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Avoiding productivity pitfalls on finance teams

Oct 09, 2020

Maximising the productivity and value a finance function provides can be a constant challenge for today’s CFO. Here are five examples of pitfalls that can be successfully navigated to optimise productivity.

Increasing regulatory obligations, technological change and the ongoing challenge of attracting and retaining skilled staff have led to finance teams often playing catch up when it comes to adding strategic value to stakeholders within the business.  

To compete and thrive in this environment, businesses should ‘rethink’ and optimise their finance and accounting function. That means identifying and addressing some of the productivity roadblocks that exist in almost all businesses – from ambitious, entrepreneurial right through to large corporate, multinational groups.

We have outlined the top five productivity pitfalls experienced by many finance and accounting departments – and how you can unblock them.

Failure to delegate

Building a high-performance team and leveraging technology

A report by London Business School found that only 30% of managers think they can delegate well. The reason most managers have trouble delegating isn’t that they doubt the value of focusing more of their time on strategic tasks; it’s that managers don’t trust that their team members can successfully execute some of the non-core tasks that should be delegated.

Delegation becomes easier once a strong team with experience and skills has been built. Similarly, many non-core tasks that prevent finance functions performing at a high level can be automated by technology, so a review and adoption of new tools may be necessary to unlock those sought-after productivity gains.

Viewing financial data through a reactive lens

Focus on extracting and analysing the real-time data

The finance function of the future won’t be one that places a priority on looking backwards at quarterly or yearly financial reports. The adoption of real-time connectivity and cloud-powered tools have made it possible to monitor and analyse activities in nearly all parts of the business both on the move and as soon as they happen.

Having access to real-time data that gives a full view of relationships with suppliers and customers will allow CFOs to have more productive conversations and make informed decisions more efficiently.

Not leveraging data analytics and the cloud

The status quo can hold businesses back – look to leverage and embrace the ‘new normal’

Many businesses still rely on legacy accounting and financial systems and processes. A reluctance to invest the time and energy needed to adopt new tools can be a significant blocker – but what impact will that have on business’ competitiveness? In an era of disruption, can they afford to stand still?  

It’s important to recognise that investments made in learning and implementing a new system or process that helps finance functions operate more efficiently will pay dividends in terms of streamlining operations and decision-making.

Failing to maximise existing capabilities

Take time to fully utilise the functionality of existing tools

Finance functions of today most often have access to tools that can streamline or automate financial processes. These may already be embedded in existing technology tools, but often businesses haven’t the time or the resources to properly explore the full functionality available. Software vendors will continually add valuable features, new integrations and plugins that can further automate processes and eliminate unnecessary manual entries – but is it expected for finance teams to keep up with the updates?

Not formally documenting the use of systems and processes

Test, test and re-test to improve the ways a finance function performs

The old adage goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. In addition, if businesses fail to document finance and accounting processes, that knowledge could be lost with the individuals in the team should they decide to move on. Taking the time to detail end-to-end processes will allow businesses to spot gaps and identify ways to make workflows more efficient through automation and other technology-driven tools.  

This article has been developed by BDO as part of their Rethink framework.

Judith Stewart is a Senior Manager in BDO Northern Ireland.