Be Strategic When You Simplify Your Financial Processes
The push to improve financial processes comes from a range of pressures. For some, it’s about getting out of Excel workarounds and into a more secure tool. Others have already automated their finances but want to improve the way the system talks to specialized software like clinical billing. Maybe you are expanding quickly with a back office that is not scaled to support that growth. Or perhaps an acquisition has highlighted the divergent ways the books are managed.
Many of these goals share a common theme: lowering costs, decreasing risk, and improving decision making. Whatever your reason for reexamining the accounting function, digging into this area requires a thoughtful approach. Here are some factors to consider.
Articulate your goal and a clear business need for change
Like any endeavor, you need to know exactly what outcome you are looking for before you start so your efforts are focused and effective. Build a clear business case that connects to your mission statement or value system to help you get organizational buy-in up front.
Focus on the symptoms to guide your improvements
Once you’ve determined the goal, compare the gaps between your current situation and your future ideal, focusing on the specific processes that can be improved. These issues often rise to the surface:
- Is the accounting function often waiting for key inputs that originate in other departments (a symptom of disconnected systems and processes)?
- What accounting areas are complex and require hard analysis to determine the appropriate accounting treatment?
- Are regulatory compliance efforts gobbling up resources?
- Have you identified weaknesses in your processes or systems that have resulted in errors, inefficiencies, and manual workarounds?
- Is the accounting department able to keep up with expansion?
- Do the right people have access to the right financial metrics even if they’re away at a conference?
The answers will guide your plan so that you update your financial processes in a meaningful way.
Build a coalition
Once you’ve settled on the goal and the processes and systems to improve, build a guiding team. The group should be composed of a cross-section of stakeholders whose persistence and dedication will keep the initiative going until the full objectives are met. The team is critical to getting buy-in and improving collaboration between finance and other departments.
As the team assesses your financial systems and processes, raise questions about technology. Today’s cloud systems truly can help move you beyond today’s expectations. But cloud technology should be more than just a delivery method or a cost saver. Before you sign on with a cloud vendor, verify whether it can tailor applications, add enhancements, and integrate with your existing other platforms and systems.
Learning on the job
Once the projects have been implemented, make sure you have the right training resources in place to successfully adopt the changes. Your guiding team should make sure each person fully understands not just the updated processes and expectations, but how his or her role impacts the results everyone is working together towards.
Establish a timeline
While you will need to establish a schedule for updating the process you focused on, the true timeline is forever. Document what worked and what didn’t with your guiding team, so that you can replicate the process. Assess how it’s working after six months to reinforce those aspects that have improved. This will inevitably draw out observations of areas still left to be realized.
What you are truly trying to institutionalize is continuous change.
Use the lessons and problem solving techniques from the guiding team to improve the next iteration of the process.
How we can help
The implementation of new systems and processes is hard work. But if you follow the steps outlined above, you will have a head start on making significant improvements in your organization’s financial processes. We can bring an outside eye to your process by advising your guiding team, and offer technology consulting to help you select the best system for your situation.