Laura Timms, Product Strategy Manager, MHR Analytics
Finance transformation is all about improving the overall value that finance provides, but with finance teams under increasing pressure to do more with less, this is something that is becoming increasingly difficult.
It’s estimated that 81% of finance teams are currently undergoing finance transformation, yet research by Gartner reveals that seven out of 10 finance transformations fail.
This article, based on the new finance analytics guide from MHR Analytics, will reveal the benefits of adopting analytics to supercharge your efforts and help ensure that your finance transformation is a successful one.
Finance strategy that’s aligned with future business needs
Transformation is more than simply hitting a financial goal. It’s about being able to respond to the current and future needs of the organisation – something that can only be achieved when finance is connected to the wider business.
Unfortunately, with all of the demand that finance teams receive, it can be easy to fail to recognise how financial activity translates into everyday business.
This can lead teams working introspectively, which can quickly translate into silos, with poor communication of information, lower levels productivity and consequently a less valuable finance team.
To prevent this from happening, the financial strategy needs to be aligned with activity across the business, and analytics provides the platform to do exactly that.
Using a data warehouse, data from across the organisation can be synced to give finance teams real-time insights into how changes in one area of the business will impact the course of action they take.
This means that finance teams are able to steer away from getting caught up in metrics like historical spend and industry benchmarks, and are instead grounded in how the finance strategy relates to the unique needs of their business.
Focus on high-value tasks
According to Gartner, 56% of companies are in the evaluation phase of adopting AI to automate accounting & finance processes. By 2020 it’s estimated that 31% of companies will have actually implemented this into their business and 26% in “operating” mode, where AI is actively used in accounting & finance processes.
But what does this mean for finance transformation?
Well, AI technology is providing a platform that is changing the role of finance teams at a rapid pace. Through automating tedious financial processes, finance teams no longer have to spend their time buried in spreadsheets.
Everything from cash disbursement, revenue management and general accounting could be automated through leveraging analytics – in fact, it’s estimated that up to 40% of financial activity could be automated, and another 17% mostly automated.
Research goes on to reveal that for an accounting team with 40 full-time employees, with an average salary of £60,000 would save around 25,000 hours and nearly £72,000 that would have otherwise been wasted on team members carrying out repetitive tasks.
This time saved can instead be spent on higher-value tasks that facilitate business transformation and allow finance to act as a trusted strategic partner to the business.
- Understand where to allocate resources
Sometimes it can feel like finance are caught in the middle, with demands left, right and centre of the business. And with eloquent justifications from each department explaining why their project should be prioritised, it can leave finance teams stretched under the pressure to please everyone.
Analytics works to hand back the power to finance teams.
Through interactive dashboards that display performance across the business, finance teams are able to easily identify the key value drivers of financial growth.
This means that they’re able to present stakeholders with “the facts” and justify financial activity, only spending resources on activities that generate the most financial value, whilst cutting unnecessary costs.
On top of this, finance teams can look internally to see what they’re spending their own time and resources on. This can help them to define their list of roles and responsibilities as a department to ensure that they don’t get caught up in low-value tasks.
- Make faster, more reliable decisions
At the core of any finance transformation is the need to adapt finance practices to meet increasing business demand.
Despite this, many finance teams are still relying on outdated methods to carry out financial processes.
Relying on spreadsheets to communicate and understand what’s going on in the wider business is a common theme amongst finance, but using manual methods alone leaves room for human error. In fact, research shows that nearly 90% of spreadsheets contain errors, and this can make it tricky to make decisions with confidence.
This approach also means that teams are often forced to spend hours analysing data and pulling reports. This can lead to lags in getting all-important insights, which delays decision making and can result in “in hindsight” discussions with stakeholders.
Analytics works to streamline financial processes to provide teams with fast and accurate insights at the touch of a button. Through real-time data and automation of once tedious processes, teams can see bumps in the road way in advance and have greater confidence in their decisions.
To learn more about how analytics is impacting finance teams, read MHR Analytics’ ultimate guide to getting more out of your finance data.
HOW TO MANAGE YOUR CASH FLOW IN UNCERTAIN TIMES
While the world is constantly changing, probably at a faster pace now than ever before, businesses need to manage cash flow and costs to drive success in uncertain times, says Matthew Thorpe, partner at Haines Watts Essex.
Managing people and expenses
There are certain costs that you just can’t avoid as a business – to keep your operation running seamlessly, but scrutinise the detail and cut down on any non-essential expenses. Check things like your SaaS subscriptions and look out for costs that auto-renew and if you do cancel, remember to also cancel your direct debits too.
You might want to put a freeze on hiring new people, but ensure that other roles and responsibilities are clearly and efficiently assigned across your team. The Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme (CJRS) has been introduced by the Government to help UK employers access support to continue paying part of their employees’ salary to avoid redundancies. Affected employees are classed as “furloughed workers”.
Once furloughed, the employee cannot work or they will not qualify for the scheme. For businesses that perhaps need to go further, there may be some roles they don’t need any more, but businesses should work sensitively with people to manage this.
Cash is king
In uncertain times, owner managers will need to keep operations going to ensure financial stability. You should look to manage debt more efficiently by negotiating extended payment terms with creditors. You could also renegotiate loans for longer repayment terms to give yourself a lower monthly payment, helping the business to set some cash aside each month.
As a business owner, you need to create a cash flow projection and update this regularly if you are to improve things. You can do this using financial information to create a picture of how the business will look in the next 12 months. The forecast needs to show revenue sources and expenses, which will show the ups and downs of business income and can be used to make sure that enough finance is in place.
While banks and other finance providers recognise that the cashflow of a business may be disrupted by the impact of Covid-19, they are still going to want to see that you are viable and continue to trade in these uncertain times. Make sure your business is organised and don’t let disorganisation cause unnecessary issues. You can evidence this by having detailed forecasts; current order books and projections (as best as possible).
Having instantly accessible, accurate financial information allows you to plan effectively, spot issues before they become problems and manage your money in the most efficient and rewarding way.
Software is now incredibly user-friendly and accessible from anywhere. For a business owner embracing the technology, this means:
- Invoicing can be done instantly when a job is complete, emailed to the customer with an easy to use link to a payment platform.
- Comparison websites can automatically monitor and help maintain lowest cost for things such as light & heat, insurance etc.
- Technology can be used in place of face-to-face meetings. It can also enable them to adapt production lines to different demands.
All of these things and more, used properly, can make managing your business finances quicker, easier and often cheaper. You will also be able to bring clarity to where your business stands and prepare for the next steps.
HOW FINANCIAL SERVICES CAN GET TO GRIPS WITH RISING SUPPLY CHAIN RISK
By Alex Saric, smart procurement expert, Ivalua
UK businesses have never been more dependent on their suppliers to help them deliver goods and services to their customers. Be it retail, manufacturing or financial services, suppliers have a vital role to play when it comes to innovation and meeting customer expectations. However, as supply chains become increasingly global, businesses are potentially exposing themselves to more risk than ever before.
This is especially true in financial services. Whether it’s the impact of geopolitical events like Brexit or global tariff wars, supply shortages, security or the businesses impact on the environment, an organisation’s failure to identify and mitigate risk could see millions wiped off its share price, and its corporate reputation left in tatters. Risk can present itself anywhere and at any time, so financial services firms must be ready to address it. However, many simply don’t have the ability to evaluate suppliers for risk factors, leaving them wide open to business operations being hindered, or being slapped with financial penalties.
More suppliers, increasing risk
One reason why financial services firms aren’t able to evaluate suppliers is the breadth and scale of today’s supply chains. For example, French oil company Total said in in a recent human rights briefing paper that they work with over 150,000 direct suppliers worldwide. This is just one example of how large and varied the roster of partners has become. Research from Ivalua has found that financial services businesses on average are working with around 3,600 suppliers annually, which is evenly split between UK-based and international partners. That number is expected to rise, with 60% expecting the number of suppliers they work with to rise.
The expanding nature of suppliers is only going to expose financial services firms to more potential risk than ever before, yet 78% say they face challenges gaining complete visibility into suppliers and their activities.
A lack of supplier visibility leaves businesses unable to identify and mitigate against supply chain risk. In fact, almost three-quarters (73%) of financial services firms have experienced some type of risk during the last 12 months. These include; supplier failure (43%), environmental impact, such as pollution or waste (35%) and supply shortages (45%). Supply shortages can be among the most damaging to a business, as seen by both the KFC chicken shortage which closed stores, and the summer 2018 CO2 shortage which caused companies such as Heineken and Coca-Cola to pause production, impacting supply across Europe during the World Cup.
Businesses unprepared for the worst
One way financial services firms can better prepare for risk is to ensure they know what to plan for to reduce the impact. However, whilst some say they have a contingency plan in place to deal with risk, many of them are unprepared. Financial services firms admitted to not having comprehensive and deployed contingency plans in place to prepare the supply chain for risk such as; natural disasters (68%), supply shortages (67%), geopolitical changes (65%), environmental impact (63%), supplier failure (62%) and modern slavery (50%).
In order to effectively prepare for these types of risks, it’s vital that financial services businesses fully understand their suppliers, their business environment, global variations in regulations, geopolitics, and a host of other factors. But for many, there are multiple challenges when it comes to gaining this understanding. A prevailing factor is an inability to gain visibility into all suppliers and activity because supplier management data is stored in multiple locations and formats, making insights difficult to access. This leaves teams unable to review supplier activity and assess compliance.
Making supplier management smarter
It’s imperative that financial services businesses are able to respond or prepare for supply chain risk. Clearly, much more needs to be done to ensure they have complete visibility of suppliers, especially in an era where regulators can levy heavy fines for GDPR breaches and scandals spread in minutes over social media. These types of risks can be reduced in the future if procurement teams have a 360-degree view of suppliers which will help with contingency planning and risk management.
For example, in the instance of supply shortages, plans could be put in place that identify alternative suppliers to ensure any shortages do not impact end users. This type of supplier collaboration is paramount when it comes to managing and mitigating against supplier shortages. When it comes to regulations, financial services firms can’t allow a lack of visibility to limit their ability to ensure all suppliers are compliant.
To do this, teams must take a smarter approach to procurement that gives complete visibility into suppliers throughout the supply chain. This will allow financial services firms to identify and plan for risk, reducing the potential damage, and ensuring they are working with and awarding business to low-risk suppliers. Supply chain risk is rapidly becoming an overarching concern for financial services firms, but by providing the ability to assess suppliers, they will have all the insights they need to mitigate the impact on business operations.
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