“Change is the only constant in life.” These were the wise words of Greek philosopher Heraclitus, and they hit closer to home now than ever before. The COVID-19 pandemic shook up the world and work as we knew it, leaving many organizations scrambling to figure out how to survive and what to do next.
But as vaccination rates pick up and countries continue opening up their borders, we’re one step closer to discovering what a normal, post-pandemic work environment may look like.
This paradigm shift hasn’t been easy for anyone to navigate. But some teams have had it harder than others. For example, while Marketing may not have fundamentally changed due to the pandemic, most Finance teams—which have relied on outdated, legacy systems and solutions for decades—have finally been turned upside down.
Is your business the same as it was before the pandemic?
The post-pandemic world has made us far better acquainted with remote work, digital solutions, and new skill sets some of us may have taken for granted.
Successful and resilient companies saw this coming years ago and were busy transforming their workflows and shoring up new talent in case something unpredictable like the pandemic happened. They were ready to weather the storm.
But now that the pandemic tides are finally receding, we can take a step back and try to see what the new business landscape will look like for the next 2-5 years. It’s the perfect time to rethink, reimagine, and reassess how Finance works—and what they should be working on.
Want to set your company up for success in this new world? Here’s how any finance team can effectively navigate our strange new environment and help take their companies to the next level.
1. Optimize for and support remote work
During the pandemic, many companies embraced remote working out of necessity while counting down the days before they could return to the office. But remote work is here to stay—at least in a hybrid format.
In fact, studies show most employees prefer remote work because it’s flexible, with over a third of employees stating they would take a 5% pay cut to work remotely at least some of the time.
And from a cost-management perspective, optimizing workflows and tech stacks to support remote workers is a win-win for everyone. On average, companies can save around $11,000 per work-from-home employee.
By planning ahead, budgeting properly, and forecasting far into the future, organizations can optimize office space usage, reduce rents, lower overhead costs, and access broader talent pools, increase employee productivity and retention, and even humanize work.
Using expense management solutions that offer better spend data aggregation and analysis can also help. Enjoy remote work-related cost savings, centralize and streamline legacy spend systems, and capture the most up-to-date data for unbeatable visibility into spend opportunities.
2. Transform your Finance function
Newer technologies and best practices have allowed innovative companies to stay in business despite the unprecedented disruption caused by COVID-19. For example:
- Office-based workforces learned very quickly to work remotely.
- Brick-and-mortar business models now operate mostly online.
- Companies that dealt with supply chain snarls took the time to automate their processes to improve top line growth, reduce expenses, and secure profit margins.
Whatever the case, the companies that survived the pandemic all had one thing in common: they were either prepared for the pandemic, or they were forced to digitally transform their operations, and—if needed—their entire business model.
Finance was no exception. A critical part of this digital transformation was better data analytics and workflow automation solutions. Automation ensures that tedious and time-consuming tasks are taken care of, freeing up employees for more productive, impactful work.
For instance, automating reconciliations can speed up the process of manual data compilation and analysis, while building in internal checks can ensure compliant spending and reduce processing costs.
In fact, according to Business Insider’s Accounts Payable (AP) report, companies using automated AP reports “see 81% lower processing costs and 73% faster processing cycle times” than those that don’t.
This is where better data analytics tools really shine in the right hands. When finance team members have more time to analyze clean and reliable data, they can uncover spending insights that could lead to consequential business decisions and lasting ROI. These insights can range from identifying intriguing sale trends for new SKUs to highlighting how cost-effective a remote team can be.
Whatever your data ends up telling you, achieving better spend visibility is vital for finance teams. It’s the only way decision-makers can confidently allocate capital for long-term projects and investments. Ideally, automation and data analytics work hand in hand to help finance teams make more effective and transformative decisions.
3. Foster a strategic, growth-oriented mindset
The pandemic shook up traditional finance roles more than any event in recent memory. CFOs, controllers, accountants, and everyone in between have had to take a long, hard look at what they do for work each day and ask themselves how they can improve.
Put another way, in an era of volatility, it’s not enough to know how to read the numbers—you have to be able to interpret them as a strategic advisor for decision-makers. This is why fostering a growth mindset isn’t just a “nice thing to have,” it’s an absolute necessity for finance leaders that want to help their companies stay in business—especially in times of crisis.
According to Harvard Business Review, “Individuals who believe their talents can be developed (through hard work, good strategies, and input from others) have a growth mindset.” Fostering a growth mindset in your organization could mean encouraging finance team members to be more willing to step outside their comfort zones and learn and embrace new skills.
By offering opportunities for employees to upskill themselves and cross-train outside of their traditional job descriptions, companies create a culture of learning that leads to a more flexible, adaptable workforce. In challenging times, this can prove particularly useful as more employees can step up to the proverbial plate and tackle problems normally outside of their purview.
That being said, this kind of resilient “role stretching” is only possible when finance team members are freed up to focus on the ideas, problems, and initiatives that matter the most. If your finance team is always bogged down by the equivalent of financial manual labor, they will not have the opportunity to perform more meaningful, empowering work.
Don’t miss opportunities to improve and humanize work
Nearly two years have passed since the pandemic first struck our shores. If you feel like your organization could have handled things better, take the time to ask your team these exploratory questions:
- How did my organization respond to the pandemic?
- What about the finance team?
- Were we prepared from a tech standpoint?
- Were our employees ready to face the challenge?
- Do we have the right tools and systems in place now?
By answering these questions in great detail, you’ll be able to identify the gaps (if any) where your Finance function could use improvement. More often than not, outdated, legacy systems tend to hold finance teams back far more than any talent gap could.
Are your current expense management and data analytics solutions the best tools available to you today? Doing some quick, objective research could be the difference between treading water and swimming safely to shore the next time there’s a crisis like the pandemic.
If it’s time for an upgrade, don’t miss this opportunity to scale up your Finance function and upskill your workforce. There’s always more room to capture cost savings, reduce vulnerabilities, and improve operational efficiencies. Perhaps most importantly—there’s always a way to make the work your team does every day more meaningful and impactful.
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Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.