The expectations of finance have changed, and a new wave of modern finance apps have arrived on the scene in response. But there is a widening gap between these heightened expectations and the ageing, piecemeal finance technology stack that accounting and finance teams are often stuck using.
Revitalising accounting and finance technology can seem intimidating, from migrating to prioritising and sequencing. Any technology upgrade requires a plan that identifies the issues, the applications to address them, where to start, and where you need to be based on your organisation’s overall strategy.
This becomes much more manageable when broken down into achievable steps. By focusing on freeing up the most number of resources first, you can then prioritise protecting the organisation from reporting and regulatory risk.
Here is a three-part game plan for modernising your finance technology stack. It is designed with the future state in mind and provides a roadmap that minimises risk while ensuring each step of the journey builds on the next.
First, fix the close
The ripest opportunity within finance organisations is typically found within the financial close – and automation can reduce manual effort for some close tasks by as much as 50 per cent. It’s one of the reasons Gartner predicts that around 40 per cent of enterprise finance organisations will focus on enhancing their close processes.
Finance automation will lock down reconciliations, intercompany processes, and controls, and enable accounting resources to address a typically spreadsheet-driven process without the worry of upgrading an existing application. An ERP-agnostic solution enables teams to augment their existing ERP investment, and effectively protects the close from a shifting underlying ERP landscape.
Automation can also help organisations move toward a continuous accounting model. This is a new approach that spreads close tasks more evenly over the month, and improves the availability of actuals for planning.
Next, get strategic
With skilled resources that have freed up and accounting risk mitigated through automation, accounting and finance organisations can move to step two —driving strategy through planning and analytics.
Automation unleashes accountants to do what drew them into this profession in the first place: investigate exceptions and anomalies instead of spending their whole day trying to find them, and provide real-time reporting that is relevant for today’s decisions.
Effective planning and analysis are dependent on timely and quality data, primarily actuals, which must be addressed through close rigor and automation. It’s also essential to approach this in an integrated way, tying strategy back to the financial plan to ensure alignment and collaboration between teams.
Lastly, renovate the core
To abstract the organisation from any disruption from an ERP upgrade, a cloud-based solution is the last step on the road to a finance stack upgrade.
Addressing the close and planning and analysis processes can be achieved regardless of the ERP, and they are mutually complementary. These are the least disruptive upgrades, typically replacing spreadsheets and delivering relatively fast time to value.
Moving the ERP to the cloud is especially essential for mid-size organisations. It enables resource-constrained teams to gain automatic updates and reduce the need to supplement it with spreadsheets amidst accounting, regulatory, and operating environment change.
Bringing it all together
Finance automation is the key to setting up mid-size companies to scale and ensuring that effective processes are in place before teams fall into bad habits that expose the organisation to risk.
Accounting and finance technology offers powerful benefits that, with the widespread adoption of the cloud, are more achievable than ever before. The challenge is not implementing discrete systems, it’s implementing applications in a post-modern landscape, integrating and sequencing the upgrades to ensure all the parts fit together and add value to each other.
And increasingly, the value is not just in the applications. It’s how they work together, and the integration points between them.
With finance leaders making more of the technology decisions, creating a blueprint and executing a plan for revitalising the finance application, stack has never been more important.