12 min read

How to prioritise finance transformation for medium sized businesses

Start your finance transformation, prioritise your roadmap, and get buy-in.
Article Image
By Harry Rix
Founder

So, you want to transform your department and take your business to the next level. But you and your finance team are under more pressure than ever before.

You're expected to be the ‘critical friends’ to all business units focusing on strategy. But your team has a sea of routine tasks to work through.

It doesn't help that you're being tasked with maintaining controls and compliance while transforming your department with little to no extra resources.

Being a financial leader is hard. And it's little surprise that 7 out of 10 transformation strategies fail.

At Expensemate, we know that you're facing an uphill battle. So we want to support finance teams like yours to successfully transform their finances.

To make it easier, we've created a framework and some guiding principles to help you identify and prioritise your projects.

  1. What is finance transformation?
  2. Principles for a successful transformation
  3. Getting Started
  4. Preparing your projects
  5. Building your roadmap
  6. What’s next?
  7. Our experience
  8. Conclusion

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What is finance transformation?

Finance transformation is when a finance team changes its systems, processes, and activities to add more value to an organisation.

Success doesn't come from simply taking a particular approach, such as centralisation, automation, and process improvement. To be successful you need to make smart decisions that have an impact.

Principles for a successful transformation

1. Align your finance strategy and business goals

Focus more on your unique business strategy and less on historical data and other organisations in the industry. Think about the tools and resources you need to achieve your strategic objectives.

2. Reimagine your finance department

How will your department operate in the future?

Look to use automation and delegation to remove low-value tasks and replace them with high-value activities which match your strategy and vision.

3. Manage expectations

If you try to delight all internal stakeholders, you risk over-promising and under-delivering.

For a successful finance transformation project, don't try to please everyone. Instead, try to shape customer expectations and push customers to choose between what they want and what they need.

4. Consider data governance and user adoption

Focus on developing your team and implementing processes as much as the transformation itself. It will Increase morale and your project will be more likely to succeed.

5. Use quick wins to show value

Change management is never simple. Activities like re-engineering processes, amending budgets, and training staff need major buy-in.

Start your transformation with quick wins that prove the value of your approach. And then move onto bigger strategic projects.

Getting Started

Unfortunately, there is no magic sauce or universal rollout plan when it comes to finance transformation. The first step is to observe your department and its tasks i.e. accounts receivables, payables, and expense management. Then map out your operations.

Next, evaluate the inefficiencies in your department by reviewing processes. Consider stakeholder's pain points, how systems and data flows are affected, document your findings, and present them to the team.

If a process rarely happens, use process mapping techniques to outline how your team operates and then validate your findings when the time arises.

It can be surprising to find what your co-workers are doing. Even highly experienced teams discover confusing practices.

Preparing your projects

Once you have identified all the pain points and inefficiencies in your processes, immediately cut out any activities that don't add value.

Next, review your business strategy and reflect on how your team can help to achieve it. Then work with your team to brainstorm ideas for future processes and tools.

Afterward, you should be able to conduct an early-stage business case review on all the project areas you highlighted.

You need to think of factors such as cost-saving, strategic fit, urgency, and risk and compliance. You don’t need to know the exact figures, as your ideas mature the details will become clearer.

Check out our savings calculator for an example of a cost-benefit analysis.

Building your roadmap

You should now be in a good position to prioritise the issues you need to address.

Start by plotting your issues on the matrix in figure 1.

Finance transformation matrix.jpg

Top tip: Consider your early-stage business cases and focus on the level of impact, or Y axis. Once the Y axis is complete, move onto the ease of implementation or X axis.

When plotting the X axis, think about the resources available to your team, off-the-shelf SaaS solutions, and any partners that could help you.

After completing your analysis, map out and prioritise the projects in your business:

Path to action

Prioritise these activities in your roadmap. Making progress here will help drive buy-in from your stakeholders for some of the tougher implementations to come and prove the value of your approach.

Strategic priorities

These activities have a high impact, but they are also the activities that are most difficult to get right.

Get one of these wrong at the start and you risk losing the buy-in on your transformation journey. So approach them with caution.

Quick wins

Quick wins can be good morale boosters, but make sure you choose initiatives that align with your strategic vision.

Long term cost savings

Only try these activities if they precede activities with more impact. If possible, try to break these projects down into smaller parts, to make them easier to implement.

What’s next?

Now you have an idea about where to start, plot your projects onto a visual roadmap, and share this with the team and other senior stakeholders across the business.

Then develop a detailed action plan for the first 30, 60, and 90 days with clear responsibilities and focuses to kick-start the transformation.

Remember to repeat this process every quarter.

Our experience

Expense management processes are often dated and manual. Traditional expense processes are becoming increasingly obsolete in a world of digitalisation and automation. The rise of home working mixed with subscriptions, e-commerce payments (with 3D Secure), and digital advertising make it even worse.

Expense reports, staff reimbursements and manually assigning nominal codes to transactions are frustrating and hold businesses back.

Using an expense management system can free up time for your financial transformation, prove value to stakeholders fast, and get off the ground with very little effort or technical complexity.

Expense management could help kick start your transformation.

Book a demo with one of our team to see how expense management software can help.

Conclusion

Finance transformation is a process that requires a significant amount of strategic thinking and planning to be successful.

It can be challenging, but there is no one better placed to understand the situation than you and your team.

Make time to observe tasks, re-evaluate the way things are done, and think about how to maximise effectiveness.

Prove value quickly and then move on to tackling some of the strategic priorities once you have buy-in from key stakeholders.

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About the author
Harry Rix

Passionate about solving customer problems, Harry Rix is shaping the product development and strategic direction of Expensemate first-hand.

A sixth-generation member of the Rix family, Harry learned his trade at Accenture before applying this knowledge and skills to the family business.

Passionate about solving customer problems, Harry Rix is shaping the product development and strategic direction of Expensemate first-hand.

A sixth-generation member of the Rix family, Harry learned his trade at Accenture before applying this knowledge and skills to the family business.

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