2019 is the year of the rebrand with Forrester predicting that more businesses will start to focus on emotionally resonant and useful customer experiences. The finance department at Microsoft is no exception to this trend. What we hope to do as a team this year and beyond is to change the perception of what finance can do while being ambassadors of the brand, stewards of business outcomes, and motivational leaders across the organization.
In my last blog, I discussed a few pillars that anchor a modern finance team, and now I want to dive deeper into how these teams can work on their brand — starting with their people. In this new era, there are three non-traditional traits every finance person must develop: empathy to best support our team members across the organization, storytelling to promote clearer communication, and a disruptive mindset to build new and better processes.
Instead of thinking of ourselves as wearing many hats, members of our finance department are now thinking of ourselves as shapeshifters. Like the creatures of myth who can transform to look like anyone, finance team members are changing our mindsets to think holistically about the people we work with. We’re thinking about serving the whole person before we go meet with them about their specific problem—walking a mile as that person, not just in their shoes. For example, working with a team member from engineering is going to be different than working with someone from sales. Moving either of their businesses forward will take understanding the unique environment this person is in and fully empathizing with their needs.
Most people don’t think of finance team members as great storytellers. Microsoft, like many companies, however, is a data-driven storytelling enterprise. By diving into this core company value, we know that we need to be asking data-driven questions and seeking out data-driven answers that are understandable to our audience. What are the 2-3 most important things needed to tell this story? How can we share those points with clarity in order to receive clarity? If finance team members are the stewards of the brand, it’s important to share the story of their plan for business development with excitement and vision when they’re engaging with others. Finance team members should be able to shed light on the full potential of business outcomes and how everyone plays a role in realizing company goals.
Across all industries, it’s important for finance teams to find ways to be a disrupter. We need people who are flexible, who aren’t afraid to address new opportunities, and who find new ways to be effective and think outside the norm. Finance team members should always be on the move to the next customer and the next innovation. Finding people with a mentality to disrupt old processes and old paradigms is definitely not how we approached building finance teams in the past, but securing team members with this mindset is critical to success in the future.
I want finance team members to be the CFOs of the business processes that they support. I want them to get out of the supporting, back-of-the-house roles and focus more on how they impact the brand as a whole. Seeing my team get in front of other divisions and partners to help tell the Microsoft story and help grow the business makes me confident we are all working on the same goal. Developing the skills to be more engaged and effective is a critical step toward being a successful member of any finance team moving toward a faster paced, constantly innovating future.