The future of the federal financial management workforce depends on the current generation of government financial management executives shaping the next, just as it always has. However, the emergence of today’s digital culture might raise an unprecedented hurdle.
Younger generations have grown up in today’s digital culture. As they move upward into management and executive roles, they will bring their comfort with technology and their awareness of its power to bear. I expect them to make dramatic changes to technology adoption and the strategies behind it.
A different path to leadership
Traditionally, financial management executives held accounting or budget analysis roles before promotion into leadership. Leaders needed to understand and interpret the impacts of financial decisions without the benefits of sophisticated enterprise resource planning (ERP) tools, advanced analytics, and intelligent automation capabilities.
Today, many financial management professionals are also rising through their careers as technologists, with expertise in particular tools or solutions. Embracing and applying new technologies is second nature to them.
Digital transformation is inevitable
With the younger generation embracing and leveraging technology as a way to increase efficiency, leaders are becoming more proactive about changes to organizational norms.
For example, COVID-19 has significantly affected work structure, efficiency and productivity, but teams that are already familiar with virtual collaboration are seeing much less impact on productivity. The younger generation has largely led the way in demonstrating the ability to remain efficient and to produce quality work, regardless of location.
Financial management leadership must devote resources and time towards preparing for digital transformation. This does not have to mean making big changes quickly; establishing an innovation team or digital transformation strategy allows an organization to make gradual changes over time. This lessens the risk of being unprepared for the oncoming technological wave without having to make sweeping organizational adjustments.
[Related blog: Four keys to success in federal transformation projects]
Data fuels process change
As technology usage has expanded, much more data has become available. With new data coming in daily or even in real time, financial management leaders have the information they need to react quickly to the impact of decisions. This increased business agility leads to early detection and correction of mistakes, allowing organizations to lessen the number of controls in place.
The organizations that will most successfully adapt to changing technology are the ones that treat data as their most valuable resource and use it to fuel their strategies and actions. Organizations that fail to do so will muddle through without ever taking full advantage of the powerful technology at their disposal. They also risk being caught unprepared as regulations change, such as the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) DATA Act reporting requirements that will change from quarterly to monthly beginning in FY22. Agencies must be ready to accommodate this shift and others.
[Related blog: 4 pillars for treating data as an asset]
In addition to the timeliness at which an organization analyzes its data the quality and comprehensiveness of data is also important. ERP tools have expanded and improved with time to provide a full picture of how an organization allocates its resources. This added context has increased the ability to use data as a resource in decision-making.
A wise government manager recently told me that organization leaders “never want less data. Once you provide one data set, they always want more.” The requirement to tie more mission and programmatic data to your core financial data will continue to expand over time, and those agencies that place a high premium on aligning this data in an accurate, timely and controlled fashion to their ERP will reap substantial benefits as new requirements present themselves.
Tomorrow’s financial management leaders
My generation, and the baby boomers before us, became knowledgeable and impactful in an organization over years of work, building relationships and producing results as we gained responsibilities and progressed in our careers. Today, that path includes becoming experts in the data and technology on which the organization relies. The generation working its way into management and leadership is well equipped to meet that challenge.
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