Most industries today are undergoing considerable strategic flux driven by secular market forces. While each company’s strategy is devised to create long-term differentiation for its goods and services, several broad response themes emerge across industries. Finance must anticipate their implications and align with strategic shifts in corporate priorities.

The purely transactional activities of finance are increasingly being streamlined with technology investments and global leverage of providers. This is enabling finance to rapidly realign talent to emerging corporate priorities that improve business partnership. True gains are only realized when finance simultaneously develops new muscle in new skills (see Table 1), and systematic measurement, dissection and resolution of operational issues. Strategic alignment of finance with corporate strategy and governance to measure progress provides direction to an effective operating model.

The principal approaches to developing a functional strategy aligned with corporate priorities are the balanced scorecard approach and the economic valuation tree approach. Both allow for a conscious balance between desired output measures (i.e., process performance and time spent on analytics) with foundational ones such as technology maturity, as well as people skills and training. This directs leadership attention to both performance and its long term sustenance.