LOS ANGELES – Sept. 19, 2016 – While accountants play a much larger role toward achieving business success than previously believed, accounting departments overall are undervalued in their role to the business, according to research results released today by BlackLine, a leading provider of financial controls and automation software that enables Continuous Accounting.
More than half (52%) of the survey respondents agreed their Finance teams can be entrepreneurial in the way they help the business grow, yet nearly one-third (31%) said improvements in financial management efficiency are vastly underrated in their organizations, according to the survey of 355 business decision-makers at U.S. companies with more than $250 million in annual revenues.
The survey further indicated that 25 percent of the respondents considered their CFO to be the most trusted job role in relation to future business growth, and nearly half (45%) said a strong understanding of future finance needs is the most important skill required to develop the business. Three in five business decision-makers cited “sound financial practices systems” as most important to their companies’ well-managed growth.
Interpreting the findings, BlackLine CEO Therese Tucker commented: “The survey underscores that Finance and Accounting teams are crucial to future business growth, but many mid-sized and large company decision-makers are not fully leveraging this talent.”
BlackLine conducted mirror surveys of business decision-makers in France, Australia and the United Kingdom (UK). The findings in many regions were strikingly similar.
In the UK, for instance, nearly one-third (30%) of respondents extolled their Finance and Accounting teams for contributing to the growth of the business beyond their financial management role, yet half felt the teams typically endured an overly taxing volume of work. In France, 66 percent of the respondents cited sound financial practices as a top business priority, followed by efficient internal processes (52%). The same ranking order occurred among respondents in Australia. And more than half of all the respondents in the four regions agreed their finance teams can be entrepreneurial in growing the business.
Yet, business decision-makers in all four regions admired the Chief Information Officer/IT Director most over other job titles, a possible indication of their shared belief in the importance of automation through cloud technology.
Tucker commented: “There appears to be widespread agreement that Finance and Accounting have the skillsets needed to drive business strategy, but are underutilized. To unlock this value, companies need to automate the tedious manual accounting work that consumes so much of accountants’ time and effort. By employing Continuous Accounting practices, everyday accountants can become `Exceptional Accountants,’ providing highly valued services in areas like fraud detection, compliance, data analytics, technology strategy and line-of-business advice.”
With Continuous Accounting, Exceptional Accountants can continually capture, validate and produce financial data throughout the month, undertaking this work in ‘real-time’ instead of in peaks-and-troughs. Implementing a continuous close function also enables a more accurate measurement of business progress, allowing underperformance to be quickly identified and corrected. This reduces ‘time to insight’ and accelerates ‘time to decision’, empowering Exceptional Accountants to gain more time to add strategic value to the business.
Exceptional Accountants are a company’s experts on its business, Tucker said. “Freed from rote, repetitive numbers crunching, they are able to hold others accountable for the backup data behind the numbers,” she explained. “Their knowledge and expertise have given them the instincts to quickly discern mistakes and evidence of fraud. And as they embrace automation, they develop the technology skills needed to implement cloud solutions supporting the organization’s long-term business strategy.”
She added, “Today’s accountants thus are better equipped to become tomorrow’s CEOs.”
Accounting is the most common career background of FTSE 100 CEOs according to the latest Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker, with almost one in four company bosses holding a chartered accounting qualification and 55 percent of chief executives coming from a finance background.
Notes to Editor
This survey was conducted online by Censuswide in April 2016 on behalf of BlackLine.