First mover advantage: What role can finance teams play?
Spotting opportunities has always been an important role of the finance team. Even in the face of an unprecedented event like Covid-19, where safeguarding the business to protect the operation, jobs and long-term viability is the number one priority - a good finance team should always be able to balance its responsibilities.
In the last two months businesses have faced some desperately difficult circumstances and have had to completely transform the way they work. Customer habits, either with a positive or negative impact on revenue, will have also significantly changed since before lockdowns were imposed. It has by no means been an easy period for anyone in business, but what it will have done is give finance professionals a real chance to show their worth. The easiest way to do that is to be proactive - at a time when the business is largely having to be reactive.
The situation has thrown a spotlight on fast finance. It will have opened many finance team’s eyes to whether the tools, processes and practices they have in place are suited to volatile trading conditions.
Partly driven by finance teams, partly driven by decision makers, reporting will have had to increase to show business leaders the numbers on a day-by-day basis. Finance professionals will have had to get their microscopes out so to speak to look at the financial data in far greater detail, pinpointing key touch points so they can advise the business. Without the right tools to be able to do this, it will have posed a great challenge to finance teams looking to protect the business and find new opportunities in tandem.
In turn this will hamper any businesses’ attempt to implement ‘first mover advantage’ strategies. It’s by no means a new term, but at a time like this it’s likely that any fast thinking business will be looking to capitalise on markets where competitors might not be faring so well, or where changing conditions suddenly open up new avenues to explore. Without a finance team backing them with the numbers, it’s almost impossible for a business to make quick decisions to jump on opportunities.
So how can finance teams help their business to take opportunities?
Analysing the situation
When finance teams are looking for opportunities for the business, it could be to do with resources, it could be product based, or even a combination of both. In a situation like this, it’s likely businesses will find that a whole division or a certain product will suddenly be in much less demand - leaving capacity. So, can you repurpose the headcount to areas where they are needed?
Take for example Access’ table booking system for hospitality customers. It helps with blocking out tables that are reserved in a restaurant. So, actually how can that system be repurposed for offices if we need to social distance for an extended period of time when we do head back to our desks? Could it be used as a way to block out desks to help organise who can sit where, safely?
When we spot those opportunities, we then need to analyse resources. Who do we need to repurpose the project to turn it around and where do people in the business have capacity? This is exactly where finance teams can show their worth.
Like I mentioned, of course we need to safeguard the assets - but a good finance team has to be proactive. It’s this kind of thinking that can back your business to create new streams of revenue that are likely to help boost the company’s overall recovery.
Investing In Tech
Finance teams that had already invested in tech, will have been much better positioned to support their business throughout Covid-19. If a business hasn't invested in accounting tools to support their finance team – it’s likely they’d have more manual processes. And obviously in this situation, the more human interaction you would need, the less that would be possible to do, as it wouldn’t be safe to do so.
Some processes would need to have workarounds that take much longer and some wouldn’t be possible at all. This hinders fast finance and would provide obstacles to the finance team getting information to decision makers in tight turnaround times.
The whole business world has been shaken by these unprecedented times, but for businesses that have not invested in automation and accounting solutions, they are likely now seeing the need to invest. As a result, the current situation will no doubt have opened their eyes to the need to be better equipped to respond to events with similar impacts in future.
For any business that wants to make key moves, to build momentum to recover from the impact of Covid-19, it will need to back its finance team and make sure they have the right tools to help turn opportunities into revenue.