With your team working remote for the next several months, it's important to make sure you're ready for the issues that may arise.
We've identified the key trends to watch out for, and what you can do to effectively tackle them.
Traditionally, financial decisions have operated in layered structure where a purchasing decision must move through several levels of management. Though designed to create protections, the bureaucracy and headaches that result from such an involved process have led to operational bottlenecks. Furthermore, by frustrating those gatekeepers at each level who are put in charge of controlling spending, this system can actually lead to their apathy in thoroughly reviewing each request.
In a world where decisions have to be made across the country at great speed, the traditional model does not work. With the advent of work-from-home, it will fail even more. Employees who need to spend in order to continue with their work cannot be left waiting and forced to deal with bureaucracy, as there is no ability to walk up to decision-makers in an office setting anymore.
Instead, processes must be put in place to allow distributed spending to operate without much intervention. Each department within the company must be considered an organization of employees, and a budget must be attached to this organization. Employees know the best about their work and their needs, so they should be empowered to spend as long as it meets the requirements of the budget they participate in. They only interact with one level of approval, their budget owner who is often their manager. This model preserves the protection of the traditional system without slowing down your business and creating employee dissatisfaction.
With your finance team members working remotely, it will be difficult for them to communicate and make decisions as effectively without the right support.
Moving to a system that supports distributed spending is a good start, but you need to make sure that finance projects can also operate efficiently. For example, the month-end close will need to be completely virtual. Make sure your team is using tools that can handle the volume of information without becoming more complicated. A great way to simplify this process is to use software that can connect all your data and produce template reports. This way your team is simply reviewing and editing templates every month.
It's not only important to set up technology, but a healthy financial culture. It will no longer be possible to find employees who have yet to submit a receipt or expense report and talk to them in person. Though software can help collect the reports, it won't matter if they are never being uploaded in the first place. This can significantly delay your operations, so it's critical to encourage a proactive culture by clearly communicating your timeline. Use tools such as Slack to notify employees of tasks and deadlines, as well as to collect feedback so you can stay updated on any potential changes to your plans.
Outdated technology has no place in a work-from-home business environment. The key metrics are speed and flexibility, so if any software you use negatively impacts those two then it's time to consider switching. Though better software may cost more, in the long run it will produce exponential ROI by making your team more productive day after day.
The first step is to identify the core operations of your company and the employees in charge of those operations. Ask them to figure out what software they use and if it's truly necessary. If it is necessary, ask them for what specific reasons that it is helpful. This will help you put together a map of what software is being used for what functions. You can then take this map to look for a software platform that integrates all the pieces together, letting every member of the company work with a single master version of your data that is consistently updated.
The second step is to map out the processes that are being repeated. Is your approval process the same every time? How about creating a budget? Look at each step in each process, then see what data and software it is using. Chances are, there are components that you will be able to automate. Once you have identified such components, see if you can use your existing tools to automate them. If you cannot, then create business processes or invest in new software that helps you achieve as close to true automation as possible.
Now is the time to act
The third and final step is to stay updated. Your data is your gold mine. It will have everything you need to know, and with the right analysis you can stay one step ahead on potential roadblocks and bottlenecks that may occur. Make sure to use software that helps produce these analyses, especially if it can perform its own analysis to show you things you might miss. Turn these insights into concrete plans and act quickly
These three trends are not trivial to fully understand and it may take some time to implement strategies that work for you. What matters most is that you understand where the landscape is heading and that you are prepared. Work-from-home certainly has its own benefits, and by adopting more agile methods, systems, and principles your business will be able to properly take advantage of them.