By Steve Berridge, finance technology specialist, at The Access Group
No doubt the last 12-months have been a tumultuous and challenging time for a number of businesses, but in many ways, the pandemic has acted as a digital catalyst for inspiring change. From giving businesses the confidence to work remotely, to finally taking the plunge and investing in cutting-edge automated software that improves productivity.
Although the pandemic has thrown up various hurdles, it has proved just how agile – and prepared – organisations must be and there’s no denying the fundamental role that technology has played in enabling those changes.
The past year has given business leaders time to review and evaluate technologies that could have a significant, positive impact on day-to-day business and, as a result, this practice has emphasised the operations that slow employees down. More so than ever, there is a growing need for businesses to streamline processes, in order to increase productivity and lower costs.
One of those crucial processes could be an organisation’s financial reporting; an arm of business that has taken on even greater responsibility in the past year in helping to provide key insights to drive forward recovery. Yet, despite its pivotal role, these divisions are so often hampered by a reliance on outdated applications or manual procedures that limit productivity and, vitally, financial visibility.
For that reason, it was no surprise to read that 64 per cent of respondents (of 1,000 UK finance professionals surveyed) to our financial pain points survey in December 2020 said they expected to adopt new technologies in 2021.
With a drive towards technology like accounting automation, now could be an opportune time to get ahead and review the way your team reports. Using my 20 years’ experience in the fin-tech sector, I’ve listed some key signs that could indicate when it’s time for you to review the way you report:
Characteristics of a rigid reporting system
A solid reporting system is crucial to any business. Not only does it help ensure businesses stay compliant and forecast ahead, a good financial reporting system improves decision making. And amidst a pandemic, when businesses are scrambling to recover losses and finally return to a full-strength team, every decision counts.
If a finance professional has only limited visibility of the overall business, they won’t be able to review where the company may be overspending or, equally, where it can capitalise on further investment. Not to mention, without real-time data, the analytics compiled in that report will be quickly out of date and rendered invaluable to the wider team.
With an automated platform, customisable and filtered data is available – from analysing overheads, cost type and budget holders – giving finance teams a helicopter view of the entire company structure, helping them deliver a report that will have a significant strategic impact on the business.
Aiming without a target
Effective KPIs, key to ensuring a company accomplishes its aims, are more than just numbers that you report on weekly.
For finance teams, KPIs allow them to get under the skin of the business so they can be of help to the leadership team, giving them the confidence to make critical changes in order to meet the business objectives. They might include evaluating those prospective investments you highlighted from another department and tracking internal performances such as total sales, share price, net income and budgeted expenses – KPIs, monitored through the available data a finance team has, will help track the business’ long-term health.
But of course, without the right software to monitor those objectives – which are bound to fluctuate because of various internal and external factors – finance teams’ ability to influence the business’ performance is likely to be restricted. With the right tools, they’ll be able to track market performance and areas of untapped potential, ultimately helping to improve the company’s bottom-line.
Give your teams a productivity boost
Finance teams can spend hours each month compiling a single report, especially if they’re still relying on outdated software. And if you’re generating numerous separate reports for your business each month, the hours soon pile up.
While our survey revealed that investment in software that enables finance teams to be agile is on the up, we’ve noticed that many finance professionals are spending much of their day juggling activity on a handful of platforms. Whether scrolling through long email chains, logging onto a slow server and operating numerous standalone applications, fragmented databases like this – where data is scattered across several systems – only hamper productivity and leave less time for finance teams to provide valuable, impactful insights.
According to PwC’s finance benchmarking report from 2019 – 2020, 30 – 40 per cent of a finance professional’s time can be reduced with finance automation and, added to that, a mammoth 75 per cent of their time is devoted to developing performance insights through functions like reporting; a vital job that demands attention.
Automated reports can take seconds to compile and, best of all, the data is pulled in real-time. So, there’s no risk of being behind before you’ve even presented your findings to the senior team. With live dashboards, the crucial data you need is visible and instantly retrievable on one single platform.
Automating more processes, particularly with business-critical tasks like reporting, is one of the easiest ways to streamline workflows. Not only will it significantly reduce the margin for error, it will allow your finance teams the ability to bring to the table up-to-the-minute insights that inform better decision-making with the ultimate goal of ensuring the business flourishes in the future.
To find out more about The Access Group’s financial management software, click here.