This week, we have a guest post from Mike Sellberg, Chief Product Officer at Workiva. Mike wants to help your finance department play a bigger role in the company. He’s got some technology tips to get more out of your data so that you can understand your business better than ever before.
Marketing and sales teams have embraced tech innovation as a powerful way to move their businesses forward – but the same hasn’t been true for finance. As cloud-based services and software advancements continue to evolve at a rapid pace, forward-thinking leaders are realizing that technology enables finance teams to play a more strategic role in the organization.
The right technologies can make a tremendous impact right away: eliminating error-prone manual processes, streamlining reporting, and speeding up standard functions like accounts receivable and payroll. Even better, many of today’s offerings are user-friendly and compliant with data security regulations – making teams more productive and efficient.
Because often it’s the small things – getting bogged down in version control, or toggling between email attachments to find the right file – that ultimately lead to the bigger problems like inaccurate numbers or skewed projections. Eliminating those pain points is a huge leap forward.
Technology frees up financial professionals to look for patterns and understand the factors that are driving their business. Ultimately, the goal is to see beyond rows and columns, gaining a sense of what it all means, and what the implications are for today and tomorrow.
To choose the right technologies, look for solutions that approach data as a series of connections that tie the enterprise together as a single organism. When you start to see data this way, you’ll be able to make better decisions with better information.
Capture important data in the moment
Before the advent of connected devices and cloud-based services, finance teams frequently captured data after the fact, building spreadsheets filled with details about transactions or expenses.
It’s now possible to extract this data at the source, so that each transaction is logged the instant it happens. Expense reporting has lagged behind, but it should also be handled the same way. For instance, Concur’s Business Intelligence solution enables employees to upload digital expense reports automatically.
Data from a cab ride, Starbucks meeting, or hotel stay doesn’t stay locked in a pile of paper receipts, but is instantly logged into a corporate expense system. Not only does this eliminate manual error and reduce delays, but it also gives finance departments the ability see into previously obscured areas of travel and expense spend.
Choose solutions that share a common data set
Here is how interconnected data looks from the enterprise level. The orange circles are source data elements, and each of the connected lines represents a use of that source. Blue circles are connected elements that have been combined with a formula to produce a result.
For most businesses, financial data is still stored in folders, spreadsheets, and documents – flat, non-dynamic files that have no way of communicating with each other. When data is contained in these separated, siloed containers, there’s no simple or straightforward way to see what it all means.
Workiva approaches this data challenge by incorporating two foundational technologies – elements and links – into its Wdesk platform. Elements and links supply the structure needed to make it easier to stay on top of real-time business data. They also make it possible for financial and GRC reporting processes to merge together, creating an advanced level of insights that management and executives can use to build a complete picture of all-around company performance and risk.
An element is represented at the top in blue. In this example, that single element is connected to and appears in three documents: raw data in a spreadsheet, the data of a y-axis in a chart, and written in a paragraph.
Integrate your financial data with outside systems
One of the most challenging areas in finance is how to interact with diverse data types and systems. Outside vendors, financial institutions, and other organizations often use different systems – and staying on top of things means being able to seamlessly exchange this information with minimal impact on your teams.
QuickBooks lets you manage invoices, vendors, and employees with ease, integrating with different solutions for payroll, insurance, taxes, and banking. Your teams can stay compliant and perform most banking operations without leaving the platform. And pulling together reports is easier than ever, with new customization tools that let you address the needs of specific stakeholders in your business.
Better visibility equals better decisions
By seeking out tools that unlock insights into your business, you can position your finance department as a vital, service-oriented partner to the organization. Your company needs the perspective that only finance can provide – and in so doing, you become a key player in driving value and reaching business goals.
Header by Rachel Wille