Leadership EY

Elevating Finance: Redefining the Role Of Finance In The Modern Business Environment

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Access to real time analytics and new talent priorities are moving the finance function into a modern consultant business partner. Take a closer look at what that transformation really takes.

The vision of a modern finance function is an equal partner in strategic business development and forecasting – and leveraging technology at scale is going to be a critical piece of this transformation. 

At least, that’s according to Americas CFO of Microsoft, Jack Ryder. 

As a financial leader for the US, Canada, and Latin America, Ryder is responsible for turning the wealth of available analytical data into strategic insights that can provide valuable context and drive business initiatives. In the latest episode of the Better Finance Podcast, we dive into just how Microsoft and Ryder are driving forward this transformation.  

“The old days of finance or accounting folks wearing their green eyeshade, hanging out in the cube doing close is long gone,” asserts Ryder. “That distinction between finance and the business is hopefully disappearing, if not gone now.”

Within his function, Ryder has anchored this transition around the four pillars of people, prioritization, partnership, and protection, working to ensure that each works in alignment with the others. 

The balance between human talent and automation is especially important given the sheer volume of data that modern technology provides. 

“The amount of data that’s hitting our analysts every day is just massive and much more than it was even two or four years ago,” explains Ryder. 

Scaling insights is only feasible through the effective and efficient leveraging of technology, and doing so allows for integrated change that parallels the adaptation of systems like machine learning alongside recruitment of the right skillsets for interpretation.

One such area where this kind of insight has proven valuable is in the revenue planning and forecasting divisions within Microsoft. Technology like machine learning has enabled the centralization of field organizations. When technology ensures uniform, compliant practices, international divisions are able to stay in-sync, improving the overall output quality and focus on adding a value to the business. 

Alongside the access to data comes the changing nature of human talent. As automation removes the bulk of technical work that used to occupy human time, the outputs expected from finance are strategic, cohesive business insights. 

“The finance function is no longer a back office function,” describes Ryder. “It’s not really a support function.  Really it’s kind of arm and arm with the business.” Therefore, he explains, it’s important for modern finance leaders to recruit a more integrated skillset. 

However, Ryder is also careful to caution against thinking that generating insight is the end of the road.

“[Great analysis is] interesting, but it’s not really relevant,” asserts Ryder. “The thing that’s relevant is getting from data to insight and then taking those insights…and then driving action. And I think the new finance function is one that can go from data to insight, insight to action as a full participant with your business partner as you drive the business.”

Understanding the importance of adding relevant, valuable insights to finance’s business outputs is critical in shaping the modern function. 

For more information on elevating the role of finance, listen to our conversation with Jack Ryder at iTunesGoogle Play and Stitcher or visit ey.com/betterfinance.