Support Finance Operations: Reinvest In Business

Drew Hofler

For quite some time, CFO Publishing has been documenting an expanding role for finance at companies around the world. Finance functions have been building a reputation as full business and strategic partners, providing insight along with information.

It is a demanding role for finance staff, but they 2012, Manhattan, New York City, New York State, USA --- USA, New York, New York City, Traders at trading desk --- Image by © Tetra Images/Corbisare up to the task. At least, that’s what finance leaders think, according to a global survey conducted by CFO Research and sponsored by SAP. The survey of more than 300 finance executives found that nearly nine in ten respondents express full confidence that their staffs embody the knowledge and expertise they need to succeed.

A number of respondents went out of their way to give their people glowing reviews. One senior vice president in the chemicals/energy sector in Australia wrote, “Finance has a can-do attitude. Their work ethic is excellent.” Another executive from the chemicals and energy industry in Singapore praised the “strong technical know-how and hardworking, capable employees” in finance operations.

However, the survey also raises the question of whether deep skills and hard work are enough. Despite their confidence in their people, four in ten respondents also believe that they are understaffed. And more than half of the respondents—58%— say that finance operations staff are often overwhelmed by the demands placed upon them. A finance manager from a technology company in Singapore says simply that finance is “unable to meet deadlines due to overload.”

Many companies apparently are falling short in the support they provide finance operations, which execute the core financial transactions and processes for a company. Processes are too complex and cumbersome, and the disparate and disconnected technology tools they currently use cannot always keep up with the demands.

The consequences can be disastrous. For example, the controller of a construction company in Asia notes that one of the most serious weaknesses at his company are “payments that lack [sufficient] detail and do not go through, which chokes up the entire system.”

In contrast, the payoffs for better supporting finance operations activities drive directly to the success of a company. A finance transformation leader in the survey points to the ability to “re-invest savings in higher-value business support and analysis activities.” And a CFO from the media/leisure sector writes, simply, “Less time chasing payables would enable more focus on the business operations.”

Read the full report “Build High-Performing Finance Functions”.

Is simplification part of your business plan? See Business Simplification 2015: The Unmet Strategic Imperative.

Drew Hofler

About Drew Hofler

Drew Hofler is a Senior Director of Solutions Marketing for SAP Ariba. Mr. Hofler is recognized as an expert in the area of collaborative finance and dynamic discounting. He has been interviewed and quoted widely in finance and supply chain industry publications around the topics of e-invoicing, dynamic discounting, supply chain financing, and working capital management-related issues, and has published a number of articles on these subjects. Mr. Hofler is also a regular contributor to various blogs around the issues of the financial supply chain. Mr. Hofler brings almost 20 years of banking and financial services industry experience to SAP Ariba.