Working Through Technology
PwC's 2017 Finance Effectiveness Report takes a look at how "finance leaders are improving business results by investing in commercial insight, spending less time on transactional work and running at lower costs." We reviewed their suggestions and selected the enabling new ways of working that are relevant for FP&A.
“We’re looking for the systems to take out a lot of the heavy lifting from finance’s work, the day-to-day noise that can distract people from thinking strategically, because they’re so exhausted from dealing with the tactical.” – Patrick Benson Chief Information Officer, ClubCorp
Technology is at the heart of any digital transformation. The newest generation of tools at our disposal has the potential to enhance the way we work more than ever before. Consequently, investing in emerging technologies such as the cloud, data analytics, collaboration tools, robotic process automation, and AI can catapult an organization from the bottom of the barrel to the top of the ladder.
According to PwC, “40% of finance effort could be aligned to more value driven activities through automation.”
Finance functions need to map how they see their IT architecture modifying and adapting in order to adjust to the modern work environment. This means choosing the right technologies, examining how they will affect current-day methods of work, and considering the impacts of implementation processes. In their 2017 Finance Effectiveness Benchmark Report, PwC outlined 3 kinds of emerging technologies that can significantly enhance the way finance departments function. When integrated into FP&A functions, these technologies allow professionals to focus on the tasks that truly matter and deliver value.
The three types of emerging technologies PwC recognized are:
Collaboration tools= Improve performance with new ways of working
Efficiency tools= Reduce cost through automation
Insight tools= Improve decision-making through data analytics
Collaboration tools We have more information available at our fingertips today than ever before. Information can be of great value, but only if it is accessible. While valuable data may exist, teams often lack access to it given that it is stored in different parts of the company or in different non-comparable formats. Collaboration tools are incredibly useful since they address this exact issue. By helping teams work together better, collaboration tools make it easier to access previously out of reach data and work smarter.
DataRails, a platform that automatically consolidates Excel-based data, is one such collaboration tool. With DataRails FP&A professionals are liberated from routine manual work and granted access to previously inaccessible numbers, allowing for better decision-making. By making Excel-based data easily accessible DataRails facilitates collaboration, communication of budget progress and status, and accurate reporting that relies on shared data.
“If it’s rules-based and you can map it, you can automate it.” – Tom Torlone, PwC US
Efficiency tools are meant to reduce costs by automating processes. One such kind of tool is RPA, or robotic process automation, which performs human-like activities including gathering data, performing quality checks, and following a set of prescribed steps to produce an output. The latest versions of RPA can interpret both structured and unstructured PDFs and can make sense of information without relying on templates to contextualize the information they are looking at.
One such platform is Softomotive, which “automates routine operations across your entire organization [to] unleash your potential...organize structured workflows and enjoy better data quality eliminating human error and focusing on higher priority initiatives.” With Softomotive, speed up processes, allow for error-free operations, and let ProcessRobots work around the clock at your service.
According to research from the McKinsey Global Institute, “40% percent of finance activities (for instance, cash disbursement, revenue management, and general accounting and operations) can be fully automated, and another 17% can be mostly automated.” For finance, and particularly FP&A, automation of manual processes means employees can focus their efforts on higher-end tasks and value-added analysis.
Data analytics involves mining large quantities of data to discover insights that can be of value to decision-makers. Tactical decision-making can be improved significantly by visually exploring and analyzing data. Power BI, Microsoft’s visualization platform, is one such insight tool. With Power BI you can “connect, model, and then explore your data with visual reports that you can collaborate, publish, and share. Power BI integrates with other tools, so you can get up to speed quickly and work seamlessly.” With interactive, real-time dashboards, Power BI exposes decision-makers to actionable insights.
Think wisely about the journey as well as the destination
It’s important to note that while all of the aforementioned technologies are of value, before choosing new systems each organization should review their organizational vision and their desired target state in order to align chosen technologies with the organization’s overall business strategy.
Leaders should conduct a “value-scan,” questioning the potential value of the digitalization of different processes. A thorough analysis that covers the pain points of various processes, such as slow reporting or lack of communication, should be conducted. Ultimately, the goal is to identify the system that best meets the needs of your particular organizational functions that are lacking, underperforming, or simply need a boost.
If you are interested in the full report, you can access it here: