Will Covid-19 responses permanently change how Finance teams work?
3rd Jun 2020
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If you look back to last year, before the current crisis began, just how positive and proactive was your finance department regarding change? For those who had the business support and resources to stay at the forefront of new technology, embracing change was likely to be a key part of the underlying company culture. But in reality, many more finance departments have been happy to proceed as they have always done with varying levels of non-digital approaches included in their day-to-day functions. However, this current crisis has put the spotlight on inefficiency – and that has been an uncomfortable position for some Finance Directors to defend.
In between focusing on cashflow and making the multitude of daily decisions needed to navigate the business finances through the current turbulence, some Finance Directors are pausing to consider whether the ways in which things have always been done is still the right way to go forward. After the huge amount of disruption every business has had to face over the last few weeks, perhaps now is in fact the ideal time to take a leap and make some significant and lasting changes.
Enforced remote working has been the catalyst for a shift in thinking
Overnight, the home working requirement turned the traditional finance department status quo on its head and, in the process, revealed vulnerabilities and inefficiencies which had not been exposed quite so publicly before. Finance professionals in countless businesses are now questioning quirks in their departments such as why cheques are still processed, why remote working has never been committed to or explored as a feasible option, and why so much record-keeping is done with hard copies?
Now that those questions are being asked, there is every possibility that different outcomes could also be planned for now. Businesses are already thinking about how their operations and working environments must change in order to move things forward towards a new ‘post-Covid-19’ normality. It makes sense to also explore changes that bring added benefits to the finance team in the process.
A move to cloud technology would offer far greater flexibility
There is no denying that hosting software and business data in the cloud brings a multitude of benefits with it - that’s why so many businesses made the transition before now. And the concerns that some have had about security and cost have long been resolved. The likelihood is that IT leads need to look at flexible and cost-effective options going forward, so moving to the cloud makes sound business sense.
Introduce more automation
Experts in finance technology circles have long debated the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on the function of finance in the future. Having drawn attention to where inefficiency exists in finance, the pandemic response may also boost progress towards a more automated and efficient future.
Permanently incorporate some remote working
In the past, Finance professionals may well have felt that they needed to work in physical proximity – tracking the progress of paper orders or invoices meant that teams were set up to pass it from desk to desk as each element of the process was conducted. In the digital age, that no longer needs to happen; the need for everyone to sit in the same building is no longer a core requirement either.
Having seen over the last few weeks what is possible, maybe the time has finally arrived for finance professionals to embrace the possibilities of remote working as a long-term choice? This may even be part of a widescale company assessment of increased remote working. There would clearly be benefits such as the potential for reduced office space and the associated infrastructure costs as a result of lower workforce numbers to accommodate for example. It’s certainly food for thought.