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  • Writer's pictureCaroline Brie

Making Your Finance Team Pain Free in The New Year

Pain is an inevitable part of any job. We all hear from a young age, “No pain, no gain” and readily assume that unpleasantness and tedious tasks are an inevitable component of our path to success. But if you’re working in corporate finance, that disparaging phrase is fortunately not entirely true (and is becoming increasingly false). You and your peers have likely wasted hours in the past on a plethora of manual methods, be it trudging through spreadsheets, making the futile attempt at analyzing data across systems and applications, or trying your hardest at adopting a software system only to fail your digital transformation after 6 months. The good news is that if you choose the correct FP&A software, you can eliminate all of this aforementioned pain in your work. The following will flesh out the most important criteria to consider when adopting innovative software technologies in your attempt to make your finance team’s work life easier.

5 Criteria When Selecting a New Software

1. User-Friendliness:

This is such a simple and obvious need, but a rare reality. Neither finance nor its partners in the business needs another tool that they struggle to navigate around. Your ideal scenario is an intuitive FP&A solution free of bottlenecks, troubleshooting, and guarded access. If the software does turn out to be excessively complex, it can become underutilized and even make performing tasks more difficult. Some software systems attempt to do too many functions which can be detrimental to end-users who are trying to perform complex tasks. A superior software will balance its versatility with the ease of its use.

This is one reason for Excel’s continued use among finance departments. The interface is easy to understand and can perform a variety of tasks (not to mention, that an overwhelming majority in corporate finance are already familiar with it). Software that requires significant training will almost certainly result in a scenario where many users are not competent and a few become so-called “superusers.”

Once this scenario arises, it will only serve to slow down the processes involved in FP&A and can actually have significant cost implications. Carefully consider how users interface with the software and whether or not the task they are currently performing is more efficient as a result of using the application.

2. Data Security:

The question of security looms large as firms make decisions regarding their workforce. We live in an era of scammers, hackers, and corporate espionage. Security risks can affect whether firms decide to go with a remote or in-person style of work.

Cloud-based FP&A software has built-in security functions which might persuade some organizations to move to hybrid or fully remote as there is less risk of data-loss due to theft or misplacement. Cloud apps have a full-time interest in protecting and encrypting data to protect it from internal and external threats. RapidShare has found that 94% of companies felt that their security was improved after switching to cloud-based platforms.

3. Implementation Time:

Choosing software that is a good fit for both your organization and your existing infrastructure is critical. Large software can often have significant implementation schedules that can span several months and even years depending on the size and scope of the project (Fact: most fp&a software systems take 6 months or longer to implement!).

Understanding if the system can integrate into your existing infrastructure is an important first step in identifying how long the implementation will take. The longer the project takes, the higher the cost associated with the implementation becomes. Included in that cost sink is the time taken away from finance, accounting, and IT staff to focus on implementation. One way to evade the excessive cost and time needed to support FP&A software implementation is to choose a solution that is cloud-based.

4. Data Analytics Features:

Analytics go so much deeper than surface level. Analytics should be embedded within a business process to guide and optimize performance and have an FP&A solution to match. Decision support lies in enterprise wide analytics efforts in order to dive into predictive analytics and maturity to focus on improvements to support simulation, optimization, statistical modeling and forecasting, and machine learning. An advanced FP&A solution should develop a framework that offers strong customization capabilities with visualization and reporting capabilities as it pertains to comparative analytics.

5. Integration Capabilities:

A good financial software will integrate with other products beyond its own solutions. A fast-evolving native integration of the solution can dive deeper between planning and analytics, for example, while improving response time with larger datasets. Fully actualized integration is source system specific while being secure. FP&A solutions are trending toward expanding their integration capabilities and ERP vendors are expanding their platform or integration capabilities (or both).

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