21st April 2023

Copilot is (almost) Ready to Revolutionise Finance

My 3 interesting things for you this month…

1. Your Copilot is ready to depart

Following on from my ChatGPT special last month (which I got a LOT of interesting feedback on – thanks all 😊), Microsoft have done what we all hoped they would and integrated ChatGPT into Microsoft365. Specifically, Teams, Outlook, PowerPoint, Word – and most importantly for all of us in finance, Excel.

So what is Copilot? Type a question about some data or analysis into excel, and ChatGPT will not only give you an answer, IT WILL DO THE WORK IN EXCEL FOR YOU. And then it will explain how it did it, so you can do it yourself in future (although why would you, just ask Copilot again!).

Is this really going to be that exciting? I posted a 100 second video on my LinkedIn a few weeks ago of a demo of what it can do (watch it here if you missed it). I believe this AI functionality will be the biggest change to our industry since spreadsheets replaced paper. It’s a big call, but everyone who watched the video so far agrees.

So, what can it do?

Microsoft are promising it can basically do a lot of your finance job for you – if it works, and that’s a big if right now.

Imagine you a have massive data dump in Excel, 1,000s of rows of data with multiple columns. You can ask Copilot to analyse it and in seconds it will tell you trends and key findings. You can drill into the key findings, or anything else you’re looking for.

You can then follow up by asking it to chart the data, and then analyse it further. Ask it to make predications and trend out what happens next, even adding in scenarios. Then make a nice summary to send to business partners.

And for the more mundane, it appears to have the functionality to write a lot of month end commentary for you too!

Launch dates are not clear yet – but expect rollout to be measured in months rather than weeks. Watch this space for updates.

2. Show me the impact

I gave some tips on LinkedIn on CV basics a few weeks ago, but I didn’t get to the high performer’s technique, so this is an exclusive for you readers here!

The thing that elevates your CV above the rest of the crowd is the ability to quantify your impact. To do this, dedicate 20-40% of content for each role to key responsibilities (things like leading forecasting, presenting to the board and developing business analysis etc.), then dedicate the rest to your actual achievements.

Another way to think about achievements: what’s different about the world because of the work that you did? The hard(er) part is quantifying any achievement with a measure of success – this is what makes it really impactful.

So, use any stat with an impactful number e.g. incremental revenue you generated, number of hours you saved, costs reduced, margin percentage improved, or business partner feedback emails received.

The reason this matters is that people can do the same task in many ways, either really well or really badly. This shows how good you are at that task, separating the rockstars from the mediocre.

There are 2 issues my clients can have with this approach:

1) What if I don’t know what the number is?

2) What if someone else says it’s a different number?!

So for 1, as finance people, we should be able to put a number to anything. If someone asks “how did you get to 15% on that saving?” talk them through your assumptions. You demonstrate your ability to think through numbers, at the same time as showing your impact.

And for 2, the chances of someone disagreeing with your number are extremely small – if ever they were to (which will NEVER happen!) you can just talk through your assumptions and why you believe that to be the number. Demonstrating again, the finance business partner skill of having an opinion.

Putting this into practice in a CV format:

Finance Business Partner – Marketing

Led a team of 3 to business partner a £20M marketing  budget

  • Budgeting, forecasting and analysis of marketing spend
  • Monthly reporting on initiatives and ROI
  • Decision support on marketing investments

Key achievements:

  • Review and recommendations of marketing spend led to 7% cost savings
  • Developed analysis and partnered negotiation to reduce TV ad spend by £420k
  • Led a portfolio investment approach to new projects, increasing new ideas trials by 30%
  • Initiated ROI analysis which resulted in shift to highest impact spend, and 8k new users

Let me know if you want a bit of help with this one – lots of us find it tricky!

3. Delegation

The super power of a leader is to be strategy-first, as opposed to being execution-first. It’s hard to get there though. The big issue is that we don’t always have the time or the headspace to think through things strategically. So how do we make time? Delegation.

I really like this Radical Delegation Framework from Shreyas Doshi. In some respects it’s a bit like the Eisenhower Urgent Important matrix, but it applies really nicely to leaders.

It looks at who could do this work – from anyone to just you, and how much impact the work has. Spending your time in the top right box is the most important. In retrospect, all the most impactful leaders I’ve worked with in my career apply this framework aggressively.

If you would like help in figuring out how to apply this in your situation, get in touch. I work with everyone from new managers to CFOs on exactly this – it can be a struggle at all stages of our careers. However, once you master it, it scales incredibly well.

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Oliver Deacon

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