Five tips to maximising your finance function’s productivity

This article was originally published 10 March 2021, and was updated 21 June 2022.

Today’s Chief Financial Officers (CFOs) often face the never-ending challenge of maximising and increasing the value the finance function provides to the organisation. If you are a CFO and you feel like you are fighting against a rising tide – know that you are not alone.

Increasing regulatory obligations, technological changes and the ongoing challenges of attracting and retaining skilled staff, have led to finance executives and teams often playing catch up when it comes to adding strategic value to stakeholders within the organisation. 

To compete and thrive in this environment, CFOs should rethink and optimise their finance and corporate function. This includes identifying and addressing the productivity roadblocks that exist in almost every organisation, from early stage entrepreneurial companies, rapid growth sectors, right through to large corporate, multinational groups and public sector organisations.

BDO’s Financial Management Consulting team have compiled the top five things finance and corporate departments should implement to optimise their value and remove productivity blockers.

1. Delegate more effectively

Build a high performance team and leverage technology.

A report by London Business School found only 30 per cent of managers believe they can delegate efficiently. The reason was not because they doubt the value of focusing more of their time on strategic tasks, it’s that managers don’t trust their team members can successfully execute some of the non-core tasks.

The same can be said for building capability and trust in non-financial operational resources, however this doesn’t come without an investment of your time.

The importance of finance business partnering is only increasing with the drivers for timely information and the ability to self-source. It is critical that our finance leaders partner with their operational counterparts to ensure that they understand the financial information, implications and correlation to operations so that they are able to make informed decisions – not just decisions using information.

A willingness to build capability pays significantly greater dividends and enables more strategic thinking in your role.

2. Be proactive and forward looking when using financial data

Focus on extracting and analysing real time data.

The finance function of the future won’t prioritise looking backwards at quarterly or yearly financial reports. The adoption of real-time connectivity and cloud-powered tools have made it possible to monitor and analyse activities in nearly all parts of your organisation both on the move and as they happen.

Having access to real time data that provides a holistic view of the organisation’s relationships with its suppliers and customers, facilitates the basis for productive conversations and informed decisions. This avoids decisions that could send finance executives down the wrong path.

3. Leverage data analytics and the cloud

The status quo can hold you back. Leverage and embrace change.

Many organisations continually rely on legacy accounting and financial systems and processes. A reluctance to invest the time and energy needed to adopt new tools can be a significant blocker, but what are the impacts on an organisation’s competitiveness? In an era of disruption, can you afford to stand still? 

You must recognise that investments in the implementation of and learning a new system or process will have on an organisation’s efficiency, paying dividends in terms of streamlining operations and decision-making.

Yes, change can be hard, but not making changes that maximise efficiency, costs much more time in the long run.

4. Maximise existing capabilities

Take time to fully utilise the functionality of your existing tools.

Finance functions today often have access to tools that can streamline or automate financial processes. These may already be embedded in an organisation’s technology tools, but we often encounter organisation’s that honestly say they do not have the time or resources to explore the full functionality available. Software vendors will continually add valuable features, new integrations and plugins that can further automate processes and eliminate unnecessary manual entries. But how can organisational leaders keep on top of the updates?

As a CFO, leaning on an adviser team equipped with the knowledge of your sector and an in depth knowledge of financial and accounting platforms can help you unlock the full power of your existing tools, and quickly scale the learning curve for these new features.

5. Properly capture and document your use of systems and processes

Test, test and re-test to improve the ways your finance function performs.

The old saying goes “if you can’t measure it, you can’t improve it”. That’s why failure to document finance and accounting processes can result in a loss of knowledge and could be lost with the individual team members, should they decide to move on. Taking the time to detail end-to-end processes will allow organisations to identify gaps, ways to make workflows more efficient through automation, and other technology-driven tools. 

Organisational leaders must remember that processes aren’t set in stone. It pays dividends to regularly revisit workflows and lean on your team to support new ways to streamline and optimise them.

Look to your advisers to keep you abreast of new technology that has become available and be sure to ask for their input at an early stage to ensure any implementation is bespoke to your business.

Our Financial Management Consulting team supports finance functions in identifying improvements across people, processes and systems, delivering solutions appropriate to the size, scale and ambitions of your organisation.

If you are looking for a specialist financial management team to help your organisation confidently identify the right tools and processes to optimise your accounting and finance operations, or would like to learn more, contact us today.