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  • How to avoid the common productivity pitfalls facing finance teams today
Article:

How to avoid the common productivity pitfalls facing finance teams today

14 September 2020

Maximising the productivity and value your finance function provides to the business can be a constant challenge for the CFO of today, so if you’ve often felt you’re trying to fight against a rising tide – know that you’re not alone.

Increasing regulatory obligations, technological change and the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining skilled staff has led to finance teams often playing catch up when it comes to adding strategic value to stakeholders within the business.  

To compete and thrive in this environment, businesses should ‘Rethink’ and optimise their finance and accounting function. That means identifying and addressing some of the productivity roadblocks that exist in almost all businesses – from ambitious, entrepreneurial right through to large corporate, multinational groups.

Further insights from on ‘Rethinking the finance function of the future’ can be found below:

Here are the top five productivity pitfalls that slow many finance and accounting departments — and our thoughts on how to unblock them:

Failure to delegate

Building a high performance team – and leveraging technology

A report by London Business School found that only 30% of managers think they can delegate well. The reason most managers have trouble delegating isn’t that they doubt the value of focusing more of their time on strategic tasks; it’s that managers don’t trust that their team members can successfully execute on some of the non-core tasks that should be delegated.

Delegation becomes easier once you’ve built a team that has the experience and skills needed to give you confidence that the job will be done right. Similarly, many non-core tasks that prevent your finance function performing at a high level can be automated by technology – so consider a review and adoption of new tools to unlock those sought after productivity gains.

Viewing financial data through a reactive lens

Focus on extracting and analysing the real time data

The finance function of the future won’t be one that places a priority on looking backwards at quarterly or yearly financial reports. The adoption of real-time connectivity and cloud-powered tools have made it possible to monitor and analyse activities in nearly all parts of your business both on the move and as soon as they happen.

Having access to real time data that gives you a full view of relationships with suppliers and customers allows you to have more productive conversations and make informed decisions more efficiently.

Most important, this helps you avoid making decisions that could send you down the wrong path.

Not leveraging Data Analytics and the Cloud

The status quo can hold you back – look to leverage and embrace the ‘new normal’

Many businesses still rely on legacy accounting and financial systems and processes. A reluctance to invest the time and energy needed to adopt new tools can be a significant blocker – but what impact will that have on your business’ competitiveness? In an era of disruption – can you afford to stand still?  

It’s important to recognise that investments made in learning and implementing a new system or process that helps you operate more efficiently will pay dividends in terms of streamlining your operations and decision-making.

Yes, change can be hard, but not making changes that maximise your efficiency costs you much more time in the long run.

Failing to maximise existing capabilities

Take time to fully utilise the functionality of your existing tools

Finance functions of today most often have access to tools that can streamline or automate financial processes. These may already be embedded in your existing technology tools — but we often encounter businesses that are honest to say they haven’t the time or the resource to fully explore the full functionality available. Software vendors will continually add valuable features, new integrations and plugins that can further automate processes and eliminate unnecessary manual entries – but can you keep on top of the updates?

Leaning on your advisor team that have not only have knowledge of your sector, but also an in depth knowledge of financial and accounting platforms, can help you unlock the full power of your existing tools and quickly scale the learning curve for these new features.

Not formally documenting use of systems and processes

Test, test and re-test to improve the ways your finance function performs

The old adage goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. In addition, if you fail to document your finance and accounting processes, that knowledge could be lost with the individuals in your team should they decide to move on - a situation you’ll want to avoid, particularly in a challenging employment market. Taking the time to detail your end-to-end processes will allow you to spot gaps and identify ways to make workflows more efficient through automation and other technology-driven tools.  

But remember that processes aren’t set in stone. It pays dividends to regularly revisit those workflows and lean on your team to support new ways to streamline and optimise them. Look to your advisors to keep you abreast of new technology that has become available and be sure to ask for their input at an early stage to ensure any implementation is bespoke to your business.

Our Business Services & Outsourcing team help finance leaders build resilience within their finance function – utilising our years of experience in supporting businesses to scale and professionalise.

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