Strength Under Pressure: Helping Finance Leaders Stay On Top

Lucy Thorpe

From bookkeeper to strategic advisor, the finance function is on a journey into the heart of business.

According to a study from Oxford Economics, CFOs today increasingly shape strategy across their organizations, driving long-term growth and performance.

The top-performing finance leaders have been doing this for some time, while simultaneously keeping on top of core financial processes and optimizing their ability to stay compliant with new regulations.

And yet the goalposts continue to shift, creating pressure at the heart of business. No sooner have finance leaders stepped up to new tasks than the tasks themselves get harder. Trade disputes, Brexit, supply chain issues, and a plethora of new technologies like artificial intelligence have all come along to make things more complex.

Meanwhile, The Hackett Group has identified another imperative. According to their research, cost reduction is now a clear priority, with pressure falling on the finance function to make savings by optimizing efficiency.

To weather the storm, it is clear that finance leaders need to look to their most successful peers to learn lessons for the future.

According to Oxford Economics, the most effective finance leaders have six things in common:

  • They have strong influence beyond the finance function.
  • They drive strategic growth initiatives.
  • They improve efficiency with automation.
  • They are very effective at core finance processes.
  • They collaborate regularly with business units across the entire company.
  • They work closely with governance, risk, and compliance teams and are well-equipped to handle regulatory change.

It is obvious from this list that making the most of technology innovations is one of the areas finance leaders can explore when looking for efficiency gains. The strong leaders in the survey are not held back by outdated systems because they are more likely to have invested in technologies that help them achieve their business goals.

But fast-growing companies may not see themselves as the type of organization that has budget for this type of technology.

This need not be the case. There are increasingly products on the market that offer an entry point into ERP-style technology. These are usually cloud-based and installed “out-of-the-box” within a fixed period of time. They may encompass financials only to start with, with the option of opening up more functionality as you go on. This helps to keep costs down with the benefit that you know exactly how much you are spending.

Such systems will automate many aspects of a company’s core financial processes, leaving team members free to deal with the exceptions. Reducing time to close and eliminating human input errors are both reported benefits, along with reducing the time and labor it takes to reconcile transactions.

With a dependable set of accurate and complete financial statements now a given, the business can get on with effective decision-making, compliance, forecasting, and strategic planning.

What’s more, business software also provides strong real-time analytics, which can be used to make robust business-wide decisions, further strengthening the role of finance leaders as strategic advisor.

External pressures on financial leaders are unlikely to disappear anytime soon, but robust technology can certainly help financial leaders stay on top.

For more on this topic, please read “How Finance Leadership Pays Off” and “CFO Priorities: Experts Predict Top Trends.”

InCloud Solutions is an SAP platinum partner as part of United VARs. InCloud Solutions recently launched InCloud Express Financials, a fixed-price, financials-only solution that can be implemented in a month.

Lucy Thorpe

About Lucy Thorpe

Lucy Thorpe is a digital marketer and writer with SAP platinum partner In Cloud Solutions. Based in the UK, she is a former BBC journalist and presenter. Much of her work is now focused on explaining the benefits of digital enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems - notably SAP Business ByDesignfor small and midsize businesses.