Process and Technology: Blurred Lines

As we become increasingly reliant on technology, the lines between process and software begin to blur. In thinking about transforming your organization, do you find yourself asking these questions?

  • Where does process improvement end and software automation begin?
  • Does software really help streamline the Finance function, or are we spending millions of dollars to spend the same amount of hours to store data manually and electronically?
  • How should we approach integrating software into organizations?
  • What due diligence should we undergo before investing in a long-term solution?
  • Do other organizations have the same concerns and pain points we do?

The answers to these questions lie in effective Finance Transformation coupled with a software solution that serves your organization in its current state, with the ability to scale with you.

Transformation and Technology Intertwined

The purpose of Finance Transformation is to increase the functionality of an organization’s Finance department – to enable business synergies and support adaptation to changing business needs and regulations. With the expansion of technology, transformation can be taken a step further – to automation.

Organizations undergoing transformation often seek software solutions to complete process enhancement and automate workflows. The desire is to automate workflows and enhance data retention so that resources can focus on organizational growth and strategic initiatives, rather than spreadsheets and manual documents. However, a significant challenge many face is identifying the appropriate software solution. A number of vendors have developed enterprise software solutions (programmed and commercial-off-the-shelf) with functionality that can be specifically tailored to an organization’s performance improvement needs. Weeding through the vendors, solutions, and presentations can ultimately be time-consuming and confusing.

Further, even tailoring software can be extremely time-consuming, resulting in the need to continue manual process documentation alongside system usage during a long-term cutover. In some cases, organizations enter into 3-4 year contracts with vendors from requirements gathering through implementation, but many find that 4 years later, the software no longer meets their needs. Because of the number of existing options and specific tailoring requirements, organizations increasingly struggle to identify a software solution that both meets existing needs and allows for enhanced functionality to support long-term growth and scalability.

Challenges of Finance Transformation and Software Selection

  • Defining the Current State: Organizations struggle with evaluating themselves objectively. It is difficult to quantify existing processes and technology and determine where lags and gaps are. However, in order to complete effective Finance Transformation, organizations must consider the three components of people, process and technology in defining their current and future states.
  • Aligning Resources and Skillsets: Some organizations are unsure of whether resources are “over-qualified” for their day-to-day activities. To implement transformed processes, it is important to accurately align appropriate skillsets with responsibilities to ensure resources within Finance are motivated to do their jobs and identify opportunities for improvement. It is also important to ensure cross-training within departments to allow for checks and balances.
  • Identifying Technology that Complements the People and Process: Software cannot be a one-size-fit-all enterprise solution that automates an organizations processes and electronically maintains company data. Organizations must avoid implementing software for the sake of software, which often results in additional reconciliations and tabulations to ensure data is consistent and correct enterprise-wide.
  • Selecting Software: Performing successful software selection is dependent on the ability to clearly define the organization’s roadmap and aligning it to vendor(s) that are able to satisfy the requirements of a growing business.

What Questions Should We Ask as We Identify Software Solutions?

  • Does the selected software meet the needs of our organization today?
  • Can our organization and core business continue to grow and still rely on all the functionality of the software?
  • Does the software align with our financial processes? Will it require us to make additional changes to our processes or staffing?
  • Will we need outside documents (spreadsheets, tallies, documents, databases) to use the software on a day-to-day basis? If so, why?
  • Are there alternatives that reduce the amount of manual input and review required of resources?
  • Is this software easy to use? Will our employees be able to understand and grasp its functionality?
  • Can we demo the software to see how our data processes from end-to-end?
  • What add-ons or enhancements are available to us as we scale?
  • What are the licensing fees? Are there volume discounts for purchasing in bulk?
  • What level of technical support is offered, and how often are updates made to the software?

What are the Next Steps?

  • Evaluate the current state of your organization, taking into consideration the existing people, process, and technology
  • Develop a plan that fits your organization’s planned short-term and long-term strategy
  • Execute the vendor selection process based on the answers received
  • Continue to automate and cross-train the finance function to enhance effectiveness

Identifying and implementing a software solution to enhance your newly transformed financial processes can be challenging, but thorough planning and due diligence can clarify the process so your organization’s roadmap and outcome is not blurry.

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