It’s time to understand the meaning and value of strategic finance.
The finance function at your organization should focus on more than just backward-looking activities. Its main goal should be to pave the way for future success by highlighting previously untapped insights. The best way to achieve that is to embrace the idea of strategic finance.
Strategic finance is a way to turn what’s traditionally been a disconnected set of processes and functions into a unified, integrated view of your operational and financial performance that takes the entire organization’s perspective into consideration.
A strategically-minded finance function empowers all senior decision makers. This is possible with the help of a modern FP&A platform capable of processing and organizing information from multiple sources in real-time.
Many FP&A software systems can integrate with accounting software and simplify planning and reporting on a GL-based view of the business. However, a versatile FP&A solution engages all your senior decision-makers by providing them with access to relevant data.
Let’s take a look at how the right FP&A software can help you leverage finance information to make better strategic decisions for your company and be a strategic finance team.
To act strategically, a finance leader needs to anticipate a variety of possible future situations and diagnose the impact of unanticipated events as quickly as possible. That agility and speed is impossible without real-time access to key data. But most finance teams spend a large part of their time collecting and processing data for analysis, meaning by the time they’re analyzing it, days or weeks have passed. If you’re spending most of your time collecting and processing data, it’s impossible to be strategic.
One reason finance continuously gets stuck in a data morass is that it’s usually trying to integrate data from disparate information sources across finance, Sales, Manufacturing, HR, and other departments. Every time they bring the data together, finance teams waste time reconciling key data points, like how many customers they won in a particular period or the future value of contracts.
The data from the CRM shows one thing, while finance data from the ERP shows another. The bottleneck is both inefficient in its own right, but worse, keeps the finance team from spending time understanding what the data means for the business and putting that insight to use in a timely way.
A dedicated FP&A tool provides you with real-time insights from every platform it integrates with. It helps you gain a better understanding of what’s truly going on at your organization. It also saves you the effort of having to stitch together data from multiple disparate sources.
By bringing data together easily for analysis, insight, and projection, FP&A software allows you to make strategic decisions with a well-rounded view of the operational and financial drivers and effects of any potential course of action. All your data, always up-to-date.
Leveraging FP&A software makes it easy to protect sensitive data while enabling collaboration. It can give anyone on your team customized, role-based access to the information they need to see. This allows your team to share the data they need without having to worry about revealing sensitive information.
For example, HR departments may be worried about the security of individual salary details. To solve that, an FP&A tool facilitates tailored permissions to limit data that can be accessed by teams or individuals. You’re still able to see how much your company is spending on salaries overall, but sensitive information remains protected.
Another benefit of FP&A software is that it shows you a timestamp and audit trail for every login and action in the system. This means that if there are multiple people with access to your data, you’ll know exactly who was responsible for changing what.
This feature is also useful for uncovering how often your teams are using the software. Strategic Finance requires engagement from different departments, and if you’re seeing someone isn’t as engaged as you’d expect them to be, you can talk to them to understand the reasons for this.
Real-time data updates in FP&A software mean there’s no need for manual input and data copying. Any changes users make are immediately reflected across reports and dashboards. This allows the finance department to spend less time on low-value activities such as record keeping, data updates, and reconciliations. It also eliminates the need for other departments to talk to and wait for Finance to get the information they need.
In the past, even if finance teams tried to organize all the data necessary for Strategic Finance, they couldn’t digest it in a way that was understandable for everyone. They usually had to go through the painstaking process of figuring out:
This was performed manually, meaning your team didn’t have time to leverage data in the best possible way. It could take weeks before they put together everything needed for Strategic Finance, by which point you wouldn’t be looking at real-time data anymore.
With a single source of truth, different teams can stay on the same page and access all the data they need immediately.
Rather than having to argue about the validity of data, departments across your organization are immediately in a better starting point and can contribute to decision-making discussion instead of wasting time on repetitive tasks.
Powerful visualizations and tailored dashboards are another feature of modern FP&A solutions that make strategic finance possible. They give users the ability to focus on patterns and trends rather than looking for the insight needle in a haystack of spreadsheets. They also make it easier to analyze larger quantities of data and compare historical with forecast periods.
With tailored, individualized dashboards, everyone has the data they need to provide strategic insights based on their unique perspective while being able to filter out irrelevant information. FP&A tools ensure users are looking at the right information instead of all the information.
This eliminates the need to dig through dozens of spreadsheets to find what you’re looking for. Once you set up your dashboards and the metrics you want to see, they’re always available to you with the click of a button.
If you’re looking for a way to sustain and accelerate growth, enabling a strategic finance mindset should be one of your main priorities.
Unfortunately, if your finance teams are constantly stuck in time-consuming, backward-looking activities such as manually reporting and checking the validity of your data, they’ll have limited time to contribute valuable insights to your company.
Equally important, if other departments in your organization don’t have access to data relevant to their role and have to wait for finance to get the information they need, it’s much more difficult for them to be a part of the decision-making process.
When all your business data is integrated into one platform, presented in an easy-to-understand format, and accessible in real-time, that’s when Strategic Finance can really take off.
Ed note: Want to dive deeper into essential FP&A topics? Check out OnPlan’s most popular posts of all time here:
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