by Matt Benaron
Why investing in new finance technology alone is never going to lead to transformation
Digital finance transformation is not about technology alone. We explore why external consultancy is vital to maximise your return on investment.Read more
Many companies are told finance transformation is just a matter of new technology. It’s not. Matt Rowsall put it in excellent terms when he recently wrote for Digital Bulletin, saying:
“True transformation isn’t about squeezing out a 5% improvement in margin or seeking to uplift a Net Promoter Score by a few points... it is about fundamentally shifting the dynamic of a company by altering the way it interacts with customers and changing how it thinks about how it does business.
True transformation changes not just technologies and processes, but also the hearts and minds of a company’s workforce.”
This applies to finance transformation, too. It’s more involved than simply deploying new software and hoping you’ll see radical improvements in your finance team and wider business. Transformation requires the human touch – the ‘hearts and minds of a company’s workforce’, as Rowsall states.
So it isn’t just about establishing whether you have the budget and need for an overhaul, but whether your team is on board to start initiating a new methodology. Are they going to be receptive to change? Can you count on them to uphold and honour new systems? Any effective change management should be spearheaded by a team of system and process champions – end-users who understand how to complete day-to-day tasks and build upon and respond to backend changes.
In this blog post, we take a closer look at why digital transformation is not about technology alone, and why consultancy – the human element of finance transformation – is vital to maximising what you’ll get out of your investment.
Embracing a culture shift
Finance transformation is the combination of process, system and cultural change across a business. This happens when you implement new finance technologies, training and analysis to create a finance function transformation. It’s a solution for finance teams who are seeking to streamline, simplify and optimise their systems through a shift in their approach.
Some of the common setbacks that prevent this from being a smooth process include:
- Your finance team not being open to new ways of working, learning new things, or adapting to different systems.
- Not researching correctly and investing in the wrong finance software.
- Assuming the hard work is done and not engaging with ongoing training from a provider who will guide you through any bumps in the road.
- Over-analysing software and not actually activating any solutions.
Arguably the biggest opposition to finance transformation success is team buy-in. Without support from your team, chances are you’ll soon return to old ways of doing things – such as overly relying on Excel – and your investment will have been a waste. Institutional memory can be an important factor as many team members have often undergone change for change’s sake. Its important management recognises this is an ongoing process and ties changes to evolving company objectives. This means everyone should be encouraged to implement changes and be given sufficient time to commit to them.
If training and development are not provided, businesses usually don’t get the most out of their solution which can lead to poor ROI and feelings of regret and failure. In these cases, it wasn’t necessarily the technology or systems which let them down, but the lack of a true culture shift at the organisation.
Processes, processes, processes
You can’t introduce new technologies without also re-addressing your current systems; if the new finance technology is able to automate many existing manual processes (which is highly likely), you’ll need to think about how to re-deploy the time staff would normally put into these activities.
Alternative resource: In her article for PWC, Eva Nagarajah explains how automation enables high-level thinking and removes repetitive maintenance tasks:
“Automation brings greater opportunities to the profession as it helps reduce transactional and routine tasks such as data entry, bookkeeping and compliance work, and allows accounting and finance professionals to focus more on value-added services. These include advising clients and providing strategic insights on critical financial transactions.”
Not only does the provider you choose to work with need to perform a technology audit, but a process one, too. If there are ways you could “reallocate your costs towards strategy” then don’t you want to make this a priority? When the removal of frustrations and monotonous tasks is presented to finance teams – and it’s explained in real terms, directly addressing how their day to day will change – it’s likely they’ll be far more on board.
Some of the benefits of a process audit are:
- Identify inefficient processes which are currently hampering your team.
- Identify processes that are leading to inaccuracies in your reporting.
- Analyse your working day timetables to identify unproductive activities.
- Identify cost-saving automation opportunities.
- Improve staff satisfaction by removing clunky, outdated methods.
- Explore your system ownership and whether it’s actually finance-led and owned.
You can’t achieve finance transformation without reviewing and streamlining your processes, modernising the way you work and communicating better as a team.
Developing a modern, professional finance team
So what are digital transformation services? They involve ongoing support that allows your team to become competent, confident experts in next-generation financial practices.
After you’ve digitally transformed, your team will be comfortable with modern tools, able to identify actionable insights by using data to make business-critical decisions.
VantagePoint believes that a successful finance transformation is only achieved when everyone across your team feels confident and capable enough to run the new technology and processes for themselves. Additionally, it means that people outside of your finance department can access the reports and data that they need to help them do their jobs, too. VantagePoint Director, David Sillett explains the impact on wider business decisions:
“Clarity of reporting is something that CFOs are getting pushed towards more and more. They're dealing with demanding directors who want to know things like: are we going to have enough cash? Where can we make cuts? Where can we save costs? Where do we need to spend? What's the advantage of investing more into sales at a time like this?”
It should not be the aim of the provider to make you reliant on them, or any other external body, but to encourage self-sufficiency. If you build a relationship, where you trust them and know you can call on them at key times for specific advice, then you’ve found a system that works. The best consultancy and advisory providers build working relationships with you for as long as you need advice, but in terms of the day to day, your team should have everything it needs. This is something that can be achieved no matter how much prior experience or technical ability you have.
If you’re looking to work with an external consultancy, make sure they include change management services and bespoke training. If a consultancy only focuses on the features of the technology they’re selling, then they aren’t showing you that they are driven by outcomes, results and solutions. They don’t care about how you implement the new technology. This puts you in danger of not feeling the full benefit of finance transformation.
If a consultant can clearly outline how your life will become easier, reporting will be more accurate and processes will be streamlined after working together, then you’ve found the right provider to make a big difference to your team’s wellbeing, and your business’ growth.
If you’d like to find out more about how VantagePoint helped a real customer achieve finance transformation, download our free case study:
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