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Finance Divisions need to step up to changing demands

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We often convince ourselves that change is only required when something is not working. We all know the saying. ‘Don’t try and fix it when it is not broken’. Then again we can’t expect a different result, when we stick to the same old habits.

We’ve seen very little transformational change in the traditional finance division over the last 20 years. The closest we’ve come to change is cost optimisation initiatives, which had crippled many finance divisions and did more damage to the moral, than expected. Perhaps finance, as we know it, needs to change. We need processes delivered, quicker, better and faster. Reporting needs to be consistent, reliable and on time.


The good part, is the fact that we know exactly what happens inside the finance room. Broadly categorised, 60 – 70 percent of activity consists of standardised processes which require very little skill or oversight, 10 – 20 percent of activity requires specific industry or business knowledge and senior level oversight and for the remaining 10 – 20 percent, specific technical skill is required or a level of risk is attached.


We know that in today’s finance world, ERP’s allow us to process transactions on one platform from all over the world. We use multiple devices to approve, review and process transactions. Optical character recognition software reads invoices, performs a three-way match and processes it onto the sub ledger with no manual intervention.


Based on experience, knowledge, leading practice and advanced technology, there is no reason why we can’t transform our finance divisions into high-performance centres churning large volumes of standardised transactions complimented by pockets of excellence for technical and complex work.


In the process, standardised administrative processes becomes industrial commodities that could be delivered from anywhere in the world by anybody who is prepared to deliver the service according to the standards set. As a result, retained finance staff is better positioned to fill a ‘business partner’ role. The business partners are then positioned to fulfill enter price performance management which adds value to the strategic organisation level.


In South Africa, large corporates are slowly heading this way with the implementation of Shared Services Centres, where in Europe and India, Shared Services was only a stepping stone, moving towards true Global Business Services (GBS).


GBS is the next stage of maturity for organisations looking to drive increased value from their operating models, particularly when some Shared Services and outsourcing has been deployed. GBS delivers business support services to customer organisations by deploying common processes, tools, and leading practices, generating synergies across multiple function areas, such as finance, human resources and information technology, by consolidating activities into one centralised function. Services are delivered on a global scale – using centres of expertise, captive Shared Services and outsourcing – to optimise scale and capabilities across all functions.


Perhaps it is time to change. That is if you expect different results.

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The SA Leader Magazine


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