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Aligning CIO in finance automation: Key to new year success

Mon, 18th Dec 2023

Transformation initiatives that take place in silos don’t always go so well.

Will 2024 be the year your organisation finally says adieu to old school accounting programs and processes? For many Australian businesses, the answer is ‘yes, hopefully’.

For their part, finance leaders, both at home and abroad, are itching for change. The past 12 months have been arduous ones, as businesses have been forced to weather uncertainty, respond to rising inflation and interest rates, and brace for the recession that may still be heading our way in the new year.

It’s been a lot, and, in many instances, CFOs have borne the brunt. Not unpredictably, their interest in pursuing finance transformation initiatives has been piqued as a result: 82 per cent of finance leaders have reported heightened enthusiasm for modern accounting processes, according to the latest IDG Marketplace research. 

Obvious automation benefits

The case for switching from spreadsheets and manual accounting methods to a continuous accounting model has long been made out.

The term continuous accounting refers to a methodology for managing the accounting cycle digitally. It’s designed to distribute workloads evenly across the accounting period, eliminating the activity surge finance departments typically experience around close time.

The concept centres around three key principles: automating repetitive processes, eliminating end-of-period bottlenecks, increasing visibility and controls, and creating a culture of continuous improvement.

Continuous accounting virtually eliminates opportunities for human error to occur, making it both fast and highly accurate. 

Serious cost savings

Organisations that adopt it reduce their days to close to 70% on average, according to BlackLine research. Manual processing also goes down by 50 per cent.

In addition, continuous accounting provides business leaders with unprecedented visibility into the performance and financial position of their organisations. 

Knowledge is power, and having on-demand access to up-to-the-minute data and analytics can help leaders make smarter, faster decisions. That’s an extraordinary benefit, particularly in challenging economic times.

No guarantees

But the benefits of embracing finance automation aren’t automatically assured. Cautionary tales abound of ICT programs and projects that have turned out to be disruptive, expensive failures for the organisations in question, and resume’ blots for the individuals who’ve championed and overseen them.

Finance transformation programs and projects that go right, on the other hand, can supercharge efficiency and productivity. Relieving finance professionals of much of the repetitive work that’s traditionally been their lot can free them up to work on higher-value tasks. 

Invariably, the results of that change include improved employee engagement and retention and greater professional satisfaction for the individuals involved. That’s a win for organisations and workers alike. 

Teamwork works

These successful finance transformation initiatives tend to have one element in common, and that’s a rock-solid relationship between the finance and ICT leads.

Gartner has made a study of it. Their research suggests organisations where strong collaborative connections between the CFO and CIO are evident, are 51 per cent more likely to have funding for transformation projects approved quickly. 

Once projects have been given the green light, they’re 39% more likely to remain within budget. 

And, perhaps most importantly, such organisations are 18% more likely to achieve the business outcomes they’re seeking when they embark on digital transformation initiatives.

Why C-suite collaboration is critical

Why does that CIO-CFO nexus matter so much? Quite simply because, in today’s times, the demarcation between senior roles has become less distinct. 

That blurring of boundaries means finance and ICT leaders are no longer singly responsible for financial operations management and data management, respectively. 

Instead, these have become shared areas of interest, influence and responsibility. That means collaboration between the two functions is critical if operations are to be optimised and digital initiatives designed to achieve that end progressed at speed.

Organisations that don’t acknowledge that evolution and take steps to foster strong ties at a senior level may lose out on the enterprise-wide benefits successful transformation can deliver. 

That’s a missed opportunity that can cost them very dearly.

Investing in a stronger future

In uncertain times, an automated finance function is a powerful asset, one that can make a material difference to your organisation’s productivity, responsiveness and capacity to stay a step ahead of the competition.

If transformation is on your agenda in 2024, ensuring your CFO and CIO are working in concert from the outset is likely to prove a critical move. 

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