As F&A teams across the globe continue navigating virtual close cycles with a remote workforce, transforming the office of finance is becoming increasingly important. Many have quickly found that their current processes and tools do not ensure the accuracy and effectiveness needed to support the current expectations of their team. Others who had already begun, or thought about, building a finance transformation roadmap are now realizing the significant role it could play in improving their current situation.
However, planning and navigating financial transformation for an enterprise organization takes a strategic approach to be effective. Learning from your industry peers and looking to experts in FP&A is the first place to begin when establishing a finance transformation project within your organization. The following blog will detail the three practical phases of a digital finance transformation and how you can use them to build an effective roadmap.
There is a widespread belief amongst enterprise organizations that implementing automation is sort of like flipping a switch. The belief being that organizations can take their current financial environment, install an automated solution, and sit back and let technology handle the rest. While this is technically possible for parts of the Record to Report (R2R) process, it is far from a best-in-class approach.
Due to the size and complexity of enterprise organizations, there are typically several standards on how the R2R process should be completed across the company. The lack of consistency this can create presents a significant level of risk for the business as accuracy in the work being performed can’t be confirmed. If an organization implemented automation without first standardizing their processes, they would likely only be making the ineffective processes faster. For this reason, the first step in an effective financial transformation roadmap is the standardization of templates and global policy. Starting here will help ensure the accuracy of any work completed by finance teams and allow for your automation initiatives to grow as your needs evolve and add the exponential value expected.
Strangely enough, organizations don’t struggle with standardization in the way people might think. According to our 2020 Record to Report Benchmark Report, the largest roadblock in standardization isn’t the creation of templates and policies; it’s the enforcement of them. Humans are creatures of habit, and without a technology solution in place to enforce their standards, organizations find it challenging to implement meaningful automation.
Unfortunately, having confidence in an organization’s financial information is a common struggle for many finance professionals. In fact, in a study by Accenture, 84% of surveyed finance managers admitted that they find it difficult to control the quality of financial data across the entire reporting process. However, this obstacle is not insurmountable and has already been overcome by leading organizations.
Once the Record to Report process is standardized to ensure accuracy and consistency, world-class organizations can shift their attention towards gaining visibility into their numbers and workflows. By implementing an automated solution, companies can gain real-time insight into the numbers that they are reporting and utilize the solution to identify greater opportunities for continuous improvement. With a proven solution to analyze financial information, these world-class companies are able to gain the visibility needed to report on operational factors and use that information to improve upon their existing process.
After an organization has gained the accuracy and visibility needed for continuous improvement in their R2R process, their attention can turn towards effective automation.
For many organizations at this stage, a general lack of resources means their F&A team cannot give the required attention to all of their accounts. For example, some accounts may only be reconciled on a quarterly basis even though their importance and risk-level would warrant a monthly cadence if the resources permit. Instead, organizations typically adopt a “flavor of the month” and focus on specific account classes each period. This approach leads to significant spikes in close activities around the period end. So much so that work becomes exhausting and finance teams work late nights and weekends to close the books.
One solution to this is to throw more money at the problem and hire additional temporary staff. However, not all accounts will require the same level of attention. Instead of increasing headcount, organizations can reduce the amount of work their current staff needs to perform while still maintaining the control around the financial close with a risk-based approach to automation.
World-class organizations understand that not all accounts are equal, and thus do not require equal attention. By taking a risk-based approach to automation, organizations can automate the lowest risk activities, and allow their finance teams to spend their time on high-risk accounts and work that adds more value to the organization. This approach both reduces the spike of activities around the period end and also ensures that higher-risk accounts get the attention they need to be properly handled.
“70% of high-volume transactions are matched automatically, freeing up time for the research and resolution of exceptions.” – Western and Southern
Finance transformation should always be seen as a journey but one that should be started sooner rather than later to keep your organization from falling behind. Smart, timely investments and strategic steps lead to a much larger ROI and now more than ever the office of finance is looking for ways to be more efficient and effective. Organizations looking to begin this process should work with a trusted partner that can both build a roadmap according to their specific organization’s needs, as well as leverage the experience of other organizations to ensure a successful project.
To learn more about how other organizations are looking to automation to build their finance transformation roadmap, download the 2020 Global Record to Report Benchmark Report.