Today’s finance teams are under more pressure than ever before. In a world marked by volatility, the Office of the CFO is playing an increasingly strategic role. Finance is responsible for knowing where their business stands today, and also for mapping out the road ahead. In the wake of the pandemic, businesses face supply chain challenges, price volatility, and a shortage of qualified talent. Finance departments must guide their organizations into the future, even as the ground continues to shift beneath their feet.
This is a challenge; but it’s also an opportunity to shine. Finance teams that embrace this strategic imperative and equip themselves with the right tools will play a pivotal role, driving successful business results amid disruption and uncertainty.
The Challenge to Do More With Less
A key consequence of the pandemic has been the so-called “Great Resignation.” Prompted by disruptions to their work, travel, and their children’s education, many have taken this opportunity to pause and reflect on their priorities. Some have left the workforce altogether. The competition for remaining talent has been intense. As businesses struggle to contain costs, finance teams are getting leaner. That, in turn, has led to some significant challenges.
At the same time, business agility has emerged as a key factor in the success of many businesses. Finance has played an essential role in adjusting to the changes that have taken place over the past two years. When the pandemic changed virtually everything in early 2020, business leaders were compelled to abruptly pivot to adjust to the new normal. Manufacturers reconfigured their production lines. Restaurants shifted quickly to offer take-out meals. Service providers found ways to attend to their clients’ needs remotely.
Each of those changes required that someone analyze the situation, export the potential financial outcomes, and determine how best to move forward. Without clear direction from finance, business leaders would have been acting on pure speculation. Now, as uncertainty continues, that strategic financial perspective is just as important.
The Office of the CFO is being called on to run faster and leaner, and with greater strategic impact than ever before. All of this translates to more work, with fewer human resources. Fortunately, there are ways that finance teams can mitigate these challenges. With the right tools, they can automate processes, eliminate manual effort, and focus on high-value activities.
Manual Reporting Tools and Processes
Reporting and analysis have always been critical elements of the finance function, but the recent shift toward increased strategic focus means that finance teams must step up their capabilities in this respect.
Manual reporting tools and processes are a drag on productivity. They slow the flow of information, leading to decreased business agility. Manual processes also tend to introduce errors. That can lead to bad decisions, as leaders rely on analysis that simply doesn’t reflect reality.
Consider how manual processes typically work. The first step is to run a report in the source system that contains your data. That’s usually your enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, but you might also need to pull information from a separate Customer Relationship Management (CRM) system, or from a specialized inventory or billing application. In any case, someone needs to export the data from that report, then import it into a spreadsheet. That’s followed by sorting and filtering, deleting rows or columns, formatting the remaining data, and adding formulas.
All of those are manual processes, and it can be very easy to overlook something along the way. If data contains new rows that weren’t in last month’s report, for example, it can invalidate formulas that were already in the spreadsheet. If a row is accidentally deleted during the cleanup process, it could result in missing data and inaccurate totals. Formatting issues can lead to problems when it’s time to filter or sort the information. We have heard of numerous real-world examples in which these kinds of errors had devastating financial consequences.
There is another important problem with this manual export/import or copy-and-paste approach to reporting and analysis; it doesn’t provide business leaders with the most current information. From the moment you export data from the source system, it’s obsolete. The resulting reports don’t reflect any new transactions. That means you don’t have real-time visibility to what’s happening in the business. In a world that calls for increased agility, that can be a major problem.
The Right Tools Make All the Difference
With the right financial reporting tools, you can eliminate the tedious manual processes that act as a drag on productivity. You can free up your best people to focus on high value activities. Instead of spending their time copying, pasting, and checking for errors, your financial experts can concentrate their energies on strategic projects. They can focus on analyzing information, drawing conclusions, and advising top management.
Spreadsheet Server from insightsoftware empowers your team to deliver real-time financial reports and perform ad hoc analysis directly within Microsoft Excel. Spreadsheet Server connects to over 140 different ERP systems, allowing finance professionals to integrate live data directly within Excel. It gives users access to new Excel functions that pull data from one or more source systems in real time. Imagine, for example, adding a formula to Excel that includes the year-to-date balance from a specific General Ledger account. Simply by refreshing the formulas in the spreadsheet, a user can incorporate up-to-the-minute information from the ERP system into their Excel-based financial reports.
Spreadsheet Server offers deep, transactional level drilldowns. Researching a variance no longer requires a user to set aside what they’re doing, switch over to the ERP system, and manually look up the details behind a balance or transaction. With Spreadsheet Server, the information is just a click or two away.
Spreadsheet Server is designed for finance, with built-in ERPsmarts. Creating new reports is as simple as using Excel, so there’s no need to involve IT or highly trained super-users to design a new report or change an existing one. Spreadsheet Server can be installed and implemented rapidly, delivering value to your finance team in just days.