Train yourself with this five-step plan for the finance department
Feeling a little chubby these days? You’re not alone. In a recent WebMD survey, 54% of respondents said they gained weight due to coronavirus lockdowns. Makes sense: people weren’t going to the gym, many were subsisting on takeout (OK, basically, all of us), and we weren’t getting into the daily steps we take walking around the office every hour to socialize. – uh, collaborating with colleagues.
As the world opens up again and we get to know the gym all over again, it might be time to consider whether your finance department needs its own fitness plan. And no, not the kind of plan that has you lifting and lifting weights at 5 a.m., we’re talking about a digital transformation strategy.
The digital finance revolution has been underway in finance departments around the world for quite some time. But as many of us turn to fitness and diet to shed quarantine 19 (that’s the cutesy term for the pandemic version of the Freshman 15), progress is slow. The reasons are many and varied, but here are a few: legacy systems and an unhealthy attachment to them for fear of change, manual processes, over reliance on Excel (blasphemy, I know), too much data and not enough time to make sense of it, and changes to regulatory reporting and compliance requirements in virtually every industry.
Financial departments of organizations of all sizes have been outpaced by every other department in the organization when it comes to automation and digital transformation. Sales and marketing are a decade ahead — they’re doing CrossFit four days a week while finance is on edge just going to the mailbox to get the mail. Marketing, for example, is mixing AI with social media to reach the right audience with precision, and customer service is using chatbots to provide their customers with self-service options and lighten the load on their human agents.
While technology has greatly influenced the world and the way business is conducted, finance teams still find themselves surrounded by stacks of paper, manual processes and quarterly binders with nicknames as if they are part of the finance family. . Just check out this 2020 survey from the Association of Accountants and Finance Professionals (IMA) and Deloitte. In it, 75% of respondents said their company’s accounting processes are either largely manual or still require considerable manual effort.
To some extent, the reluctance to modernize finance is understandable. There is a limited risk of a marketing team failing with innovative new technology; it’s not like a regulatory agency is going to come down on them because an Insta post didn’t get a lot of likes. The risk is much higher when it comes to financial reporting, especially for public companies. However, it is a risk that must be taken at some point. For organizations to stay competitive, they need to innovate and automate. For many organizations, the pandemic was the boost needed.
In a podcast late last year, Allen Narkiewicz, national head of financial services, Finance Transformation Practice at KPMG, explained how the pandemic has exposed how manual financial processes are.
“When COVID hit, it really highlighted the number of manual workarounds in banks’ financial and accounting processes,” he said. “Trying to go and resolve these regulatory issues and issues that were coming up, linking them to your finances, reconciling all this data that might have been scattered, not in one place, not linked through your systems, all of suddenly it highlighted people not having job satisfaction. One of my clients — when we asked him what he wanted to stop doing — it was all that work that could be digitized, you could automate those streams, you could have the data lineage and link it.
He continues with the story of a client whose financial department uses 50-year-old technology. And no, the customer is not a family convenience store with a large paper ledger that the owner’s wife manages. He’s a real big customer. “Right now, you know, one of the banks I’m dealing with, their ledger is actually about 50 years old. The ledger before their current ledger was pen and paper. It was literally a paper ledger And so that’s what we’re dealing with This is a bank that, of course, had to have manual processes built around how this ledger was set up, built, designed because we’re dealing to a technology that is 50 years old.
Fifty. Years. Old. Reminder: Even Excel is not that old, it is not even 40 years old.
Alright, so we’ve established that finance departments are the chubby kid in the high school gym who runs the full mile on the day the class has to run the track. Fortunately, there are solutions to get finance into shape digitally. As you think about how to turn your finance department from flabby to fit, keep these five things in mind:
Adopt a composable architecture
According to Gartner, by 2023, organizations that have adopted a composable approach will outpace the competition by 80% in the speed of implementing new features. “The composable business is a natural acceleration of the digital business that you experience on a daily basis. This allows us to deliver the resiliency and agility these exciting times demand,” said Distinguished VP Analyst Daryl Plummer during the Gartner Virtual IT/Xpo® Symposium keynote. “We’re talking about the intentional use of ‘composability’ in a business context – architecting your business for real-time adaptability and resilience in the face of uncertainty.”
A composable architecture delivers automated, agile, best-in-class financial management capabilities and processes, enabling incremental modernization, financial innovation, and accelerated speed to value. And it can be adapted along the way (unlike 50-year-old ledgers around which clumsy processes have to be built). Solutions should be vendor-neutral and easily integrate with source, target, and complementary systems; your department should be able to “train” even when you change gyms.
The financial user needs a personalized “training plan”, not a solution with someone else in mind
Financial solutions should be designed with the financial user in mind and should opt for solutions that include integrated financial IP to speed up implementations and leverage financial best practices. Financial users must be empowered to configure rules in a no-code environment. Think about being able to do perfect squats at home at your convenience instead of exercising only when a trainer is there to guide you every step of the way.
It’s cloud or nothing
Finance has been the slowest department to accept and adopt cloud solutions. Historically they have been hesitant due to security concerns, with the loss of control and ability to customize the solution (SaaS solutions typically require more standardization), but that time has passed and finance needs to engage with cloud solutions that offer much higher bids. levels of scalability, automation, performance and control.
As the pandemic has taught us, organization-wide access is essential not only in finance, but especially in finance. Now that we’ve experienced for ourselves trying to organize and access data 100% virtually, it’s time to take those lessons and make sure we never have to pass critical information. The cloud offers a current and fully available solution that, despite being “new” in the technology space, has proven to be invaluable.
Technology is changing rapidly and financial architecture must be ready for the future
The world is becoming less and less predictable and finance teams must respond to both business risks and opportunities. All solutions implemented must stand the test of time. They must provide the building blocks, performance, and scalability to react with agility to market factors. Solutions must natively integrate emerging technologies (AI, MI, blockchain, etc.).
As we learned in March 2020, there will be things completely beyond our control that can have drastic effects on all aspects of life and business. The best CFO in the world can only control internal factors, and the tools to help these CFOs do their best work must be responsive to real-time market data and events to allow finance departments the agility needed in changing conditions.
Data is your most valuable asset and you should have access to it at all times
In today’s internet-driven, always-connected world, data is widely considered one of the world’s most valuable resources because of the potential revenue and business value it can provide. Data affects all of our lives in ways most of us can’t even imagine, and that data can be dramatically leveraged by organizations.
Today’s CFO must not only have access to real-time data, but also have full traceability of the origin of that data and the ability to visualize it to surface trends and insights for the business. . Using a Data Fabric approach to access multiple data sources reduces data duplication, storage costs, and complexity.
Financial transformation may not be an easy journey, but neither is getting in shape. As with physical health, there are tools to help financial services make that difficult journey a little easier. And like all good fitness plans, the rewards from investing in health are great and so worthwhile.
Transforming your finance department into an efficient, automated and successful powerhouse can seem daunting. Fortunately, Aptitude Software has focused on the CFO’s office for decades and brings deep expertise in finance, accounting, and technology. Aptitude offers solutions to help you comply with challenging regulations, drive global revenue automation, and drive successful financial transformation.
Curious to learn more about organizations that have improved their digital finance readiness? Listen to an on-demand webinar, Mistakes to Avoid for Successful Digital Finance Transformation and listen to finance leaders share first-hand experiences of their transformation journeys. Or, browse our resource library for other assets that can help you achieve your financial goals and ambitions.