Get it right and you have a robust set-up able to handle any of the challenges thrown up by today’s volatile business world. Get it wrong, and you create the fault lines which are liable to crack as your company grows.
And, more than ever, how well your finance team performs depends largely on the tools you provide them with. In the pre-digital world, this wasn’t so much of an issue with finance teams using the same kind of paper-based accountancy methods.
But the emergence of digital management provides a radically different way for finance professionals to operate. They allow the traditional paper-based systems to be replaced with fast, automated digital processes.
It’s the difference between the telemetry and power tools of today’s Formula One pit crews and the spanner and rag tinkering of yesteryear. Modern tools don’t just let them work faster but smarter – telemetry data and metrics being used to optimise every aspect of vehicle performance.
These are the same kinds of benefits brought to finance teams when they move from paper-based accounting set-ups to digital systems. A prime example of the impact this can have on business performance is the way employee expenses are managed.
For many companies, expenses management remains very much a paper-based process. It’s the tried and tested way of doing things; employees claim back any business costs paid from their own pocket by filling out a paper form at the end of each month.
Attached to each claim form will be bundles of supporting paper receipts. Each claim form needs to be processed by hand, the information duplicated and transferred to a digital format.
It’s a process which eats-up organisational resources with finance teams finding themselves battling against a monthly wave of paperwork. With so much focus on processing, it leaves little time for proper management or policing of an expenses policy.
It’s in this environment, with finance teams struggling to keep on top of paperwork, that expenses fraud has been able to thrive. The lack of proper checks or challenges helping to embolden employees to exaggerate and falsify claims.
But take another finance team, one with exactly the same mix of skills and abilities, and provide them with a digital management system and they will be able to significantly outperform their paper-based counterparts.
A system such as webexpenses will typically reduce processing times by around 25 percent and expenses spend by 10 percent. But these efficiency savings are not the only benefits brought by digital tools.
Free from the burden of manual processing, finance professionals can switch their focus to properly monitoring, analysing and enforcing company policy, and to do so in ways not possible in a non-digital regime.
The data generated by a digital system also enables a finance team to start analysing and optimising the way a business operates in much the same way as the Formula One crew uses telemetry data to hone performance.
Patterns and trends can be spotted and issues addressed before they become resource sapping problems. It allows finance teams to become much more forward-facing, to start identifying and guiding growth opportunities.
An example would be the way expenses data can highlight those suppliers mosts frequently used by employees and where it would be most advantageous to negotiate partnership deals. To access this kind of information with a manual system would take days of paper shuffling.
The other major advantage of digital tools is scalability. A finance team may be able to cope with paper-based expenses when a business is small but as the company grows, the paperwork required can soon become overwhelming.
With digital management tools, the system works just as efficiently when handling 5,000 employees as it does with five. It effectively future-proofs a business for any kind of future growth.
So when it comes to managing a growing company, it’s vital to make sure your business ‘engine’ is properly monitored, serviced and optimised. And without the right tools, the best any finance team can do is keep things ticking over until things inevitably start to clank and splutter.