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The Future of Work for Financial Planning & Analysis

SimpleFi Managing Partner Jon Essig discusses how financial services firms can streamline back-office, data and analytics functions.

The Future of Work for Financial Planning & Analysis

This Q&A is sponsored by SimpleFi. It originally ran in Middle Market DealMaker’s fall 2021 edition

Q. Jon, you and your firm focus on optimizing back-office finance functions including analytics, planning and consolidations. Often, in addition to ongoing business process optimization, you are consulted immediately prior to an acquisition to create processes and systems that will allow the company to scale. What has the last year taught us about financial analytics and reporting? And how has that changed finance?

For finance teams, specifically, it taught us that there needs to be a unified way of getting your data in one place to help drive decisions when timing is everything.

So, having that strong digital foundation enabled best of breed organizations to better respond to changes. If you didn’t have this foundation, then that delayed decision making, made it hard to flex to new requirements and business models.

Businesses are realizing that to be agile, you need stability. Last year really forced companies to look hard and long at how far along they were on the digital transformation journey. One key question to help you assess your readiness is: are your repetitive back-office functions well defined, automated, with the proper reporting, controls and insights to improve the business? These back-office functions include: order to cash, procure to pay, accounting, reconciliations, financial reporting, operational reporting and even financial planning.

Q. I want to dig into the concept of digital transformation through the lens of finance, because this is an industry that has talked about things like automation and better processes for decades. Why is digital transformation so important to finance now?

Finance obviously knows the tremendous potential for data but struggle with turning that data into actionable insights quickly enough to make a difference. That’s because finance is taking in reams of information all the time. Using legacy approaches and tools means you’re trying to find a needle in a haystack. To dynamically steer a company, a CFO needs real-time information so they can make decisions on the fly. They need technology that is flexible and business owned. And they need well-defined processes and KPIs to help produce automated insights.

But how can they do that if, say, they’re waiting three days for highly paid analysts to compile the information? That time is the difference between projected shortfall and an actual shortfall.

Q. What’s the biggest barrier for moving into this future for finance? How do you recommend mitigating this barrier?

Not having the right foundation to power your enterprise data and analytics strategy is probably the biggest barrier. Many organizations still need to take care of the basics. But the expectation from typical CFO is now so much more.

Legacy, inflexible technology acts as an impediment and focusing your team’s effort on maintaining this technology is a waste of talent.

We see an increased demand from finance for standard business content, easily extendible through the cloud. And thankfully our firm and others have stepped up to this demand to create better business content and roadmaps for companies. We help CFOs and back-office finance to focus on being an “internal consultant” driving business value. They can either automate or leave back-office functions to companies who can scale and automate these processes for you.

In our follow up article to be published this winter, we are excited to share some of the ways we are helping organizations, with our first spotlight on HR analytics and planning for mid-market to large enterprise value companies.