By Marieke Saeij, CEO at Onguard
In the not-too-distant past digitisation was solely a long-term strategy for a large number of businesses, with no real impetus to make big changes. However, since the Covid-19 crisis many of these organisations have been prompted to accelerate their digital transformation plans.
Subsequently, over 70% of finance departments have found themselves able to adapt to home working within a few days, according to Onguard’s recent poll of over 300 finance professionals. Furthermore, over half now expect to continue working from home for the time being, and are comfortable doing so, due in part to the new digital processes in place to enable them to work effectively away from the office.
Finance teams are not alone in this rapid digitisation, with a new global survey of business executives by McKinsey finding that companies have accelerated the digital transformation of their internal operations and customer and supply-chain interactions by three to four years.
For many companies, this swift digitisation may have been due to the use of temporary solutions in response to new demands. Many of these changes are expected to become ingrained – for example, some of the collaborative tools, such as Teams and Zoom, which are now commonplace in many organisations.
So, with remote working set to continue for the foreseeable future for many finance departments, how can digital tools ensure continued team efficiency and help bring remote teams together?
Better access to the right data
Over half of finance professionals have found it difficult to work well together while being situated remotely without access to the correct specialist software. It is clear that the right data is crucial to making the right decisions, and enhanced web-based software ensures that data is comprehensive, up-to-date and available in real-time. Finance teams can then collaborate and work together from the same pool of information, regardless of where each individual is based. This forms the basis for informed decisions to be made, ultimately helping the organisation and its customers, especially during times of uncertainty.
Providing predictive insights
Access to real-time data is not the only benefit of digital transformation. Advances in artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic software platforms provide a helping hand to the finance professional in their tasks and reduce human error.
Intuitive software is now able to take over laborious repetitive tasks, such as dunning. Thanks to the time the software saves, professionals are able to devote more hours to collaborative work with colleagues on bigger-picture analysis or strategic planning.
Increased use of software in repetitive tasks also allows the technology to provide predictive insights over time. The finance professional is then able to use this information to improve and personalise the service provided to customers. For example, the data could show that a certain customer pays a day late every month, which could lead the finance professional to amending the invoicing date to reflect this.
Growing acceptance of digital transformation
A need for a more real-time, collaborative way of working has not been the only driver of digital transformation during the pandemic. The finance professional’s opinion of digital transformation has been changed by the Covid-19 crisis, with almost two thirds indicating reduced resistance to digital change during this period according to our 2020 FinTech Barometer.
Furthermore, thanks to the new digital tools at their disposal, remote working has proved so popular with finance professionals that a similar percentage would like to keep doing so in the future. To account for this shift in working pattern, over 40% of finance professionals are actively looking to better understand and grasp new technologies. An enhanced understanding of the available solutions and technologies will allow them to continue to work from home effectively in a post-pandemic era.
This understanding also increases usage of digital collaborative tools for effective remote team working. A Microsoft 365 survey looked at data measuring its team’s everyday work and the tools it uses to connect and collaborate, finding that remote working was in fact behind greater communication within teams, producing new solutions and approaches.”
Looking to the future
The Covid-19 pandemic has undoubtedly made digital transformation initiatives more relevant to finance departments than ever before, allowing professionals to increase efficiency in their roles and make time for more value-adding tasks.
Whether it’s the introduction of web-based software for communication or intelligent solutions to allow for predictive insights to help provide customisation and increased efficiency for customers, digital transformation has been a driving force behind a collaborative and effective finance department for many businesses during this uncertain time. With remote working certainly on the agenda for the foreseeable future at least, it’s likely we’ll see this increased digital collaboration continue.