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How accountants can future-proof finance management through workflow solutions

Digital tools with automated solutions can streamline month-end

Author: Marc LeCuyer

TORONTO – Accounting has been around for thousands of years. And, as accountants spending your days surrounded by numbers, it can feel like accounting hasn’t changed in thousands of years either. 

Surprisingly, there’s some truth to that. In fact, the essence of accounting has only ever undergone three disruptive innovations. From its invention in ancient Mesopotamia more than 7,000 years ago to the invention of double-entry accounting in the Middle Ages, the interval between the first two disruptions clocked in at a mind-boggling 5,000+ years. 

And, while the origins of modern corporate and management accounting can be traced to the innovation of cost accounting in Victorian Britain, the practice of modern accounting is at another turning point.

Since the introduction of the computer and the advent of the electronic spreadsheet, the practice of accounting has been on a technological rollercoaster and is set to undergo a fourth round of innovation—and it may be the most disruptive innovation in accounting history.

How can accountants future-proof finance management in this age of disruption? How can you further advance your finance function to deliver strategic value to your organization, help your team and drive corporate efficiencies? Digital tools that provide automated solutions can help you in your digital transformation. 

A People-First Approach to Finance

Every month, finance teams spend days, sometimes weeks, gathering and manually inputting data to reconcile all transactions. Quarter-end can be even more dreadful. Finance employees wouldn’t think to plan a vacation around these labour-intensive times. 

This can’t be what the future of finance looks like for another 800 years. This is certainly not how finance employees want to be spending their time, and it’s definitely not the best experience you can offer to employees. Employees want to enjoy their time at work, yet a recent survey found more than half of employees do not believe their employers are invested in improving the employee experience. 

Getting the numbers right will always be important, of course. But today, how we get the numbers right — that is, how the people that support the accounting and finance functions in their organizations get their work done — is every bit as important. 

Business leaders in decision-making roles need to consider building a better finance experience for employees that is engaging and can also provide greater business value. 

Streamlining Month-End Through Automated Solutions

On average, the monthly close time for organizations is 6.4 calendar days. Some organizations need at least 10 days to complete a monthly close. Think of what your team could be doing if this monthly process was shortened, even by a day and a half. That’s 18 days a year! If less time can be spent on month-end close, more can be put toward providing financial expertise to the business’s initiatives and decisions. 

In order to improve the month-end close, finance leaders need to assess where the bottleneck of information is coming from. Is it email approvals and verifying data, working off different spreadsheets, or entering data into ERP software? Generally, it’s a combination of all these tasks. 

New automated solutions like ServiceNow, which delivers digital workflows, can streamline month-end by integrating with ERP systems in order to offer a holistic view of finances to improve overall transparency and bring together siloed information. Organizations that struggle with gathering status updates, redundancies, and inconsistent processes can now benefit from having everything in one place. 

Technology Can Future-Proof Finance

In this age of technological disruption, corporate accounting is beginning to see a better way. Many other business functions have enjoyed the benefits of digital transformation. Now it’s time for finance to experience the same. Digital tools are transforming many cumbersome processes, bringing much-needed improvements to the finance function. 

Leveraging technology to simplify finance processes offers a number of benefits to an organization. Not only is it good for business by speeding up how long it takes to do regular and mundane tasks, it’s also what employees want at work. People want their work to, well, work. Without tools available to streamline tasks and distribute information more quickly between employees, many will reconsider their decision to stay at a company where they don’t feel productive or engaged. 

With digital tools that provide automated solutions, finance leaders can empower their teams to think proactively instead of reactively. Employees want to focus on providing the strategic advice they were trained for. Month-end, quarter-end and year-end financial reporting periods don’t need to be associated with repetitive tasks, endless strings of emails and constant rechecking of data. With digital technology, you can future-proof the finance function, and be the leader of a digital transformation. 

Marc LeCuyer is general manager of ServiceNow Canada, a workflow solutions company based in Toronto.

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