Many finance departments and CFOs would like to expedite the financial close, according to the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA). If that’s the case, your finance team may also be facing other obstacles with painstaking hours, manual work, and processes that are prone to human error. As a business systems leader at your organization, you most likely have already received several requests from finance to automate processes.
In fact, according to The State of Business Technology Report, 71% of Business Technology leaders said that Finance Automations contribute to their backlog. But who is truly responsible for financial automation? Your team or the stakeholders?
The answer is both. You’re fulfilling a need that they have and you need to be able to determine which stakeholders will be the most helpful in creating solutions that’ll benefit the financial organization.
Here are a few quick tips you can use to identify them (and which questions to ask).
1. Find Out Which Stakeholders Have the Immediate Plan
A first step you can take to identify stakeholders is to figure out what pain you are solving. Is there a specific process that your finance team has been struggling with? Who knows that process inside and out? Those are the people you should connect with first. It can be easy to rush to automate, but Jason Pikoos, lead partner of finance ops at Connor Group, explained in a recent webinar that automation isn’t the goal – solving the pains and problems is.
For example, in the same webinar, Mike Flynn, principal software engineer at Rapid7, explained that his finance team initially asked him to automate sending out invoices but when he did, they didn’t see the value. They actually needed to know things such as if the invoice was ready to be sent and if all the tax information was correct for international customers, among other prerequisites. They had deeper pains than just pressing send, and Flynn had to learn those pains to start building automations that the team would truly benefit from.
2. Talk to Those Stakeholders to Create a New Process
Once you have the pain identified, if the underlying process your finance team is using is not working efficiently (in any way), then it’s time to create a new one. As stressed in the webinar mentioned previously, automating on top of a bad process isn’t helpful. You have to first determine what you want the process to look like (or do), what systems need to be integrated, as well as the users/teams who need access and other features you’d like to have before you can introduce automation to make the process faster and/or easier to maneuver.
You can learn other examples and strategies for identifying new processes here >
3. Identify Other Stakeholders the New Process Will Affect
Now it’s time to ask yourself: If I automate this process, whom else will it affect? In the same webinar, Joe Blanchett of financial systems at SeatGeek, gave some examples of groups your financial processes may impact:
- If your process affects FP&A (financial planning and analysis), he recommends connecting with those individuals.
- If you’re automating payments or sending notifications to consumers or business partners, you should loop in someone from the business community – whether it’s from the inventory team or someone else in the consumer organization.
- If your process gets into custom databases that engineers or product teams have built, you should reach out to them.
- You may have to work with engineers throughout the project lifecycle.
In all, Blanchett stressed knowing who owns what piece of the process you’re automating and connecting with them. It’s important to not just have stakeholders from your finance team or business systems team, but also determine which other departments your automations will touch and appropriately looping in those individuals.
Are You Ready to Automate?
As we’ve seen, automation is not just your team’s responsibility. The obligation also falls on those who experience the pain, and those whom your process improvements affect cross-functionally. Looping in your stakeholders is a big step toward creating automations that add value to your organization and bettering your finance team’s employee experience.
Want to learn whom Systems leaders are talking to at their organizations to drive financial automation (and how they’re doing it)? Request to Join Our Community >
This is part 2 of our ‘How to Close Your Books Faster’ Series. Read part 1: