How finance teams can lead the company by example

When it comes to new companies and start-ups, scaling is a key concern when it comes to business survival.

Making it past the first year can be a task – and making it to the three-year mark even more so. And as companies grow, they necessarily become more complicated to manage. Operations become more complex as headcount increases and new lines of business are introduced, and firms make the bold leap from bootstrap to enterprise.

Nowhere is this felt more acutely than within the finance department – the company’s control room. Because as a company scales, the pressure on finance to provide additional reporting and control measures grows exponentially. Relying on manual or semi-automated processes is no longer an option if the CFO wants to drive the company to greater achievements. Too much time spent entering data, and trawling through it by hand, hamstrings the finance team’s ability to play a meaningful role in the direction the company needs to take. Particularly in the current business climate, efficiency must radiate from the finance function.

Instead, leaders need to inject agility into the finance function by automating routine procedures, starting with collecting and analysing data, to generate insights that can be confidently presented around the company, particularly to the board. Decoupling the data from archaic manual intervention inverts the traditional time-allocation pyramid within finance teams, unleashing new capabilities that allow for more granular analysis of what matters, and streamlined reporting that will be appreciated company-wide.

Finance data belongs to the business

For any business data to be beneficial, it needs to be accessible on demand, dependable and structured. This can be a huge task for finance teams, which requires a new mindset and new tools to achieve. But having the right finance system in place means that the team can remove the laborious process of scraping the data together and begin to derive meaning from the reports themselves, without delegating this responsibility to other departments. It allows the team to build rapport across departments and units, and enables purposeful discussions based on evidence and genuine business intelligence.

This new mindset is about moving away from just processing transactions and delivering the capability to produce dynamic data that paints a true picture of the business, from moment to moment, and at fixed points in time, to capture progress. This 360-view improves cashflow and forecasting, and also helps to shorten the working capital cycle that makes the company’s assets work harder.

This means that the skills within the finance team can change, or rather, the existing skills can be better exploited. Finance graduates didn’t sign up to data entry, after all. The team already has the skills to deliver insights, they simply need the opportunity to shine.

And there is no secret recipe for transforming finance and creating efficiency, it all comes down to the right choice of cloud accounting software and automating the mundane tasks away.

Automation brings efficiency

Efficiency isn’t about removing tasks that are unimportant, far from it. Instead, it’s about making the most of the team’s potential which, for finance, is often about removing the time spent inputting data into Excel spreadsheets. There is recognition in all teams where manual processes dominate, that there must be a better way of working to impact business growth. Integrating OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology into business processes, for example, means that a company can digitise invoice processing, automate a tiered approval system and store all the data securely on one central platform, with full banking integration for auto-reconciliation. A simple solution to save hours of work.

Applying technology allows for inverting the traditional finance pyramid, where transactional processing along with compliance and reporting occupy the most time. By automating the tasks that can be automated, the finance team can devote more time to what it should be doing – delivering company-wide insights that support intelligent, evidence-based business decisions.

Along with cash and cashflow forecasting, consolidated and segmented P&L, the finance team also needs to be on top of sales forecasts and the product sales mix. But when multi-entity consolidation or multi-currency management can tie up a department for weeks at a time, how can the finance department fulfil its expectations without automating these tasks into one-click operations?

Traditional finance – enhanced

As manual tasks are automated, collaboration between departments becomes possible, and finance can provide meaningful insights to support business growth. Rather than simply entering data, finance teams can consult with other departments and offer valuable guidance.

This doesn’t mean that the core functions of finance change, the department will always be responsible for treasury, audit, cashflow and payments, but technology means that the team can now stride confidently beyond these confines due to the additional functionality that technology affords.

By leading by example and demonstrating efficiency, finance teams can impact every aspect of the business. This leads to faster handling of requests and quicker resolution of queries with on-demand data. As the crux of any organization, when finance becomes more agile and increases its productivity, the effects will radiate throughout the entire organization.

About the Author

Darren Cran is COO of AccountsIQ. AccountsIQ is smart cloud accounting software that transforms your finance function. With innovative accounting automation tools to help you complete tasks with ease and deliver accurate insights right across your organisation. All of this from one application and in real-time.

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