May 24, 2017
Ending the Overworked, Underutilized Finance Department
Posted by Carl Anderson
For professionals in the finance and accounting department, long hours are business as usual. It’s normal for every reporting cycle or accounting period close to mean burning the midnight oil for days at a time. But while the members of the accounting team suffer, in this case from the lack of a healthy work-life balance, the rest of the business also experiences a hefty impact.
In this all too common scenario, the finance team has little to no time for thoughtful analysis or collaboration with business leaders on the ramifications of certain strategies and decisions. The team’s deep tax and financial knowledge and experience are essentially unavailable to the business, because the day-to-day effort takes all the resources. The potential results of this include uninformed decisions, poor investments, and even material loss at various points across the business.
Fortunately there is a solution: cloud finance solutions that support streamlined, automated processes. But first, you have to get buy-in from the finance team.
The crux of the situation
The overwork/underutilization problem stems from two related issues: inefficient processes and underperforming financial systems. As companies grow, simple procedures become far more complex. Expanding product lines, new branch offices, a rapidly growing customer base, and new business partners and vendors all strain original processes that were based on manual spreadsheets or starter-quality software.
And unless your business bet big from the start and chose a robust system, chances are good that you’ve also outgrown your current software. Signs that this is the case include long closing periods, extensive usage of spreadsheets, manual consolidation of data, re-entry of data into different systems, and no ability to report instantly on key performance indicators such as profitability.
It’s the combination of these factors that prevents the accounting and finance department from being the consultative team to the business that it should aspire to be.
The cloud as catalyst
While the status quo of spreadsheets and manual processes is painful, many departments opt to struggle on because they fear the costs of change. In the past, implementing new software was a major expense—and headache—that was difficult to justify to the executive suite. And trying to improve your processes without addressing the major shortcomings of your software is a futile exercise, because the two are intertwined.
Fortunately, the advent of cloud finance solutions has changed this scenario. With cloud-based software, there’s no pricey hardware to buy and maintain, no IT oversight needed, and no worries about data storage and backup. It’s all managed by the financial software provider. Companies can often see a significant return on investment within six months.
Overcoming the fear of change
Change—even change for the better—requires effort and commitment. So it’s natural to keep using makeshift workarounds and long hours to compensate for process and technology shortcomings. Accounting and finance staff members also may be uncertain about the impact new software and processes will have on their role in the organization. They may worry that automation will do away with their jobs or that their skills will no longer be useful.
To convince your accounting and finance department that improved processes and more robust software will transform things for the better, you must first address their concerns, by helping them understand the opportunities that will come from the changes. Your team will:
- Get their work-life balance back, as closing the books or budget planning takes far less effort
- Be more productive as processes are streamlined and repetitive tasks are automated
- Have more time to apply their knowledge to being expert consultants to the business
- Increase their value to the organization with more guidance on strategic issues
- Provide business leaders with access to key metrics far more quickly and easily
- Have greater flexibility to adapt as the company grows and changes
The next step
Getting buy-in from your team is crucial to successful change. It can help to talk to other companies that have already gone through the transition. When you work with a partner with expertise in deploying financial cloud solutions and streamlining processes, that partner can provide you with examples of other businesses that have adopted the software. Once you have buy-in and commitment, it’s time to create a plan. Watch for another post coming soon to discuss how to create the right cloud finance solutions plan for your team.