The business world as we know it has seen unprecedented change during 2020, with businesses of all sizes across all sectors unexpectedly forced into change just to survive. It remains unclear how long the disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic will last but it will pass in time. The challenge will be adapting to new ways of operating, with accountants and finance professionals playing a key role in driving change.
The information to which finance functions have access can, and should, be used to create insight which can then be used to inform the strategic direction of the business. Accountants are, by nature, problem solvers, making sense of this insight to steer the business through a time of risk and uncertainty. As the Covid-19 crisis hit, accountants were at the forefront of ensuring that businesses and the wider economy kept going, making sure that cash continued to flow over the short and medium term. As we begin to rebuild and work towards recovery, accountants will continue to play a vital role in making sure that businesses can evolve in the “new normal”.
Many businesses may have had good strategic objectives in place before the crisis – many may be hoping that things get back to normal with little change. However, that seems unlikely to be the case. All organisations need to revisit their strategic objectives and challenge whether or not the current strategy remains relevant.
Consider, for example, the retail sector, with its dependency on Chinese manufacturing, complex global supply chains and high street stores - all of which have been impacted by the Covid-19 crisis - or restaurants, forced to close their doors overnight. These are just two examples of sectors where a rethink has been required, with the most nimble and adaptable businesses finding new ways to operate in order to develop in a new direction.
Across all sectors, working from home has become a new normal and here, there is an opportunity to reassess what is best for the business and its employees. Such a level of disruption may not have been on the radar of many businesses, but those businesses that embrace the opportunity to challenge the status quo and are flexible enough to adapt are likely to show greater resilience going forward.
So what role can accountants play in this change? The traditional mindset might suggest cutting costs and identifying savings and efficiencies. However, the accountant who sees the bigger picture and focuses on financial planning, cash flows and risks is likely to play a bigger role in getting businesses back on track.