The Barden Career Guide Blog Series...Continuum of Activity...
The 5th edition of the Barden Career Guide Blog Series looks at the continuum of activity. The series is a collection of short and practical career guides for accounting and tax professionals, who are looking to take control of their career and professional future.
Another lens through which you can view your experience or a job opportunity is ‘the continuum of activity’. We can use this visual representation of the basic activity in a standard finance department in a few ways:
Establish a Common Language
To the left of the line in Illustration 1 (see above) is what has happened in the past – let’s call it ‘financial accounting’. From left to right are all the transactions that add up to the creation of a set of accounts (P&L, balance sheet or income statement) for a company. That’s where financial accounting activity ends and where financial analysis activity begins.
Crossing into financial analysis activity, we first analyse the P&L and assess or comment on variances. Next we get into budgeting, forecasting, analysis and planning (BFAP) of operating expenditure (costs), capital expenditure (investments) and then on to revenue (sales). One could argue that the further to the right on this continuum, the more commercial the activity. Although, one could also argue that saving on costs can lead to more profit than an increase in sales. It depends on what’s important to the company at given time and, of course, where on the continuum you spend your time.
Either way, once you get to strategic planning and beyond, you will find that the typical responsibilities of the finance team end and the responsibilities of the executives, operations and sales/marketing teams begin. It’s by moving in this direction that accountants find themselves moving out of accounting and into business.
Weighting of Activity
Now that we’ve a common language, albeit a loose one, and a way to differentiate between activities, it’s easy to figure out where you spend your time (or what you want your hire to spend their time doing). Get a pen and circle where you spend your time over the standard monthly or quarterly cycle. Then, ask yourself a few questions:
- Is your job all to the left of the line, or all to the right of the line?
- Does your job cross the line? If so, how much of it is on either side (i.e. the weighting of activity)?
- Where is your ideal circle? Is there an overlap with your current circle? Remember that an incremental move in the right direction is more probable than a leap from one side to the other.
If your circle covers the entire continuum, the chances are that you’re working in a small company. If the circle for your new hire covers just one of the activities, then it’s likely that you’re a hiring manager in a larger company. This basic model can also be adapted to more complex situations. The corporate landscape context will warp the continuum and add myriad additional considerations. Consolidations, corporate finance, treasury, internal audit, risk and compliance can be represented on this continuum if it’s drawn out for a group function in a large plc. BFAP can be broken into back office (just the analysis), front office (gathering information from people in the business and using this information to effect change in the business) or middle office (a combination of the two). Systems implementation, IFRS conversions, IPO preparations and a whole array of other activities can be plotted or mapped on this simple model. Experiment with the continuum – it can be a very useful exercise and enable highly strategic career moves and hiring.
Other Factors That Affect Context
We’ve looked at the nature of your day-to-day activity, where it sits on the supply chain, organisational structure and some other factors that can be quite defining in terms of your current and future career options. However, this isn’t an exhaustive list. There are other factors that need to be considered to give a true reflection of context.
- Reporting lines – do you manage a team? If so, do you manage qualified accountants? What does your team do? Who do you report to?
- Level of autonomy – are real decisions made locally or at another site?
- Culture – where is your parent company based?
Does the culture of that country impact on the way you do business? Working for a German company is very different to working for a US company. Likewise, working for an east-coast US company is different to working for a west-coast US company.
What other factors might affect the context of your experience? Are there some things you want to maintain in your next role? Are there some things you’d like to get away from? Assessing your current role in these terms can help peel away some of the layers and help you understand a little better where you are right now and where you want to be.
Curious about how you can accelerate your career planning? Get in touch with our expert accounting and tax recruitment team today at email@example.com who will gladly meet your for a coffee and chat, and who are ready with lots of CV, LinkedIn, interview and career advice, along with cutting edge market insights.
Barden Career Guide Blog Series
The Barden Career Guide Blog Series is a collection of short and practical career guides for accountancy and tax professionals. We developed these in partnership with Accountancy Ireland, specifically for accountants. They are designed to help you make more informed decisions about your career, and ultimately achieve your career goals!
Each week we’ll issue a new blog, introducing a different lens through which to assess both yourself and the market (internally or externally) in the context of your professional career.
At Barden we invest our resources to bring you the very best insights on all things to do with your professional future. Got a topic you would like us to research? Got an insight you would like us to share with our audience? Drop us a note to firstname.lastname@example.org and we will take it from there!