BlackLine Blog

November 07, 2018

The Future of Finance: Business Partnering

Modern Accounting
4 Minute Read

Olivia Marcey

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Part 4 in the Future of Finance blog series. You can view the full series here.

Business partnering is now a key function of Finance and Accounting.

With the rise of technology and intelligent data analysis, the finance function is in a unique position to deliver valuable insights for the future of the businesses they serve.

BeyondTheBlack invites accounting and finance experts to explore the future of their professions, to share knowledge and experiences, and to immerse themselves in a culture of innovation and change.

Last year, BlackLine CFO Mark Partin hosted a panel on the Future of Finance, featuring: Molly Boyle, Director of Solutions Marketing at BlackLine; Manny Korakis, Global Corporate Controller at American Express Global Business Travel; and Kirsty Godfrey-Billy, Chief Accounting Officer at Xero.

In part three, we learned how financial data is evolving, and how to leverage it for strategic decision making.

For the final blog in this series, our panel will connect the dots and provide insight into business partnering as the solution to preparing for the future of Finance.

Mark Partin: How do we become strategic contributors to the business and have a direct impact when we have all of these other things to do?

Molly Boyle: One of the most important things is to be creative and to think outside the box because the only constant is change.

If we’re not prepared to think about what's next or how we can do our jobs better on a daily basis, we may get passed by—by our teams, by the business, or by technology.

The key is to be forward thinking, to talk to other people, to come to conferences like BeyondTheBlack, to develop a mindset of continuous learning and improvement, and then take that back to our organizations and apply it.

Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: My team at Xero is in an incredibly lucky position because we're the finance and accounting team for an accounting software company.

It’s an expectation for anybody who's on the management accounting team to go and sit with different areas of the business throughout the month to build business relationships, ensure that we're in-tune internally, and become advocates for the finance and accounting department.

From a product perspective, if there's ever a question about taxes in a different region, payroll, or reporting, we're seen as the experts that product can come to.

So, it’s exciting and can feel as if we can shape the strategy of the business.

Manny Korakis: You must know the business to analyze information appropriately. You can do some high-level analysis if you don't understand the guts of the business, but the more you understand the business, the better insight you have into what you're doing.

Mark Partin: In your opinion, what role is going to evolve more over the next ten years, CFO or controller? And why?

Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: I wouldn't want to say which one is going to change more. I think it's a given that both are going to change substantially.

A lot of the process is going to be automated, so it will be about adding value on top of that. From a controller's perspective, it's about ensuring that we’re becoming the key relationship management part of the business.

We're going to need people who can already analyze contracts and revenue recognition and talk to the business about shaping contracts at a more senior level. Relationship building is something that a computer can't necessarily do.

It's about talking strategically about where the business is going and driving performance.

Molly Boyle: I agree—both will change and continue to evolve.

From the controllership seat, it goes back to getting business partners to think about compliance as something that's important to them, rather than something that's going to create a bunch of documentation and paperwork.

Manny Korakis: We spoke earlier about the spectrum from core accounting all the way to the CFO function.

We all see the trend that finance professionals are moving more and more toward operations, and that trickles down through the organization.

I think that in the future, there will be a professional in charge of the traditional finance organization who will also have some significant operations responsibility. Whether it will be the chief accounting officer or controller that will take on more of the work, it will be more than they've ever done in the past.

Also, we'll be doing it differently because of technological changes. I don’t think I would even stop at the controller and CFO. I think every role in Finance and Accounting will look very different in the future.

Mark Partin: One last question. Put yourself in the audience’s shoes: what would you like to share with them based on your experiences and backgrounds?

Manny Korakis: Be open to as many new experiences as possible. I don't mean that in the sense of the business world, but in anything you do.

Travel around, learn about different cultures, get to know different business dynamics, talk to the people sitting in the row next to you, talk to competitors, talk to industry leaders, and gather as much information as you possibly can to make a well-informed decision about how you want to navigate your career.

Molly Boyle: I would say be well-rounded. Focus on doing a mix of things.

Spend time—whether it be at conferences or in meetings—learning something new or gathering a different perspective. Read and talk to people. I think it's a combination of factors that help you round out your skill set.

Kirsty Godfrey-Billy: I've taken every opportunity presented to me, even if it's scary—like this. I'll just say yes and do it.

Take some risks, because with risk comes reward. Always be open to learning. Absorb as much as you can. Be a real sponge.

Key Takeaways

Accounting and Finance are changing, from the ways that talent is recruited, trained, and retained, to the ways new technologies are being employed for data manipulation and analysis.

These changes require professionals in the space to adapt.

Through business partnering, Finance and Accounting will deliver increased value and realize newfound influence over the strategic business decisions of our organizations.

It's time to register for BeyondTheBlack 2023! Join a global community of over 1,500 CFOs, CAOs, controllers, and accountants from September 11-13 in San Diego, CA to explore the innovative tools you need to thrive in the future of Finance.

About the Author


Olivia Marcey