Finance transformation: An introduction

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant

Finance transformation is the strategy that businesses implement to reimagine and better align the finance function with a company’s overall goals. The process includes restructuring everything from processes, operations, and systems through the use of new technology and cultural change which, in turn, enables greater efficiency, effectiveness and autonomy across the board.

A finance transformation strategy should be driven by digital innovation. The majority of businesses have already – or are well on their way to – developed and installed digital transformation strategies. For those that haven’t, recent research found that the global pandemic has propelled 87% of the UK workforce into new ways of working underpinned by digital technology, and 86% of those surveyed appreciated the advantages digital initiatives bring to work processes.

It’s critical that digital innovation underpins every finance transformation project – without it, organisations simply won’t reap the intended benefits or have the ability to keep pace with changing business requirements. Innovative technologies such as AI, ML, OCR and RPA are all helping businesses to bring their finance transformation strategies to life through greater autonomy, improved data reporting and increased cash flows.

Why do businesses need finance transformation?

Every year, organisations ask their CFOs to provide better results with less budget and resources than the year before – this is an ongoing issue for every finance team. The objective of a finance transformation strategy is to enable CFOs to achieve more with less by slashing costs and reducing headcount.

However, many businesses still fail to see the many advantages of aligning finance with business strategy through the implementation of finance transformation. Some of the reasons for slow adoption include the associated price tag, businesses not sensing the urgency for change, and a stubborn C-suite. But those that don’t adopt the initiative, stand to lose out drastically.

For businesses that want to optimise processes, improve data management and reporting, upgrade mailbox handling and move away from outdated legacy systems, a well-planned finance transformation strategy with the right technology is the ideal combination to get the job done. You can learn more about the challenges that finance transformation can alleviate by reading our latest white paper, here.

What challenges can organisations expect to face?

Before jumping in headfirst, it’s important to take careful consideration over some of the challenges businesses face on their journey to finance transformation success…

  • Getting risk-averse stakeholders onboard – the first step to any finance transformation strategy is getting everyone to agree on a plan of action in the first place. Convincing investors to buy in and provide support can be difficult. The key is to align the finance strategy in a way that supports overall business goals, so stakeholders can clearly see the benefits – set clear expectations, predict ROI by implementing KPIs and reiterate how, by implementing this strategy, the risk of outdated systems and process is no longer a security threat to the business. Remember, the company as a whole needs to shift its risk-averse mindset, so empathy and kindness are needed to reassure and support those that are concerned about the transition.
  • Misalignment between long and short term goals – successful finance transformation takes time. CFOs often feel pressure to deliver immediate goals, without really thinking about the bigger picture and what this means in the long term. Again, finance transformation is a way for finance to support the businesses overarching strategy – ensure clear parallels are drawn to show this. Leaders should incentivize teams by changing KPIs to reflect the importance of financial transformation and help ensure employees remain onside.
  • Changing data management practises – all companies have access to unprecedented volumes of data, but what do they actually do with it? Successful finance transformation is one method of unlocking data’s potential, but businesses that don’t focus on good data management practices can’t benefit from the actionable insights that their data provides.
  • Workforce evolution – organisations need highly skilled finance team members to support success. Everything from specialised data scientists and tech engineers are needed to successfully adopt, implement and realise the potential of technology within the finance function. The problem is, that employees are churning at alarming rates due to increased competition and greater incentives so, employers need to provide greater transparency and ensure they’re offering the right things to existing and potential talent.

There are many hurdles to navigate along the finance transformation journey, but expecting the unexpected, and devising a plan that pre-empts these challenges is one way in which organisations can encourage greater success rates.

What’s next?

Having the right technology in place at the back office is critical to giving finance transformation a fighting chance. An intelligent automation platform that combines RPA, AI, OCR and ML technology is ideal for providing organisations with the tools they need to optimise finance processes and improve data handling and reporting.

Niico enables organisations to free up employee time and resources, alongside budget, by automating manual processes such as email filing and accounts handling. The solution can transform the finance department without undergoing any major changes to existing programs or systems, and the platform can be up and running within just 30 days – so any investors that are concerned about price and time constraints, needn’t be.

For organisations that are struggling to attract and retain talent, Niico can be brought in as a digital workforce, available to both support businesses during busy periods, and easily scaled back when required.

CFOs can learn more about the Niico platform and book a free demo, here.

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More about the author

Alistair Sergeant
Alistair Sergeant CEO

As CEO of Equantiis, his main focus is on strategic leadership and growth within the business whilst working through new opportunities that support this. Alistair manages client relationships so that they can benefit from his experience and knowledge. He thrives on leading a disruptive business that works with business leaders to identify and overcome complex business challenges, with cost certainty and transformative outcomes. Alistair is passionate about anything outdoors. Including running, camping and travelling with the family.