By Dafydd Llewellyn, Managing Director SMB, UK and France at SAP Concur
At first glance, drawing comparisons between Instagram and finance teams may well raise a few eyebrows. But strip away the hashtags and emojis and the two might strive to have more in common than you think.
We live in a world where people can use polls in their Instagram Stories to get immediate feedback from people – do I buy these trainers in red or blue? Should I wear this top with these trousers? Within minutes – if not seconds – their following have cast their vote, the results are in and a decision has been made. At users’ fingertips, they’ve got the insights needed to forecast the trends relevant to them.
In direct contrast, to get the insights needed to inform their decisions, finance managers have to pour over, compare and analyse financial reports in order to spot patterns, identify inconsistencies and understand behaviour. This isn’t a process that takes minutes, it can take weeks. And by the time they have the data – the business has moved on so it’s out of date.
The issue often lies with financial visibility that stem from the disparate legacy systems that are being used by finance teams; they are layered one on top of the other, without the interfaces needed for an easy connection of financial information to get one picture of all data. Quite simply, it’s an arduous process for information to be inputted, and even trickier to get the necessary information back out again.
Further issues also appear owing to the technology infrastructure itself. The traditional makeup of this is bound to two different issues that can lead to difficulties when updates are needed: legacy technology and on-premise solutions being used. Couple legacy technology with a prevailing use of on-premise hardware, as opposed to cloud-based solutions; this combination can prove difficult to adjust and expand when needed, not to mention being a more expensive route to take.
But what if finance could take a little insta-ration? Using mobile apps, expense and accrual information can now be captured in real-time. Expenditure and cashflow is now just a dashboard away for finance teams, rather than through the onerous analysis of reports. This means that spend can be tracked in real-time – giving that social media style instant form of feedback, rather than it only being available at particular times.
On a more granular level, this means, for example, you can identify a peak in client entertaining in December across three key restaurant chains and next year look to negotiate a discounted rate. Or due to having increased financial oversight, you can invite more people and create a better experience at an event you’re hosting by using someone else’s budget who has spare to use up.
Cloud connectivity and platforms, underpinned by powerful data analytics, means that this data can all be collated and accessed in real-time. Just like their insta-savvy peers, finance teams can put themselves into a position where they have their finger on the pulse. They can see where spend is happening, focus in on out of policy activity, set budgetary levels and introduce more dynamism into how finances are managed.
Increasingly, companies are seeing finance teams as drivers of growth and innovation. To continue to contribute in this vein, teams need the technologies that empower them to make positive change– giving employees tools that are great to use, and the finance team the control and insight they need too.