by Matt Benaron

Reviewing Your Systems

Listen to Matt Benaron, Director at VantagePoint, discuss the importance of reviewing and assessing your current systems.

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Listen to Matt Benaron, Director at VantagePoint, discuss the importance of reviewing and assessing your current systems.




Hi, my name is Matt and I'm a Director here at VantagePoint. Today we're going to talk about assessing your finance function and focusing on systems. So a brief agenda for what we'll walk through today. We'll start off by thinking about why you might want to review your finance systems. Then, have a think about what you can actually achieve through performing an assessment of those systems. And then we'll move on to what an ideal finance system looks like. So if you're assessing finance systems, what should you be looking at? And, what's the ideal finance system that you can be working towards? Finally, we'll think about some key thoughts around how to perform the systems assessment off the back of this.


So starting off with why you might want to review your systems. Now, the first thing and whatever you're working with in your finance team this holds true is to, first of all, get a really good understanding of your current system architecture. So that's mapping out all of the key systems that you have, what they are used for and how data and people potentially flow between them and use them all.


One of the key outputs will be looking to future proof your system landscape for initiatives that the business might want to adopt going forward. Making sure that the systems have enough flexibility, agility to support the overall change that might happen within finance and the wider business. Through this if you start to look externally, you can look at all the systems, is the technology you leveraging best in class? And you can start to benchmark how well your systems perform against class-leading technology.


Naturally, you'll be able to identify opportunities for improvement. So that might be around efficiency, or it could be around automation and streamlining. So, how can some of the manual processes completed at the moment actually be automated? And that might be using systems and solutions you already have. Or it might be using systems that you might want to bring in over the next few years. And finally, a really key point is around data security and digital compliance. That's really, really topical and key nowadays, especially with things like GDPR. But it's really important to make sure that you've got a framework and a policy for data security and all of your systems fit into that adequately.


Now there are quite a number of things you can look to achieve in an assessment, but here are just a selection of a few ideas. First of all, you can take a look at mapping out all the systems, and particularly the integration points between those systems. Those integration points are key and can cause challenges. And the first step is to produce almost a diagram of all of the systems and the integration points in between them to give you a full view, all systems used by finance. From that, you'll be able to identify deficiencies and potential bottlenecks as well. Now this will be paired with talking to people who use those systems to understand where those challenges might be. But once you've got that view, it gives you that opportunity to dive in a little bit deeper and see where those system deficiencies might be.


Then thinking about your teams, how is your team using those systems? Are they used to the best of their ability? Are they easy to use? So pairing the roles, responsibilities and people within your team with those systems is the next step. And from that, you should be able to then start to look at where efficiency can be improved identifying areas in which there are inefficiencies is normally quite an easy thing to do. People are often quite aware of those inefficiencies. So through the assessment, you can start to set some achievable goals for the future.


Thinking a little bit wider, it's essential that your systems not just facilitate everything that you need to do today, but also supports what you want to do in the future and where you want the finance organisation to be in the future in line with the wider organisations strategic ambitions and growth plans. So make sure that the systems have a growth plan and have a roadmap. And you've got a view as to how those systems will grow and support you as you grow over the next few years. And think about audit ability, scalability, and other key metrics that are relevant for your business. A lot of clients we work with want to have really easy audit ability of systems. They want to be able to see the inner workings of all data processing engines that they have. But the key metrics to you might be different. So consider what those key metrics are, and then look to assess each of the systems and maybe even the processes between those systems against those metrics.


And finally, constantly you need to be looking for areas for improvement. There's no point in doing an assessment and just looking at the current state and assessing how well you're doing at the moment if you're not trying to identify areas in which you think you can improve. And then off the back of the review, you can start to map those out into what the roadmap for future change might look like. So taking on from that point to think about the metrics that you might be assessing against.


Here we have some examples of the key metrics we'd encourage you to use when you're assessing systems. And some of these really obvious things like usability, things like efficiency and security, key things that whenever you're assessing the use of a technology you should look to do. And to do so you'll need to be speaking to users. You need to be speaking to super users or administrators. And you might also consider speaking to wider stakeholders. So people who don't necessarily use the system solutions firsthand, but are ultimate end users of the output of what those systems might produce to see if they are getting what they need. When you're performing the assessment and looking at these metrics, come up with a key. So think about a quantifiable measurement of, "The system does this excellently. The system doesn't do this at all."


And here we've associated some sample colours, just to give you an indication of how you might do that, to give you a visual representation of system by system or overall across the landscape. How well do your finance systems measure against the key metrics? Consider things like integration capability, which's becoming more and more topical. So how many integrations do you have? How easy is it for each system to integrate? Do you have specific ETL tools that have to support the integration? Or, is that something that comes embedded into a lot of those systems?


Also, look not just at the individual attributes of individual systems. So, how well does a single system integrate? Or, how well automated is a single system? Think about the processes that the system support. So looking at, for example, your source data, right through to the last model of reporting and how your system support that end to end process. Do you have a single system that takes you right from your trial balance all the way through to your glossy reports and PowerPoint packs for management reporting? Or, is that stepping through a number of systems? So already starting to think about potentially centralising some of these processes and systems to ultimately achieve some of those efficiencies.


And finally, put together a roadmap. Think about your finance roadmap, but that can also be interwoven with software solutions roadmaps. So for leading technology providers, they'll have a roadmap and a view for how their solutions are going to evolve in the future. And with software as a service being the main way in which businesses are now procuring, that means you're able to take advantage of those software updates as they're rolled out. So think about your roadmap and tying that in with the roadmap of your solution providers to take advantage of the latest updates and the latest features and functionality that is being rolled out to software.


And finally thinking about how to perform the assessment. So as usual, we'll always encourage you to think about qualitative measures and quantitative ones as well. So starting off with the qualitative ones, your system architecture overview is the key starting point. It's a visual overview of everything that you do. That should be paired with feedback from absolutely everyone that touches those systems, from users all the way through to administrators. And I mentioned before, don't just look at the people that are direct users of those systems. Look a little bit wider to people who are stakeholders that have requirements that ultimately link to a system. For example, in a reporting solution, your board are likely to not be direct users of those systems, but they will be receiving some form of output that has come through a number of systems before it hits them.


And think about how you collect data on mass to more quantitatively assess systems. Looking at things like performance metrics and benchmarks that you can set through auditing systems. So looking at how long it takes for a key process to run within a single system or across multiple systems. Looking at how long it takes to perform validation and crosschecks between systems. Systems make it really easy because often they are logging these things naturally, so look to see how you can get some of those quantitative metrics out of systems to see how well they are performing. And then you can look at things like the number of integration points, the number of issues that are being reported per month. So looking at your IT Help Desk, and then starting to understand how well systems are doing off the back of the number of tickets that are being reported by people each month.


And finally, consider the use of external assessments in that process. If you do work with an external organisation, they'll be able to bring experience and also potentially additional data that you can use to benchmark yourself against. They'll have experience of putting together system architecture, overviews, and working with stakeholders to best assess their needs and then match that against the current state. But also look to propose where there might be some future improvements that you might want to adopt.


Thanks a lot for listening. Hopefully, you found this useful. If you've got any questions or comments, please leave them below. And if you wanted to get in touch to talk about this in any more detail then please do reach out. Thanks for listening.


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