Although the CFO and their team are under pressure to become more involved in the business and spend more of their time helping their colleagues make better decisions, you can be sure that there will be no increase in headcount to accommodate the additional workload. This puts productivity high on the agenda in all aspects of finance, from accounting and budgeting through to tax planning and treasury. Ventana Research recently published their Office of Finance Benchmark Survey, which looks at how finance departments are facing up to the challenge of doing more with less. The findings may surprise you.
The three issues that nearly half of the respondents participating in the survey mentioned most frequently were process design (46%), analytics use (45%), and data availability and quality (44%). Less often mentioned was software, which just 24% of respondents listed as an issue. At first glance, this might suggest that companies are content with their incumbent systems. However, as the reports’ author, the finance specialist, Robert Kugel points out, the most frequently mentioned issues are simply the symptoms of more fundamental problems that arise from poor software and systems.
Kugel focuses on spreadsheets as the obvious culprit and gives examples of how migrating to enterprise systems leads to improvements in productivity and accuracy. He is right to do this, as there is overwhelming evidence of their shortcomings and inability to support repetitive, enterprise-wide processes. See our whitepaper, “7 reasons to choose Anaplan to replace your planning spreadsheets”, for further discussion of this topic. However, I would go further. Substituting an enterprise planning solution to replace spreadsheets is not a panacea that will automatically improve processes, provide better analytics, and give easier access to data. That is because enterprise solutions are not all created equal. For instance, some have such complex architecture that users need to call on IT specialists every time they want to restructure a dimension or upload new data. This stifles productivity from the outset. Flexibility and usability are important for improving process and driving personal productivity, something that Blue Hill Research recently wrote about in their paper, “Enterprise Performance Management Focuses on Accessibility, Ease of Use, and Design”.
Ultimately, the only way to improve the efficiency and effectiveness in finance is to deploy a solution that users can manage and own themselves. To ensure this, users need to be involved in the software selection process and have ample time to test-drive various solutions. Today, getting an evaluation license to do that for cloud-based solutions is simplicity itself.