Top tips to become a finance systems manager - SystemsAccountants

Estimated reading time: 6 minutes Top tips to become a finance systems manager

Sophisticated finance systems increasingly underpin organisations’ financial operations. 53% of UK CEOs are taking personal responsibility for driving transformation within their company, and 71% have either recently completed, are currently running, or are planning a finance transformation. These efforts require skilled teams with knowledge of finance and technology.

These hybrid professionals who straddle both worlds are in high demand as technology plays an increasingly crucial role in operations and strategy. Candidates who have developed both skillsets are pursuing a relatively new but well-respected and well-paid position: The Finance Systems Manager. 

This article defines the role and offers a guide for professionals aspiring to attain this high-demand position.

Defining the Finance Systems Manager Role

A finance systems manager ensures the effective operation of enterprise resource planning (ERP), enterprise performance management (EPM) systems, oversees data management, and aligns finance processes with business objectives. They straddle finance and IT and may report to either function, and are responsible for managing the work streams that pass through the systems they oversee.

“As a finance systems manager, you’re working at the confluence between Finance and IT departments,” explains David Hammel, UK Managing Director at SystemsAccountants. “You’re required to be a leader, and make sure that the activities of the team members and each project workstream are being executed to a high standard.”

The role demands both hands-on energy and strategic vision, empowering the finance systems manager to impact their organisation significantly. You can become an invaluable professional, integral to your business’s success, by mastering the key aspects of the position.

  • Technology and systems expertise. From a technical perspective, finance systems managers need a deep understanding of ERP and EPM systems. Proficiency in platforms like NetSuite, and OneStream is essential. The implementation, customisation, and optimisation of these systems requires an in-depth understanding of what they can and cannot do.
  • Strategic awareness. You’ll need to finesse the roadmap for the finance systems you work with. This will be done based on your corporate IT strategy, as well as your function’s goals and wider business objectives.
  • Data management. Finance systems managers must be able to work towards the increased integrity of data and reporting analytics. This is an immediate, tactical task, but also one that involves developing a master data management and data governance strategy two or three years into the future.
  • The ability to secure quick wins. Particularly if there has recently been an implementation, the finance systems manager will benefit from identifying and securing quick wins to evidence the value of the new system. This could come in the form of enhanced reports, payment efficiencies, and the elimination of redundant processes.
  • Process improvement. Finance systems managers can improve processes by streamlining workflows, automating manual tasks, and integrating data across departments. They can implement real-time reporting, enhance data accuracy, and establish user-friendly dashboards, enabling better decision-making, reducing costs, and increasing overall efficiency within the organisation’s financial operations.
  • Team management. Technology aside, the best finance systems managers will be comfortable managing the team and their workflows. They will also need to ensure cross-functional teams are well-versed in how to use the array of systems to their full potential.
  • A future-focused mindset. The technology that underpins finance systems is constantly evolving. While generative AI is still in its experimental phase, understanding its current application and future potential is important. Likewise, staying current with emerging technologies like cloud computing and robotic process automation is crucial to drive innovation and maintain a competitive edge.
  • External stakeholder management. External relationships in particular give finance systems managers a chance to shine, David Hammel says. “External relationships with your partners and your vendors are important,” he says. “Managing SLA agreements, understanding best practices, what the latest releases are and being on top of what this means for your internal finance systems roadmap is one of the more strategic aspects a finance systems manager oversees.” 

Does a Finance Systems Manager Need to be an Accountant?

Anyone who has a strong background in finance and accounting starts with an advantage. For example, candidates who already have qualifications such as CIMA, ACA, or ACCA who may already be a controller, auditor, or financial professional will have an edge over other applicants. 

However, if you don’t have a specific qualification there’s still a way in if you have a rudimentary grasp of accounting and bookkeeping as well as compliance and security coupled with excellent communication skills. 

“As the bridge between finance and IT, there’s a lot of acronyms and jargon used. As a finance systems manager you’re demystifying that and finding a common universal language which each side understands,” says David Hammel. “Communication and adapting that style and understanding different people’s perspectives is really important. It’s the business partnering skills which really make a finance systems manager.” 

Other key skills are solid problem-solving abilities along with a willingness to find and embrace internal champions who hold finance roles. People with project management skills tend to handle this process effectively – particularly if they have managed the implementation of ERP or EPM recently. 

Standing Out in The Job Market

Today, finding and securing a full-time position may be difficult, according to the Recruitment and Employment Confederation (REC) trade body and accountants KPMG. The labour market in February 2024 reported the biggest drop in demand for talent since January 2021. With this added pressure, candidates must put their best foot forward when applying for a finance systems manager position. 

You can build your personal brand and resume by researching accreditations from software vendors like NetSuite and Microsoft, or teaching yourself about emerging technologies that are quickly becoming part of the finance systems manager job description. 

“In the last six to 12 months more finance systems managers and senior finance professionals are putting themselves on low coding courses, or data analytics or data insight courses, or SQL or programming like R and Python,” says David Hammel. “We’re seeing this more because there is clearly a lot of interest from the market, and hype around AI, and Gen AI in particular.”  

These next-generation technologies will eventually be implemented within the core ERP and EPM layers, so those candidates who have some proficiency or exposure will have an advantage. To learn more about succeeding in a career in finance systems, download our comprehensive guide Mastering a Career in Finance Systems.