The word on the street is that CFOs are eager for a spreadsheet alternative with automation—and for good reason. “Excel just wasn’t designed to do some of the heavy lifting that companies need to do in finance,” said Paul Hammerman, a business applications analyst at Forrester Research Inc., in a recent Wall Street Journal article.
The CFO Indicator Q4 2017 report reveals several key drivers behind the move to automation. The top four include:
- Get faster, higher quality of insights for executives and operational stakeholders (40%).
- Become more strategic, provide enhanced decision support (26%).
- Improve finance productivity (16%).
- Improve accuracy of reporting, planning or another task (12%).
Accuracy, in and of itself, is not a significant motivator for automation; however, accuracy is critical to the higher priorities of better insights and more strategic decision-making. Automation can ensure more accurate financial data, resulting in a single source of truth. Instead of drowning in a deluge of data from disparate sources, finance can work from a core set of operational and financial data that’s common across the company.
This single source of truth can help CFOs and the finance teams achieve their more strategic goals in a way that spreadsheets and manual processes can’t. Here’s why:
- Ensure financial accuracy. You need accurate financial reporting to forecast quickly and frequently. Too often, however, the only way to ensure accuracy is for the finance team to manually enter in the data and then manually try to validate every calculation. As a result, you get slow decision-making and a lack of trust in the numbers.
- Make data-driven decisions: A good forecast relies on good data and model. Using spreadsheets and email to collaborate doesn’t tell you how the numbers you get back were created or who entered them. This lack of confidence in the numbers leaves you relying on your gut instinct to make decisions—instead of the data.
- Get and keep credibility. Your business partners depend on you to provide relevant, actionable insight to help drive their decisions. If all your time is spent collecting and validating the model, you can’t collaborate with business partners to understand their needs. They end up with information that is either too detailed or too high level. In other words, unusable.
By using software to populate your models with the latest data and by making it available to all business managers, you’ll know the data you’re working with is the single source of truth you can rely on. Integrating your finance and ERP systems enables an even greater depth of data accuracy. That’s because an automated data flow provides consistent and reliable access to transactional data from your ERP system. You’re getting numbers right from the source—what could be more accurate than that?
Done correctly, automation leads to greater data accuracy, empowering CFOs and their finance teams to deliver quality insights and provide better decision-making for the company. Indeed, automation allows finance to be a genuine driver for business success.