Some of the world’s major technology vendors forecast the challenges ahead and outline what they are doing for finance professionals in 2016.
As is customary at the start of each year news bulletins are packed with predictions about how technology will revolutionise the way we work.
Decision makers in the finance department have been alerted to a spate of new possibilities including cloud technology, process integration and big data analytics that will give them the information they need to make better decisions.
For finance managers and their software suppliers alike this simple tech-enabled vision remains their ultimate destination: attaining the Shangri La where they play a strategic role in innovating their company towards growth and prosperity.
In real life, however, things are different. Finance managers are still grappling with compliance headaches, including the new UK GAAP (FRS 102), auto enrolment and various other day-to-day niggles that hold them back from becoming the visionary FDs they always dreamed they’d be.
AccountingWEB turned to some of the leading business software developers to find out what they were doing in 2016 to help finance managers get where they want to go.
“We envisage a number of trends building in 2016. Firstly, continued scrutiny on governance, risk and compliance (GRC) will continue to impact strategies, and secondly finance professionals will seek to enhance their strategic planning and forecasting in the quest to seek out increased profitability as markets climb at a steady pace - all whilst keeping an eye on efficiencies and reducing total cost of ownership (TCO) of their IT systems.
“In response to these trends, Infor is continuously investing in capabilities which support and facilitate improvements in these areas.
“Infor’s GRC solution, Approva, provides continuous monitoring and auditing software that enables finance, business, IT and audit to reduce risk and increase business efficiency in response to legislation. For example, as part of the Bribery Act 2010, organisations are liable for failing to prevent a person from bribing on their behalf, but only if that person performs services for you in business. There is a full defence if a company can show they had adequate procedures in place to prevent bribery, therefore as the risk landscape increases, FDs are looking to systems which help to mitigate their exposure.
“As strategic planning, forecasting and budgeting remains high on the agenda, we anticipate increased demand for Infor’s dEPM analytics solution, which can unlock substantial value for finance professionals looking to make informed decisions on investments and development plans.
“Disparate data sources resulting in corrupt, and therefore unusable, data is another problem many organisations will look to address in 2016 with help from specialist solutions.
“Finally we are seeing cloud adoption explode, as organisations seek to invest in new technologies tailored for their industry, exploit mobile access, embrace social technologies and boost analytics, while crucially, keeping TCO low.”
– Jon Casey, Northern Europe financial solutions director, Infor
“We have recently rolled out a number of enhancements to the core NetSuite product that accountants are going to welcome in 2016 and beyond.
“These enhancements include: multibook accounting features that automate the manual effort of ensuring accounting transactions meet local standards, as well as global reporting requirements that empower controllers to manage their local period close reporting requirements with per book period end close; automated exchange rate updates for all 190+ ISO currencies; and sophisticated revenue recognition.
“Moreover, we will continue to work to find new and innovative ways for accountants to leverage the NetSuite cloud. For example, the NetSuite Accounting Program allows accountants to work with NetSuite customers via a free, single-seat access to their account that lets them review financial reports and monitor key financial processes while also providing discounted training. Additionally, our Business Process Outsourcing partner program enables accountants to work with clients of any size, from $2m in revenue to $2bn.
“Numerous businesses and accounting firms have already seen the benefits of working with NetSuite and participating in the revenue streams associated with our cloud-based delivery model and we expect greater participation and success in 2016.”
– Craig West, Vice President of Channel Sales, NetSuite
“In today’s hyper-connected world, businesses can be affected by events that take place virtually anywhere. At a time where the ramifications of change are spreading at such a fast pace, the ability for businesses to react to change quickly and strategically has never been more important.
“A symptom of working in this environment is that companies everywhere are taking measures to make themselves as ‘uncertainty-proof’ as possible – a process that begins with the ability to react with agility to rapid change in the market.
“Given the volatility of the last twelve months, it is perhaps not surprising that we’ve seen such an uptake of cloud Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) tools within the finance department. Big and sudden changes can have a significant impact on factors like borrowing, debt exposure, revenue predictions, and workforce.
“In order to respond effectively, business must be able to understand, quantify, and manage value throughout their organisation. 2015 saw a swift uptake of cloud technology by finance departments to simplify and shorten complex back office processes like planning, budgeting, and forecasting.
“Of course technology alone is by no means a sort of adjunct to disaster recovery. Its real value lies in the way in which it delivers visibility across the organisation’s assets and value. That’s why cloud back office systems are as well-suited to lines of business like sales and marketing as they are to the finance department.
“Certainly, finance has pioneered the use of EPM and has a great deal to teach other departments about how the technology can make them more agile. That, I’m happy to predict, will be the story of 2016: more business units tapping into new back office capabilities for themselves.”
– Nigel Youell, Director of Product Marketing, Enterprise Performance Management
"2016 will see reporting stay high up on the financial director’s agenda, with a good dose of data analytics thrown in for good measure.
"Auto enrolment will become a requirement for many small and micro businesses. While any payroll software worth its salt will complete the assessment of the workers, companies will need robust tools to extract personnel and pensions data from their payroll systems, and import it into appropriate formats to report to groups of workers. For example, data must be extracted from the payroll system and merged with the letters provided by the Pensions Regulator, and this cannot be done exclusively within the payroll system.
"As such we anticipate increased demand for robust reporting capabilities such as those provided by Pegasus XRL, our award winning BI solution, as companies seek to complete this process as efficiently as possible.
"For larger companies, the majority have already fulfilled their auto enrolment responsibilities, but reporting remains a top priority. In early 2016 the government is publishing draft regulations for gender pay reporting, which again will require companies to access payroll data, extract it and input into an appropriate format in readiness for audits. As the need to strip out inefficiencies prevails, streamlining reporting through capitalising on tools such as Pegasus XRL will be paramount."
– Stuart Anderson, director, sales and marketing
“Today’s finance and accounting departments are expected to be much more than just a book keeping and reporting service for the business. Today’s CFOs need to be strategic leaders who can adopt, leverage and promote new innovations that help their businesses to thrive. To achieve this, they must have access to real-time, forward-looking information. Thanks to big data, this is now possible, but finance leaders can’t afford to sit still – they need to go beyond the data into the insights they provide.
“SAP S/4HANA Finance offers a built-in ability to use prediction, simulation and analysis to evaluate the financial implications of strategic business options. By having one common view of financial and operational data, decision makers can ensure enterprise-wide consistency and reduce reconciliation time and errors. The system can be delivered in a way that makes sense to the business – be that on premise, hybrid or a cloud deployment.
“There’s also a huge value proposition for businesses using SAP S/4HANA Finance, including better corporate alignment and agility, by giving end-user access to insights, lower costs for manual report generation and data reconciliation, and reduced requests for custom reports. Better use of data also means more effective management of working capital and financial risks, as well as lower operational risks from fraud and other noncompliance activities. These insights and values bring financial leaders to their rightful place as a central player in the success of the business.
“SAP Cloud for Analytics for Planning delivers the analytical power that finance needs to support the business in driving profitable growth. Built on the SAP Cloud for Analytics solution, the SAP Digital Boardroom empowers senior leadership to monitor and manage operations in real time with actionable information available at their fingertips.”
– David Ormerod SAP EMEA Business Development Expert
2016 will see an increased adoption of cloud-based finance solutions, like our recently launched aCloud Financials. It’s aimed at growing companies looking to move away from point accounting systems to embrace a business suite that provides a central source of financial knowledge for the organisation, while connecting to other parts of the business.
Access Group works with 10,000 UK customers in a number of key verticals, such as NFP, professional services, supply chain and health & social care, and is seeing a growing demand for cloud accounting solutions. Business costs fall as there is no longer a reliance on in-house IT teams and customers only pay for what they use, avoiding large investments in on-premise software. Last year, 42% of IT decision makers decided to increase spend on cloud technology (reference: Computerworld 2015 forecast).
Due to market demands Access is launching an NFP specific version of aCloud Financials offering; VAT Partial Exemption, SOFA reporting and volunteer expenses management.
Smaller businesses are no less complex than bigger businesses and sometimes have more moving parts. Processes may not be so tight, and they often have to be more reactive. Not having enterprise-level reporting can limit these companies, so we’ve developed a cloud-based finance solution that offers this.
There’s a growing requirement for non-finance users using finance solutions, so Access is offering time & bill modules, where a non-finance user can submit expenses, purchase orders and timesheets. Access Group will continue to build on our 20 years’ experience of providing finance solutions to offer the SME market the ideal finance solution.
– Josh Gilbertson, head of aCloud, Access Group