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Why the time is right for finance to embrace digital change

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By Nick Felton, Chief Sales Officer, MHR Analytics

The finance team is often accused of lagging behind the rest of the business when it comes to digital transformation. But, if the pandemic has taught finance anything, it’s the need to reconsider its approach to digitalisation so that it can respond more quickly when faced with a challenging business environment.

Identifying and quantifying the business case for any digital change is not always easy. This, alongside a reluctance by some finance professionals to adopt new ways of managing traditional, tried, and tested processes, is the reason why it is has been slow to embrace change. However, we recently researched the views of senior financial professionals on digital change, and the overriding opinion that came from our respondents is that they now recognise the need for transformation and that standing still is no longer an option.

The research showed that 85% of finance professionals is keen to drive forward with digital and data literacy to help successfully navigate business change with just over a quarter admitting they wouldn’t be able to respond quickly enough to a significant event. It also showed that processes such as budgeting, planning, forecasting, and accounts receivable were impacted the most during the pandemic for almost 70% of respondents – thereby shining a light on the need for agility and resilience when faced with a potential business crisis.

In addition, it highlighted the fact that finance wants to be in control of its own digital and data future, rather than being led by IT or external consultants – not just to boost response times to minimise business risk in a crisis, but to make the most of new opportunities too.

Finance also acknowledged that reluctance or delays to embracing digital change may have a negative impact on the wider team, with strategic insight and productivity levels hindered the most. The availability of real time and accurate data and the ability to analyse it effectively was identified as essential to inform future strategic business-decision making. Not being able to retain and attract new talent was also cited as an issue which will continue to cause problems for finance if it’s too slow to adapt and drive forward digital transformation initiatives.

Adopting a digital first approach and learning new data and tools skills all take time, but it’s crucial that finance continues to progress its adoption of digital technologies and ensures it’s leveraging the full functionality of the tools it already uses. This will help finance access better business insights and to support the case for wider transformative technology adoption in the future.

The research also revealed the technologies most widely adopted by finance to help them boost visibility on costs and business performance, including tools to support extended planning and analytics (xP&A) strategies and business intelligence/analytics software. Other growth areas include wider adoption of financial consolidation and close software as teams look to boost productivity. robotic process automation (RPA) also continues to grow in popularity with finance, and this technology trend looks set to continue.

With lots to gain from speeding up slow, laborious processes and the delivery of real-time business insights based on accurate data, finance has lots to gain from embracing their digital futures.

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