The Art Behind Finance Transformation

More and more companies are asking Finance to play a bigger role in their strategy and development. Here are some of the ways you should (and shouldn’t) be leveraging finance transformation to increase your team’s impact.

The role of Finance is evolving from traditional governance (accounting, auditing, and budgeting) into guidance-based support (advanced analytics, demand planning, pricing, etc.), and that many companies seeking this added support are facing increasing complexity due to rapid growth, new business ventures, and M&A activity.

So how can companies properly align their Finance teams to maximize the profitability of the business? Without the proper planning and execution, the short answer is they can’t. But with a clear vision and the right approach, finance transformation can make a significant impact.

Below are several common themes  that offer insight into how to (and how not to) implement a successful transformation of your finance organisation.

What is Finance Transformation?

Loosely defined, the term “finance transformation” is used to describe strategic initiatives aimed at improving Finance within a company.  It can involve a variety of tasks, from shortening a budget cycle to implementing new Accounting software to reducing overhead costs.  However, the general goal of any transformation is the same: to align Finance with the overall company strategy in order to become more efficient and provide better service to their internal customers. Typically, this can be categorized into improving one or more of the following

Governance: These core responsibilities include accounting, auditing, and budgeting. The importance of this area is mostly related to compliance, control, and minimizing costs.

  • Scale: This is usually in response to new business requirements (growth, acquisitions, new markets, etc.). The goal here is for Finance to be able to efficiently service and integrate growing businesses.
  • Services: This type of change aims to provide better financial insight to internal customers, often through new and advanced analytics.

 

Biggest Hurdles to a Successful Finance Transformation

The biggest mistake a company can make is having too broad of a goal by simply saying it wants a “world-class” Finance team. Too often, this means the company will attempt to cut costs and increase services simultaneously. Specifically, benchmarking against “world-class” metrics can lead to the following problems:

  • Only focusing on costs.Managing costs is indeed an important aspect of Finance transformation, but it must be realistic. Companies tend to use an industry standard benchmark, often cost as a percent of revenue, as a target for their own team, which usually means significant blanket budget cuts. This leaves teams ill-equipped to react to changing business needs.
  • Underestimating business complexity and added services.Rapidly changing markets, technology, and business ventures make it increasingly difficult to anticipate the analytical needs of a company. Therefore, it is important for companies to allow for some churn as they go through and learn new integrations, analysis, and processes.
  • Seeking universal customer satisfaction.By trying to do too many things, a company can be detracted from focusing on areas that are most profitable for the company

 

Set goals to guide you to your future state

Focus on the return on investment for the company, rather than cost to serve. As you go about this, remember to:

  • Be specific.For example, to be more efficient, you need to standardize Accounting close cycles between every global office. Or to provide more analytics, perhaps you have to integrate accounting/financial systems with marketing customer data systems.
  • Decide what to stop doing.This is an often overlooked strategy in transforming Finance. In order to truly deliver value to a company and focus on the most profitable initiatives, you must eliminate low-value activities.
  • Manage business partner expectations.Do not aim for universal business partner satisfaction, as that will prevent you from putting enough time into the most important tasks. Work with each of your constituents to scope out and prioritize work.
  • Realize that transformation is an ongoing process and not a one-time exercise.Do not be afraid to revisit your transformation plan as the business continues to evolve.