Time on your hands? It is a fact that few of us have time on our hands these days. In the finance function this is truer than most.
As the dust settles on the hiatus of the year end and January month end thoughts turn to projects, and getting things underway before the summer holidays kick in.
However your road map, can be mown down by the Juggernaut of business demands which hit your best laid plans, by tieing up your team, time and energy. So here are a few arguments for putting finance improvement first which the business will want to listen to.
In the latest CFO indicator report commissioned by Adaptive Insights, when asked 65% of CFO's cite time as the biggest constraint to implementing automation improvement. Lack of time impacts our effectiveness in managing others, listening and thinking - as well as time to strategise and and analyze. So if you are looking at systems to transform finance here are some tips on making the business case
Arguing the case for financial Improvement
When looking at transforming our own patch, we can shy away in finance from automating the manual stuff. New systems, training and aligning business processes to work seamlessly can be fraught with difficulty - and having gone through the pain in business wide systems upgrades, FD's don;t always have the appetite for more.
More than that the costs are difficult to compute. If people are cheap enough and the savings average when it comes to playing with monster spreadsheets why go through the pain of change? Added to that if the business is used to waiting for the numbers each month then benefits can look light, based on investment.
So how can we make planning priorities stand up against the less than compelling arguments to stick with what you've got.
Bigger than expected wins
when it comes to looking at transforming corporate planning, those who are up for the challenge can reap bigger than expected returns when the savings made by automation are so high.
"as much as 34% of a financial manager’s time could be automated by adapting current technologies" CFO Indicator report 2018
Attribute a cost to doing nothing
We tend to compute the impact of doing, rather than inaction. However over time doing nothing leads to demise as the recent high street failures like Toys R Us and Maplin are in part testament to.
"we don’t tend to measure the ‘cost’ impact, of doing nothing. Worse than standing still, there’s evidence that doing nothing is effectively going backwards."
It's all very well saying 'we can cope' in finance, but this can cause a snowball effect over the years. As our recent paper highlights, failing to make a decision to improve systems has its own costs. Slower forecasting, limited modeling ability, access to and manipulating data as well as timely accurate reports all impacts decision making in the business.
Closer to home it can also affect moral in your own team and lead to the leaking of talent tired of lack of investment.
Be more inclusive
These days we are used to easily sharing information, and working together wherever/ whenever. When it comes to spreadsheets (the main tool of financial planning) they are totally lacking in this department. They also demand a level of whiz kid know how to decipher information, which is a barrier to many these days with the growth of 'intuitive' friendly interfaces.
This trend extends to the finance team, Excel skills are not as critical as before, now its the ability to analyze which is sought after:
"Whereas just two years ago, 78% of CFO's saw Excel skills as the most important skill for their finance team, today, only 5% see it as the single most important skill"CFO Indicator report.2018
Better reports = better decision making
Sharing information which is easy to consume, accurate and useful is the key here. When people get this, they start to engage in decisions and strategy. If they feel in the dark, or don't like to admit they find data tough to read then ideas won't be forthcoming or informed.
" 40% of CFO's say that their primary reason for implementing automation into the finance organization is to deliver faster,higher quality insights to executives and operational stakeholders" -CFO indicator report 2018
" Only 46% of accounting and reporting teams saw themselves as effectively meeting stakeholder needs" Top four reporting challenges
Single source of truth
Data is fast becoming the biggest challenge to effective forecasting. "47% of CFO's continue to manually aggregate data from disparate systems." top four reporting challenges, With data available from many sources, comparing like with like has become a real headache, and can suck time up, whilst adding to the possibility of inaccuracies being smuggled in under the radar.
Being able to pull various relevant strands of data into a forecast and apply a single unit of measure to ensure they are comparable and deliver accurate reports is high on the list when it comes to management packs and consolidations.
John Taubman from Real Good Food felt the pain "A major challenge was the diversity of Financial Systems and environments". This complexity can cause real problems when it comes to getting a clear picture of the numbers. John went on to use our services to get Adaptive Insights to connect all this up in a way which delivered reports which made sense, "Formulate helped us pull data in from all these different sources, so what Adaptive provides efficiently now is "One Version Of The Truth" the ability to produce board packs quickly and efficiently in Office Connect, means month end closure and reporting is completed quicker. "