Best in Class: High Performance Finance

By Clinton Jones on March 16, 2015

soccer1Recently I sat down with colleagues  to discuss some of the challenges that finance professionals encounter every day.

Part of the issues identified involve the KPI’s that finance teams use to frame and measure the performance of the finance function and the business, and another aspect was the environment that encompasses the systems of the finance organization.

According to the respondents of a 2014 High Performance Finance research study by Accenture Strategy, one of the big challenges of finance teams is environment complexity.

Accenture described the problem as “CFOs are challenged by complex legacy systems, a complex stakeholder universe and a complex risk environment.

A complex environment

Complexity isn’t a new factor, however when the legacy systems contribute, it can be very counter-productive to the aspirations of business finance teams. In this study, 55% of respondents named ‘Complex legacy systems and environment’ as one of the greatest challenges.

This was a considerable jump from 2011, when just over a third of the respondents identified this as an issue.

With the passage of time, it seems that the complexity of the systems landscape is growing instead of shrinking.

The source of this increasing complexity likely stems from several factors, one likely being mergers and acquisitions where legacy systems are never quite fully eliminated from the landscape.

Another factor is likely an increased focus on ‘doing things simpler.’ Unfortunately this latest trend means reducing the complexity of any moving part in the landscape, which leads to many moving parts with inherent simplicity; but with the additional challenge of integration.

Several systems of  record

My conversations with Winshuttle customers often reveal there are many systems of records in the systems landscape. A system like SAP may be the main system of record for finance, but there are vast other systems that may run sub ledger functions that increase the overall technology systems footprint. In some instances they are inherited, in others they have been deployed to counteract the limitations and functionality gaps of core ERP.

The Continuous Improvement Cycle - Foundational to Lean PrinciplesThese additional systems of record run the full gamut of ERP capabilities including payroll, performance management, manufacturing, planning, sales and the supply chain. Some are cloud based, while others may be on premise or part of departmental or divisional solutions.

Many CFOs have a growing anxiety about retaining talented staff in the finance function. It should come as little surprise that one of the reasons staff can be hard to retain is their personal frustration with the complexity and lack of integration with technologies used by their employers.

Reasons we don’t change

Although systems integrations and automation to reduce manual processes are intuitive approaches to resolving issues of low value data entry and data integration, the reality is these approaches are often overlooked, due to one or more of the following arguments:

  • It takes too long to implement automation for data integration
  • Automation is expensive when working with systems like SAP
  • The data I need to integrate is in such small data sets that it doesn’t justify automation
  • I have so many fires that I am fighting, data integration isn’t my No1 priority
  • The requirements I have for data integration are constantly changing

The good news for anyone with these arguments is that Winshuttle has been addressing the data integration challenge for over ten years now and is still often selected despite these arguments.

New tools: new platform

The principal reasons Winshuttle gets selected as a preferred integrated automation platform are numerous, but the most common reason is likely that there are very few software platforms on the market that enable business users to rapidly develop SAP automation scenarios. These scenarios scale from a single record extract, to literally tens of thousands of data record loads and changes from the comfort of the Microsoft Office suite or a web form.

By applying the principles of lean data management to the way a business works with data and the various systems of record, business units or IT can iteratively produce numerous automations that improve data quality and effectively buy back time. Finance professionals can then move onto higher value activities like decision support and analytics.

When the finance function is the highest possible value to the business and delivering decision support and reporting are at the lowest possible cost, then you have an organization that can consider itself operating at high performance.

To learn how you can transform the finance function with Winshuttle, read New Tools for Finance Transformation by Ventana Research.

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About the author

Clinton Jones is a Director for Finance Solutions Management at Winshuttle where he has worked since 2009. He is internationally experienced having worked on finance technologies and business process with a particular focus on integrated business solutions in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and North America. Clinton serves as a technical consultant on technology and quality management as it relates to data and process management and governance for finance organizations globally. Prior to Winshuttle he served as a Technical Quality Manager at SAP and with Microsoft in their Global Foundation Services group.

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