The days of finance being mainly about reporting figures are ancient history. Today, the focus is equally on delivering data-driven analytics and insights. Given that young finance professionals are very familiar with this new normal, we asked Jop Van Son and Erwin Muyshondt how they use digital skills in their projects today, along with which skills can and do make the difference in 2023.
Jop Van Son joined TriFinance in the fall of 2020. He is currently deployed as a project manager and Power BI analyst at Scania, where he develops new sales tools and helps design reporting processes for the Premium Services department. “Excel and Power BI are both crucial working tools that enable me to do my job well,” he says.
His coworker, Erwin Muyshondt, has already racked up many years of experience working at TriFinance. “I started in 2013 as a project consultant. Since then, I have built up considerable experience in using Excel, Power BI, and specific programming software, such as SQL,” Erwin recalls. “I am currently using my digital skills in the field of data analysis at international food company Mondelez.”
What do you think is essential in the development of digital skills?
As Jop sees it, diversification is key when it comes to the digital skills of finance professionals. “By diversification, I mean that the range of tasks within finance has drastically changed and expanded. Some subfields, such as treasury management and auditing, have also become a lot more complex. As a result, companies are looking for finance people and other employees with a wide range of digital skills. I mainly see the need to get familiarized quickly with digitized business environments, including intuitive handling of new technologies. For example, how easily can someone find their way around a search engine or digitized business processes?”
Erwin adds: “Digital skills are about ongoing development and lifelong learning, as the digital world around us is evolving at breakneck speed. From robotic process automation to artificial intelligence, augmented reality, blockchain, and so on: those who manage to keep their finger on the pulse of important digital trends will have the expertise they need to convert these trends into benefits for both internal and external stakeholders.”
What do you think are today’s important digital skills?
“I think having a healthy mix of technological knowledge and personal skills is really important,” confirms Jop. “If someone can combine good digital literacy – including a focus on computational thinking and knowledge of social media – with good digital communication skills, I think that person has an edge with their coworkers and clients. By digital communication, I mean the ability to use digital technologies and media to collaborate with others.”
“As I see it, having the right digital mindset is a crucial element,” adds Erwin. “Anyone who embraces new digital technologies with an open mind and has the initiative – and courage – to use them actively is all set to take their professional future to a higher level. Take the rapid breakthrough of new digital communication tools during the pandemic, for example. Because we were all forced to jump on the digital bandwagon, we had the courage to learn how to use these new applications. Today, we’d be lost without tools like Teams or Zoom.”
As finance consultants, how do you see companies tackling digital skills?
“Given that some employees did not grow up with digital technologies, it can sometimes take a while for them to master certain skills,” Jop explains. “In many companies, management is making all the necessary efforts to make employees feel enthusiastic about digital change. A good guarantee of expertise and knowledge is essential. Because a lot of knowledge can be lost whenever a digital expert decides to go elsewhere.”
“Within finance, one of the stumbling blocks can be that management has to make decisions very quickly in changing markets, all with ever more complex sets of data,” Erwin points out. “Smaller companies in particular still lack the reflex of replacing the use of traditional executive summaries with smarter digital reporting tools. In the heat of the moment, people all too often return towards gut feeling and intuition instead of analysis and consultancy.”
“A good guarantee of digital expertise and knowledge is essential.”
Jop Van Son
How do you use your own digital skills on specific projects today?
Jop points to the power of Excel in getting coworkers and customers on the right digital track: “Because I know this calculation software like the back of my hand, the tool gives me considerable added value in setting up reports. I often see Excel being used incorrectly or not as comprehensively as it could be, so coworkers and customers count on my expertise to help them discover all the ways they could be using it better. Offering insight into various time-saving Excel formulas definitely provides people with all the necessary confidence.”
“I enjoy familiarizing coworkers and customers with the jungle of software tools and platforms in data management, for example,” Erwin adds. “Business intelligence in companies is often based on servers, databases, and data warehouses. For some people, this is a lot to be staying on top of. I am also happy to demonstrate the use of Excel, Google Workspace, or Google Sheets as communication tools.”
How do you keep your own digital knowledge up to scratch?
“During my studies in Business Economics I took a minor in data science, which included basic programming,” says Jop. “Now I’m doing a postgraduate degree in artificial intelligence, and I am constantly updating my digital knowledge with self-study, using a lot of online training platforms in doing so.”
During his degree in Commercial Science, Erwin also had the opportunity to gain the necessary basic knowledge of programming using Excel. “Those basics really inspired me to learn more in my own time. For example, I took extra courses in Power BI and the programming languages SQL and Python. Of course, work experience is also extremely valuable to gain new insights, as you are able to gain hands-on experience of digital tools while having the space to make mistakes.”
At TriFinance, Jop and Erwin are also given the opportunity to keep their digital skills up to date. “During internal training courses, I get to share my Excel expertise with new coworkers,” says Jop. “Follow-up training sessions are sometimes scheduled, too. I am constantly learning new things in these sessions, with participants often presenting new inspiring examples and cases.”
Erwin agrees: “Speaking as a trainer, I find it instructive and enriching to teach people new digital knowledge and skills. I also help customers by providing training and setting out all the information in manuals, so that they can continue working with the digital tools independently once we have left. At TriFinance, I also contribute to knowledge circles, where we encourage our coworkers to share knowledge with each other. This is great for keeping our digital skills up to date!”