Completing quality work on time, while simultaneously balancing workforce issues will be the biggest challenges for finance professionals over the next five years.
In the age of digital finance acceleration, organizations are quickly realizing the true value of automating key financial close processes. While standardizing processes and adopting technology to automate those processes are extremely important, a huge component of financial transformation comes down to your most valuable assets: your people. Changing the role of finance should also involve continuous education and training into those technologies as well as introducing crucial skillsets to F&A teams.
“Thirty-three percent of the challenges expected in the next five years are people-related (attracting talent and overtime and employee burnout).” – 2021 Trintech Global Benchmark Report
As finance technology becomes paramount to the success of your organization, it is critical to think about people, processes, and technology in parallel because they are the key components to a successful workforce. Here are the four A’s to keep in mind when future-proofing your finance workforce.
The global pandemic put businesses to the test; they had to quickly adapt, pivot, or even outright change how they conducted business operations. Retail businesses quickly adopted and embraced digital eCommerce platforms while restaurants had to rethink food delivery options. As a result of operational change, many organizations had to rethink their financial processes. Incorporating new merchants, fees, and transactions as a result of adapting and pivoting can add to the complexity of the financial close.
“The goal is to build a company that can withstand unknown risk, plan for the future while being adaptable to inevitable change, and empower a workforce that can pivot to new potential.” – BDO
How to Build an Adaptive Finance Organization
In order to adequately adapt to unforeseen circumstances, organizations must build an effective business and financial process. Relying on traditional and manual methods of completing the close not only puts time pressures on your F&A team but also hinders the long-term success of your accountants. Working extended hours and carrying out a work-life imbalance leads to employee burnout, further impacting the health of your organization.
By embracing emerging financial technologies and process automation, organizations can remain adaptive while reducing manual, repetitive work. Implementing process automation not only empowers F&A teams to streamline and optimize their close processes but also enables them to quickly adapt to unpredictable circumstances.
While agility is often thought of in terms of athletic sports, this terminology can be applied to finance teams as well. In a business landscape that is often dominated by unknowns, remaining agile is a high priority for any organization. Navigating new regulations, reacting to shifts in business models, and handling complex processes, all while remaining compliant and meeting essential deadlines can quickly wear down any organization. Agility is the key to enduring any disruptions while gaining competitive advantages within the business landscape.
How to Embrace Financial Agility
Remaining agile throughout the financial close is easier said than done. By managing endless spreadsheets and multiple checklists, accountants find themselves tediously progressing through the entire close month-over-month. Instead of merely redoing the same process with no improvements in mind, agile financial organizations must rethink their existing financial processes and workflows and create a cohesive culture and strategy going forward.
“Sixty-eight percent of respondents listed standardization or automation as their key area of improvement for 2021.” – 2021 Trintech Global Financial Close Report
Implementing process automation and financial close analytics not only supplements organizations with powerful financial software but also empowers financial leaders and C-suite executives to confidently make data-driven decisions and seize organizational opportunities.
As dedicated “number-crunchers,” there’s no doubt that accountants and finance professionals enjoy working with numbers. But rather than engaging in the traditional role of finance, F&A teams can embrace emerging finance technologies and become more analytical and strategic with those numbers.
In fact, in a Deloitte Controllership Perspectives poll of 5,400 finance professionals, 31.6% of respondents indicated that data science and analytics skills are a “hot” priority when hiring. This indicates that the shift from traditional to modern requires a new look at finance processes and skills.
Move from Descriptive to Prescriptive Analytics
Analytics is a huge buzzword for finance professionals but having the ability to derive valuable financial data from analytics creates a tremendous competitive advantage. Transitioning from traditional descriptive and diagnostic analytics to modern predictive and prescriptive analytics allows businesses to remain forward-looking and prepare for the future.
Getting real-time insight from analytics and using that information to make major business decisions can propel the organization even further. Rather than merely prioritizing “what happened” and instead focusing on “what will happen” and “how can we make it happen” empowers organizations to remain forward-looking rather than historically oriented.
By implementing analytics into automated financial close processes, organizations can elevate their existing workflows by honing in on specific tasks, accounts, balance changes, and deadlines, while effectively evaluating time periods for workflow imbalances and bottlenecks.
The past year threw organizations into the unknowns with no guidance for the future. From transitioning to new working conditions and navigating the financial close virtually, the move to remote created many challenges for organizations of all sizes. While they were not able to anticipate such a drastic shift in the business landscape, businesses can future-proof their operations and processes to better anticipate other changes down the line.
Switch from Reactive to Anticipative
Organizations that still navigate the financial close with the exclusive use of legacy tools were at a loss when switching to a remote- or hybrid-working environment. Without a streamlined and optimized close process in place, this transition to virtual exposed many challenges.
Rather than reacting to changes – no matter how big or small – after the fact, organizations can become forward-looking by incorporating financial automation and analytics into their existing processes.
“Modern finance is moving the finance organization from a transactionally-heavy, historically-oriented organization to one that is forward-looking and commercially-oriented.” – Eric Liebross, Auxis
The ability to look at data analytics and derive valuable data to predict future trends not only produces opportunities for employee and workflow improvements but also provides a huge competitive advantage. Rather than facing the next month-end close with unknowns, organizations can benefit by having an automated and optimized financial close in place.
As organizations see the benefit in future-proofing their processes and operations, it’s more important than ever to equip their people with the tools and skills they need to be adaptable, agile, analytical, and anticipative.
Written by: Alex Clem