The Internet has taught us all that we can get what we want, when we want it.
As consumers, all the information, music, TV-series and goods we want are just a click away. In our work, email, online calendars, CRM systems, digital marketing software, collaboration software and many other online tools means we can get our work done when and where it suits us.
By this metric, business finance has done a poor job of going digital. It takes businesses on average 6 to 10 days to tell management how much they have earned and spent in a month and that is 6 to 10 days after the month has already finished. Paying an invoice takes 10 days on average and agreeing budgets can take months.
Computing power isn’t the problem. Today’s finance systems can calculate budgets and actuals in micro-seconds. So what is the problem?
Why the lack of self-service is the root cause of finance failing to go digital
All the examples of successful digital tools listed above have one thing in common: they are completely self-service.
Nobody at Netflix starts the movie when you hit the button and nobody at Google curates your ads to make sure they have maximum impact with the right search users.
While that sounds silly, that is exactly what finance people still do in most businesses.
Month ends take 6 - 10 days because finance people need to chase people throughout the organisation for the latest invoices and approvals. Paying an invoice takes up to 10 days because finance needs to check with people in the business if it can be paid.
The most important realisation is that the finance team isn’t the “self” in “self-service”. Finance doesn’t know what will be earned or spent when. Only people in the business know. To make finance truly digital, what is therefore required is to make finance self-service for those business users and take the finance people out of the loop.
This self-service should cover both data input (budgets, forecasts, PO’s, goods received, invoices etc.) and data output (sales reports, budget reports etc.).
That doesn’t mean businesses no longer need a finance team. Financing the business, reviewing budgets, evaluating budget scenarios and optimising working capital all still require a strong finance team. It only means finance no longer has to do the data entry and chasing.
So why isn’t finance self-service yet?
One reason is that finance systems weren’t designed to be used by non-finance people. In fact, even finance people themselves require a significant amount of training to be able to use them
Another reason we found is that many finance teams worry about making finance self-service. The main concern is that non-finance people won’t be able to self-serve because it is too complicated for them or because it isn’t their priority. Other, often unspoken concerns from the finance team are a loss of control.
How smart technology can make finance self-service
At Yordex, we offer a finance system that is designed for self-service.
Our our unique smart order and smart budget technology guides non-finance users through the process. By linking budgets to orders to payments, Yordex knows who needs to do what when and can remind users whenever they need to do something. The system will take the user directly to the right place in the system to complete that task.
This approach makes self-service finance simple, controlled and real-time:
- Simple because non-finance users aren’t confused by 100s of functions they will never need
- Controlled because people can only do what they were allowed to do
- Real time because the system will continue to remind users when actions are due and because the resulting real time data is then used to keep reports always up-to-date
Everyone wins with self-service. Finance benefits from getting data faster and having to spend less time on data entry. Management benefits from getting reports in real time and from increased financial ownership and accountability in the business. Teams benefit from getting things done faster.
We would love to hear from back from you. Which finance processes do you believe are best suited for self-service ? What do you see as the biggest benefits? What is stopping you from making finance more self-service?