As business requirements change, finance teams in all companies need to evolve and adapt. A prime area of dramatically increased demand is the development of business analytics and tools that measure and drive business performance. Finance teams should be ideally equipped to shoulder this increasingly important area, giving them relevance in today's business environment that complements traditional finance activities of profit and loss (P&L) reporting, budgeting, forecasting and controls.
The finance organization that I lead at Gartner Inc. has centered on four broad characteristics or traits to help define and describe what we are looking for in new hires. We also use this when discussing development opportunities for our current team. These characteristics can be flexed up or down depending on the level of the role.
By no means are these the only traits to be looking for in potential candidates; but we have found them to provide an effective framework as we assess both internal and external talent.
* Business Orientation: Ultimately, we are looking for business people who happen to have a strong functional expertise in finance or analytics. The ability to understand business is critical. You can generally test for this knowledge in the interview process by asking fairly simple questions about the businesses that the candidates have supported. If they can articulate the key levers or talk in depth about real business issues, you can probably get comfortable about their business orientation.
You would hope for people to be able to identify the "killer" metrics that drive performance or the key inputs into their business models. But ultimately, you want to be able to ensure that your team can view what is happening through both analytical and business lenses.
* Intellectual Curiosity: Our most successful analysts (at all levels) have an appetite to dig further within the data to get to the right answers. They will generally not accept the first easy conclusion but will desire to go deeper and deeper analytically until they are satisfied with the conclusions or outputs from their analysis. This can manifest itself in the analytics as well as a desire to learn more about the business.
Our best analysts learn our product portfolio, go on sales calls, listen in on service calls and work at our events; they find ways to learn more about the business because they know they will be better at supporting the business armed with this knowledge...