In a world churned up by change, process standardisation and automation can help companies to make better decisions and improve responsiveness, writes Mario Spanicciati.
Businesses around the world are facing unprecedented levels of disruption and change spurred by globalisation, increasing business complexity, and the so-called digital economy. Tectonic shifts in the geo-political environment and the uncertainty in its wake are having a profound impact on consumer and business behaviour. How can businesses improve their decision-making and hold a steady course when everything is in a constant state of flux?
FSN’s 2016 The Future of the Finance Function Survey, sponsored by BlackLine, shines a light on how companies can make better decisions and improve responsiveness to market change while trading conditions are in constant turmoil.
The report finds that process standardisation is the starting point. Fully standardised organisations spend less time on transaction processing, forecast more accurately, are less likely to rely on gut-feel for decision-making, make quicker decisions and as a result, are able to spend more time on strategy development, innovation, and process improvement.
The act of standardisation is initially more impactful than automation for its own sake, and it links front office ecommerce systems to back-office accounting and financial applications. It acts as a springboard to automation and process innovation – crucially releasing time that can be devoted to business partnering, nurturing finance talent, and strategic development.
However, standardisation has remained stubbornly elusive for many organisations, especially multinational businesses with distributed operations. So how can businesses break out of the fractured, diverse, and expensive multi-vendor environments that have beset them for decades, and steer toward a more standardised approach?
FSN Research finds that the best way to mobilise change is through the cloud. CFOs recognise the advantages of the cloud in regard to cost, agility, and ease of implementation. Now they have to act to bring them to fruition. The cloud enables standardisation across multiple geographies without costly regional implementation. It allows new and standardised processes to be deployed rapidly, transcending the time-consuming and disruptive demands of acquisitions, mergers, re-organisations, and forays into new markets.
The immediacy and scalability of the cloud allow organisations to draw a line under legacy systems and take advantage of a new generation of innovative applications specifically developed for the cloud. The scalability of the cloud ensures that more individuals from within the organisation and in different functional areas can collaborate, enabling a new level of knowledge sharing, decision-making, and strategic alignment.
In order to thrive, companies must keep pace with the changes around them. CFOs must take this opportunity to lead their organisation towards standardised, efficient, cloud-based technology that will oil the wheels of the strategy they have helped to develop.
Mario Spanicciati is chief strategy officer, BlackLine, a financial automation software provider.