Welcome to the fourth video of the VantagePoint Agile Finance Series where we talk about remote working.

Agile finance series Video 4 working remotely v2

Transcript

 

Liam:

Hi there, Liam here from VantagePoint. Thank you very much for taking the opportunity to watch this final video in our COVID-19 series and how we're adapting to what is the new normal for all of us at this stage.

 

Liam:

Really, one of the main shifts that we've seen has been that remote working piece and how we're all adapting to that. I think that's not something that a lot of finance people in finance have been used to, and it's definitely been a big jump for many of our clients and for a lot of the newer people that we're speaking to as well about potentially working with us.

 

Liam:

Matt, how have you seen the challenges with that remote collaboration for the finance functions we currently speak to? And what are some of the blockers for them when it comes to going from what is traditionally a very office-based function into something that's completely remote?

 

Matt:

So I think we've seen kind of both ends of the extreme. Remote collaboration is really, really easy, but some organisations find it really, really difficult. And I think the driving force behind which end of that scale that you are is about what technology decisions you've made in the past. So if you've made cloud-based software as a service technology decisions, typically working remotely is in principle really, really easy. You can access everything that you do from anywhere in the world. And some organisations have been doing that for a little long already. Potentially not to the extreme that they are now, but they've already been doing it.

 

Matt:

For other organisations that are heavily office led, that have big office-based teams, have never built into their strategy "what happens if we need to empty this office and everyone needs to work at home?" So those organisations have found it very, very difficult, and that's where their IT functions have had to kind of be working overtime in the past few months to get them enabled to work remotely and then support people as they are working remotely.

 

Matt:

I think aside from just access to tools ... tools like Excel, everyone can access from wherever they are. So I think the other key area is around collaboration. And I think something that's a little bit foreign to finance is collaborating remotely. We're typically used to working face to face in the same room, meetings, and teams pretty kind of closely located. So I think finance functions have struggled a little bit in adopting some of the collaboration tools that are out there. And that's something that we'd really encourage clients to take a look at and see what tools you can best leverage to work together as an international team whilst doing so from your home for the moment.

 

Liam:

Yeah. I think some of the really simple things that I've seen as well in terms of when you're doing your monthly close or something like that, and you need one of the functions of the business to submit numbers, just having scheduled reminders that you don't actually have to go ahead and send someone an email or send someone a message or call someone to submit numbers, that's really, really helpful. And I think the whole point around having that single kind of centralised data system with logins on the cloud and having that all in there, and something that's not going to crash every couple of minutes, really helps us as well. And even things like using Microsoft Teams instead of having massive email chains is massively helpful and beneficial, especially when you're kicking off a project remotely and there's just massive amounts of communication, both at a group and a direct level.

 

Liam:

So great. I think that's kind of the main points. Obviously, there are the boring points around user control, security, audit, when it comes to looking at working remotely and working a system rather than maybe more traditional methods, which definitely make your life easier. How do you think finance has done, Matt, in terms of adapting to these recent times? I guess it would be seen as a more traditional function by most people.

 

Matt:

I think, on the whole, and every finance team that we've worked with has, in their own way, adapted very, very well, at no point has decision-making stopped, at no point have monthly closes stopped. So I think that the challenges that I pose are really about refining and improving. We haven't seen finance grind to a halt.

 

Matt:

I think there is more and more now a mindset within finance of improving and adapting to change. And I think that particularly some of these themes of working remotely will remain and it will become more and more prevalent, I suspect over the next kind of six, 12 months, and indefinitely into the future. I think it's really about getting the opportunity in the next few months to reflect upon the last six, seven, eight-month period, it will be by that point, and starting to look at, "How do we potentially re-set up parts of our operation to do things better?"

 

Matt:

And you touched on a few kind of boring points around systems security, that kind of thing, but even basic things, like workflow management within tools, which isn't something that's maybe necessarily the most prevalent requirement you're looking at when you're thinking about solutions, but companies that have had things like workflow management to govern their processes embedded in the tool are the ones that have done better than others. And I think small points like that will become more and more important as we kind of move into the next six months.

 

Liam:

Excellent. So on the final part of this then, on the remote collaboration, and I guess after this I'll summarise the video series as a whole, but on the remote collaboration piece, there's a couple of things to think about. I think the number one thing is: have a system or think about implementing a system over the next couple of months, if you haven't, that has all of that kind of workflow and process control, user control and user management, audit trail; as we mentioned, the boring things.  That then also brings that collaboration, that single log in centralised data system, and all the ease of collaboration that that brings.

 

Liam:

And then other things, like think about maybe using some form of internal messaging system and internal file-sharing system. Like we use Teams here at Vantage Point, and we've kicked off projects completely remotely with that. The shared Teams channels etc, works really, really well, rather than constantly being stuck in email. So they're the two things to think about right there.

 

Liam:

These systems, as well, that you can now buy, these finance systems, are not the huge investment of both time and finances that they once were. I think you can buy some really, really good assistance, especially at a mid-market level, that is really, really competitive when it comes to the initial investment there too.

 

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