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With a new, hybrid workforce, technology and the tech skills needed to use it have become more critical than ever in maintaining operations and bolstering cash flow in finance.
So, it’s no surprise, that accelerating digital skills is a priority for 82 percent of CFOs in 2021.
What does this mean for you, as a finance professional? Increasing your finance tech skills is vital for accelerating your career and adding value to your team.
We’re here to help with insight on five skills you can start honing today:
1. Sharpen your SQL skills
As finance professional, being able to analyze data, develop insights and make well-informed recommendations is critical. That’s where structured query language (SQL) can help.
Structured query language (SQL) is a standard and widely used programming language that communicates with databases to pull specific information.
It’s so beneficial that Udemy’s Workplace Learning Trends Report ranked this programming language as a top tech skill for finance pros to master.
“Knowing how SQL scans and groups the data as it processes my questions has helped me think of better questions, which in turn revealed some very interesting trends,” wrote Ezgi Bereketli, a member of the Forbes Technology Council. “Scanning the data constantly with SQL and easily defining my criteria for an inflection, I can be a step ahead of a changing competitive environment instead of shifting my focus to it after the story is already discovered generally.”
If you want to learn more about SQLs, LinkedIn Learning offers valuable resources.
2. Learn and leverage advanced Excel skills
Becoming a more familiar with formulas and shortcuts in Excel can help you provide insights into cost analysis more easily. This may seem strange in a blog about cutting edge tech skills, but spreadsheets are a staple of finance.
Finance Train pinpointed the following 13 Excel skills as the “most important” for finance:
- INDEX and MATCH
- Conditional logic
- Finance function
- Array formulas
- Data formatting
- Keyboard shortcuts
- Building financial models
- Solver and goal seek
- Pivot table
- VBA and Macros
- Importing data.
Again, LinkedIn Learning has a wealth of courses that can help you master arguably most iconic software in finance
3. Understand artificial intelligence (AI) and what it can do for your company
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning are becoming widely used in finance professions. Understanding how to use them to your benefit can be a game-changer.
In a recent AvidXchange survey, 83 percent of finance professionals said AI was a top strategic priority in the coming years. Meanwhile, Accenture says “84 percent of C-suite executives believe they must leverage AI to achieve their growth objectives.”
The benefits go far beyond just increased efficiency. AI and machine learning can help identify risk indicators, uncover unusual patterns, reduce fraud and identify future growth opportunities.
4. Leverage financial modeling software
While Excel can help create financial models, you can also leverage financial modeling software. This software allows you to build models in a more scalable, efficient and flexible way.
Financial modeling software considers historical performance, current finances and assumptions about the future to help companies budget, forecast, raise capital, manage accounts, etc.
To put it plainly, it turns raw data into a story a business can use to get ahead of trends and potential market shifts.
Read more: 10 Financial Forecasting Mistakes to Avoid
Data literacy is becoming increasingly important and valued. According to Accenture’s CFO Reimagined report, 81 percent of CFOs said data storytelling is an essential tech skill for today’s finance professionals.
“[CFOs] are increasing their focus on value creation as digital technology empowers them to shape strategy,” Accenture said. “They are also looking well beyond the borders of the finance function, proposing and shaping business models across the enterprise, and, ideally, leading the charge in mapping out the investments required to embrace digital and guide their organization into the next evolution.”
5. Utilize data visualization and communication tools
Speaking of data storytelling, few things are more daunting than a spreadsheet packed with numbers, numbers and more numbers. To better convey the story within data, use engaging visuals that make it easy for anyone in your organization to understand what you see.
“Providing decision makers with visual illustrations of data increases understanding and can ultimately lead to better decisions.”Oracle: “How Data Visualization Helps Finance Tell Better Stories”
Since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, data visualization has been popularized as government and health organizations build charts and heat maps to track the virus.
Tools like Tableau take data and create engaging, modern presentations and graphics that blow your everyday Excel charts out of the water. Understanding when and how to leverage these tools help you tailor your message for stakeholders and business leaders.
“Data visualization helps finance communicate these analytic insights to the broader organization,” Oracle suggests. “Consider that 65 percent of people are visual learners, according to several studies; providing decision makers with visual illustrations of data increases understanding and can ultimately lead to better decisions.”
Deloitte’s CFO Insights covered the power of engaging graphics in a piece titled “Data visualization: Why a picture can be worth a thousand clicks.”
“Data visualization can greatly improve finance’s ability to tell stories,” the report said. “And as senior finance leaders strive to do more with their data, tapping the power of data visualization may also allow the rest of the organization to better understand the power of finance.”
Tech is becoming a bigger factor in finance each year and understanding the power of different tools can be a true differentiator for finance pros (from entry-level accountants to CFOs).
Accenture said “CFOs are advancing the enterprise-wide digital agenda, with 77 percent heading up efforts to improve efficiency through adoption of digital technology, and 77 percent also exploring how disruptive new technologies could benefit the organization and the business ecosystem.”
In the report’s conclusion, Accenture listed the priorities of CFOs at high-performing digital businesses. Here are three of them:
- Embracing new technologies and evaluating enterprise-wide investment to support the velocity required for tomorrow’s business.
- Owning the data agenda and wielding the power of data, not least by controlling the one version of the truth.
- Building new talent with the agility, skills and experience needed to deliver in the New.
That’s stark evidence of the importance of tech in the finance profession today and tomorrow. Make it a point to stay ahead of the curve and become a digital difference maker.