand in the finance department.

Extending the in-house talent base

Public service agencies have immense potential to build on the talent base they currently have. When asked, “how will new and essential capabilities be secured,” 70% of public sector finance leaders said “empowering/enabling the existing workforce to develop new skills,” far surpassing the 45% of those in the private sector. When automation lessens the load on workers and opens up capacity, it provides an opportunity to reskill employees, and as there is turnover, recruit new skills to improve the finance capability. Recruitment is a struggle for many. State chief administrators surveyed (42%) cited difficulty attracting new employees to work for the organization as a top 3 challenge.

Leaders (62%) also see potential in removing traditional finance silos and pooling resources across departments. They believe it will be important to engage with the tech ecosystem to enhance their capabilities.[2]

Reskilling and upskilling current workers may increase retention of forward thinkers as employees are seeking to innovate and be challenged in their daily work. Finance talent can cross-train with technology teams to learn new skills regarding data and analytics tools. There are new, innovative ways to upskill and train employees, such as virtual reality and scenario-based training.

These approaches are already being used for some core activities in the public and private sectors, so why can’t they be used for finance? For instance, virtual reality solution AVEnueS uses immersive storytelling and interactive voice-based scenarios to transform how child welfare caseworkers practice and hone data-gathering and decision-making skills.

Figure 1. What skills will be most crucial when recruiting graduates/juniors over the next three years?

 

Creating opportunities for workforce growth

Today’s public sector CFO is part of a new dynamic workforce that is adding value to the organization. CFOs are using tools such as predictive analytics to be more strategic and forward-facing, which means they can help lead the agency into the future. For example, 73% of public sector finance leaders we interviewed say finance is best-placed to help the organization understand the economic model underpinning new technology investments. And seven in 10 (71%) think the function’s leader is the right person to use digital to improve organization-wide performance. Industry knowledge will be more important than ever as workers must understand how to enable the entire organization—not just finance.

Finance leaders will be energized by their new strategic seat at the table. By understanding that they now serve a larger “purpose” within the organization—making decisions that have impact on outcomes for citizens—they will be fulfilled and rewarded in new ways.

The role, the work, the responsibilities and opportunities for today’s public sector CFO are fast evolving. Get creative, use new approaches—it may ultimately pay off in value for your organization.

Let’s continue the conversation. Connect with me on Twitter and LinkedIn and stay tuned for upcoming blogs. When the world moves, move ahead.

 

 

[1] “Redefining public sector finance in the digital world;” Accenture; November 19, 2018; https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/public-service/redefining-public-sector-finance

[2] “Redefining public sector finance in the digital world;” Accenture; November 19, 2018; https://www.accenture.com/gb-en/insights/public-service/redefining-public-sector-finance

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