Director of product marketing at BlackLine
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Using personas to help your teams navigate change

Not every accountant is eager to adapt to automation or transition to the role of adviser. Identifying these different personas early will help teams prepare for further change.

14th Oct 2020
Director of product marketing at BlackLine
Columnist
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Finance and accounting (F&A) teams face the unprecedented challenge of working and closing the books remotely, whilst battling with a stronger demand for real-time financial data and increased accuracy, all in less time.

For these F&A teams, thriving now and in the future will depend on navigating this change successfully, by enabling technology, processes, and people to evolve.

Thriving in the face of ongoing change

Technology limitations are central to many of the barriers that F&A teams are facing as they shift to a distributed working environment. Businesses must recognise the value in implementing technology platforms that give F&A professionals a holistic view, allowing them to seamlessly access systems remotely, reduce manual processes, automate close processes, and simplify the administration of the close.

But implementing technology and designing more efficient processes are not the only steps finance leaders can take to help teams prepare for change.

Identifying personas to help navigate change

In anticipation of continuous disruption, some F&A professionals are looking to new technologies to improve processes, whilst preparing for new roles. But not every accountant is eager to adapt to automation or transition to the role of adviser.

Identifying these different personas early will help teams prepare for further change, and ensure that every individual plays a useful role in that change. 

So what do these different personas look like and how can you use them in the service of change?

  1. The Leaders: Made up of visionaries with big ideas who incite change, believe in the promise of technology, and bring vision, creativity, and business acumen. This group is also made up of Bellwethers that are focused on pure accounting, rather than the business as a whole. While the visionary generates ideas, the Bellwether discerns which ideas hold merit.
  2. The Engine: Where change is manifested. Made up of Architects, often found in managerial roles, who can drive projects forward, and bridge ideas and reality. A key part of this reality is the Model Accountant, who with deep accounting knowledge, and strong communication skills, can take on any role in the organisation.
  3. The Specialists: These two personas are wary of change. The perfectionist plays a key role in mitigating the risk of change, acting as a buffer between a great idea and real world practicality. The Guru, meanwhile, knows how to do every accounting process, and why it’s don’t that way, so is happy with the status quo. Together, they play a key role in identifying flaws and pitfalls in early change initiatives.
  4. The Challengers: Challengers hate change. Yet their resistance can be transformed into advocacy through leadership opportunities. The Bureaucrat is both highly risk averse and highly ambitious - however leadership aspirations can be used in service of change. For The Purist, accounting is a centre of excellence that doesn’t need to change, and their aversion to risk manifests in a distrust of technology. Yet, like the Bureaucrat, the Purist can become an advocate for change if this persona is offered leadership responsibilities.

How to use each persona in service of change

Navigating change within an organisation not only requires understanding of the above personas, but also how to use each persona’s attributes effectively in service of change:

  1. Realise the Visionary can be found in any role: From staff accountant to CFO, listen for new ideas from every corner of the business.
  2. Find the organisation’s Bellwether: This persona can be in any role as well, and as the tastemaker and trend spotter, is crucial to getting initial change off the ground.
  3. Give Architects the skills and knowledge they need: Hire smart people and invest in their training. Nurture their curiosity and interest in innovation so they’re ready to make change happen on the ground.
  4. Build teams out of Model Accountants: These are the employees who can do any job. They’re well-versed in accounting, steady, and open to change, so stack the organisation with teams of them to drive strong and early adoption of innovation.
  5. Create the right role for the Gurus: While initially averse to change, the Gurus’ love for knowledge will help them first investigate, and then embrace change. Give Gurus roles where they can engage in continuous learning and provide knowledge-based feedback.
  6. Trust the Perfectionists: Rely on them to slow down questionable or underdeveloped initiatives. See the Perfectionist not as a naysayer, but as someone who can be trusted to point out red flags, risks, and challenges.
  7. Help the Bureaucrats and Purists embrace change through leadership roles: These Challengers are by nature ambitious; put them in a role where their job is to respond to and navigate change. For Challengers, the need for change becomes more obvious—and less threatening—from a leadership perspective.

Prepare now, for the future

Change is coming to every profession and industry, and harnessing the power of the talented, and unique personas in our teams will be crucial to embracing change. F&A will have to adapt to new technologies, navigate shifting global regulations, and provide insight to the business at large – and using the above takeaways will help to make this transition as seamless as possible.  

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