The view from the President: Business partnering in a digital age

CIMA President Amal Ratnayake, FCMA, CGMA

'The finance function is positioned to look across the organisation objectively, and by analysing a wide range of data, we offer powerful information to the teams we support.'

Organisations face unprecedented disruption. As the pace of change accelerates and organisations rush to meet evolving consumer demands, they are transforming the way they do business. They are reimagining their role in the market and adapting their business models to cope with the turbulence.

As the organisations we serve rise to these new demands, so too should we. As technological advances become more mainstream, we must reimagine the role of finance at its most fundamental level. The finance function needs to be resourceful, adaptable, and constantly alert to remain relevant in its position.

Traditional finance jobs are leaving the finance function as tech advances such as artificial intelligence and robotics take over basic accounting, bookkeeping, and compliance tasks. Although this change may feel uncomfortable, removing these tasks shifts our focus and frees us up to add value in a new way. Where we used to compile historical business performance data to provide insights, we are now spending more time using technology and our technical skills to predict future outcomes that influence decisions.

We can seize this opportunity to redefine the finance function's role in our organisations. But we can't do it alone.

Through effective partnering with teams across the organisation, the finance function can use its insights and knowledge to inform decisions, improve performance, and help develop successful business models.

To be effective business partners, we must be proactive and inclusive, working closely with other areas of the business. The finance function is positioned to look across the organisation objectively, and by analysing a wide range of data, we offer powerful information to the teams we support. This cross-functional partnership extends the reach of the finance function, helping us lead our organisations to sustainable success at every level.

Our technical competence is not enough to create this new path for us. We have to develop skills that complement our core technical understanding. They include soft skills like leadership, social influence, and creativity.

Technological innovations will never fully take over the role of finance, because at its heart, the finance function is made up of people. When used well, technology augments our capabilities. Organisations rely on management accountants for their technical expertise and ability to apply it to business. However, it's our people skills that allow us to be partners. Just as we hone our technical skills, we must also sharpen our human intelligence. Because, after all, that's what makes us so special.

To be successful business partners now and in the future, we must embrace the changes happening all around us and commit ourselves to lifelong learning and upskilling. While we reimagine our roles and build up our technical and soft skills, we must also strengthen our foundation of ethics, integrity, and professionalism to ensure we remain trusted partners in business.

At CIMA, we remain focused on helping students and members thrive amid disruption. We provide resources and learning opportunities that equip students and members with the skills they need to succeed. CIMA may have come to the end of its centenary year, but we continue to propel the role of finance forward. Now with our global reach through the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, we are better prepared than ever to support the needs of our dynamic accounting profession.

I am thankful to be leading in such a dynamic time.

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