In a fast-moving business landscape, a digitised finance function gives an organisation competitive edge. Transactions are processed more efficiently. Faster and richer insights allow management to make more confident decisions. And resources and risks are better controlled.
Most finance leaders know they need to adapt, but many are worried about whether they’ll be able to realise the expected benefits of digital change. Our research shows that 47 per cent of finance leaders say wasted investment and a failure to deliver ROI is a main risk when delivering digital change. Discover the five success factors you need to know about when digitising your finance function.
1. Get the basics right first.
We regularly see finance teams struggle to adopt new digital technologies because they haven’t got the basics right first. So often, corporate date is scattered across multiple databases, systems and spreadsheets, which leaves teams stuck grappling with ‘multiple versions of the truth’. Each month, they must spend days or weeks manually collating and cleansing accounting and corporate data before they can even begin to produce management packs. There’s little point embarking on wholesale digital change until these problems have been resolved. Finance leaders can cleanse their data and reduce manual intervention by implementing a leading cloud-based accounting or ERP system, or by making better use of their existing ERP system.
2. Create a clear business case for automation.
The journey to finance automation needs to begin with a clear set of use cases – which parts of the finance organisation are most amenable to automation, and where can digital technologies be deployed to best effect? This needs to get down to sub-process level. For example, finance leaders may believe that automation can help reduce costs in the purchase-to-pay process, but it’s important to analyse exactly where in the chain this would happen, and how. Creating a business case for finance automation becomes much easier once this level of detail is understood.
3. Involve your best people.
Digital change in the finance function is as much about people as it is about technology. It pays to involve the best experts in the team. Not only will they understand the organisation’s business processes the best, but they’ll also get a chance to learn from being involved in this type of change initiative – and all finance leaders need to build digital change skills. In our experience, cloud ERP and RPA projects are most successful when they actively involve the best staff from the finance department, even to the extent of back-filling their roles for the duration of the initiative. This takes time to plan and costs money in the short-term, but it repays many times over later on.
4. Work closely with IT.
In some organisations, finance and IT departments can have a chequered history. But they’ll need to work together if they’re to build a finance function that’s fit for the digital age. To deliver a digital finance project, finance leaders will need to draw on capabilities in the IT department – for example, middleware and integration skills, as well as data migration and testing skills. And of course, any new digital finance technologies will need to align with corporate IT standards if security risks are to be properly managed. It’s important that IT is able to support the finance systems or technologies. To do this, IT need to be involved at the earliest stages in joint planning and discussion for how that will work. In other words, finance and IT leaders need to be close partners throughout a digital finance journey.
5. Adopt standard technology first.
Digital finance projects go wrong when too much is expected too soon. Finance teams seldom have deep experience of delivering digital change and so their first experience of working on a digital change project is unlikely to be all plain sailing. Aiming for perfection can kill a digital finance project. It’s much better to quickly adopt new finance solutions – cloud ERP, RPA, enhanced analytics – gain early benefits, and then refine and improve after the initial deployment. To stand the best chance of success, finance leaders should embed continuous improvement techniques so they can learn and grow from each digital adoption project.