Reimagining the finance back office

Reimagining the finance back office

As the finance back office begins to recover from the economic impact of the pandemic, even in large organizations, it’s not unusual for the finance department to still lean towards spreadsheets and outdated, manual tools and processes. As a result, there is never enough time in a finance professional’s day to focus on the higher-level business objectives that help to move the business forward.

Having relied on these set processes, finance teams defer to what they are used to and don’t realize what innovation awaits. That can make it difficult to innovate the finance back office. However, by making the finance back office more efficient, costs can be reduced, resources freed up and risks mitigated. CFOs are being encouraged to transform finance and accounting departments from the finance back office to a key player in the business, driving strategy and delivering results. By using real-time information, CFOs are being encouraged to take a firm step forward and use innovative tech to make strategic business decisions.

According to Gartner, 82% of CFOs are planning to increase investments in digital capabilities. Now is the time for the finance back office to embrace technological innovation and to understand how to best streamline processes and use technology to boost operational efficiency, which should influence the company to grow faster.

Say goodbye to siloed data

The size, complexity, and importance of data is growing at a record pace. One of the biggest blockers to innovating the finance back office is siloed data. As the quantity and diversity of data grows, silos continue to grow too. The finance back office relies on easy access to data – and not just data from their own department, but from across their organization. This vital information empowers them to make more informed decisions about their rebates and help key business stakeholders stay informed.

Yet, all too often, they struggle to obtain a unified view of their organization and suppliers, as information is held in separate systems and by different teams. If left unaddressed for too long, a finance back office operating with siloed systems can lead to massive inefficiencies, redundancies, and cost overruns.

This has created a new level of urgency for the finance back office to effectively derive insights from consolidated data. In order to adjust quickly and help the business plan its deals with confidence, finance needs easy access to data in real-time. 76% of CFOs agree that without “one version of the truth” across business units, their organization will struggle to meet its objectives. 

Be more agile

Agility and speed were key in coping with the onset of the pandemic. All the usual financial survival tricks went into overdrive and many CFOs carried the agile ethos: manage cash first and worry about profit later.

Being agile is all about adapting to inevitable change and embedding a dynamic, future-focused culture into your team. The finance back office must make sure they have the resources and infrastructure to respond to changing business needs. It involves building all processes to be nimble and flexible, subject to change when needed. Being agile requires a complete transformation of your processes.

To react quickly to change, you have to be able to understand it. Having an overview of the whole situation is key. To do this, you need instant access to accurate, timely information. That can only come with technology. By becoming flexible in a changing world, the finance back office can become resilient against whatever the future has in store.

Maximize operational efficiency

Time is valuable to the finance back office. According to a recent CFO Indicator Report by Adaptive Insights, finance teams across the globe are spending a mere 17% of their time on strategic work. Instead of spending days on repetitive tasks that could be fraught with errors, they should devote their time to analyzing information that drives actual performance. For example, finance could spend more time generating reports and forecasts on a lightning-quick basis, but this isn’t possible if they’re still caught up with low-value administrative tasks.

Each month, quarter, and year, the deadline looms for the finance back office to close the books. And if anything goes wrong, they’re in for a big manual exercise. Automation can solve this by streamlining routine tasks like calculating rebates in spreadsheets. This ultimately results in better financial performance and increased operational efficiency.

Continue to adopt a cloud-first approach

Despite the lag in digitizing the finance back office, trends are pointing toward the inevitable: 40% of finance activities (such as cash disbursement, revenue management, and general accounting) can be fully automated, and another 17% can be mostly automated. A PwC’s Pulse Survey found that 68% of CFO’s are investing in digital transformation over the next 12 months.

The challenge facing the finance back office is to continue the trajectory of this digitalization and not let it falter when the day-to-day status quo returns. Reverting to a manual approach could have a major impact on your strategy and delay profitable growth. Cloud rebate management technology is here to stay and will help shape the finance back office as the strategic, agile heartbeat of every business.

Elizabeth Lavelle

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