Angel Blind Image by Erik Eris from Pixabay 70% of finance teams are re-evaluating their processes in 2022. This is one of the findings revealed by a Fluence Technologies study on financial consolidation, close and reporting in mid-market organisations. Fluence offers a modern technology platform dedicated to solving the challenges of financial consolidation, close and reporting.

The full report is thirteen pages long and provides some interesting insights for finance leaders. The Roadmap to Modern Mid-Market Finance is based on in-depth interviews with CFOs, CAOs and finance/accounting VPs from North America. However, Fluence does not reveal the number of interviewees, and many of the statistics in the report seem quantitative rather than qualitative.

Fluence highlights five key findings, which it will see as a vindication of its technology. The priority of digital transformation is foremost in finance execs minds. 70% of interviewees are re-evaluating how they close their books. Most, Fluence hopes, will consider a shift from legacy solutions to a cloud-based one, the kind offered by Fluence.

Kaz Takemura, FP&A technology practice lead at BDO Lixar, commented: “Fluence’s research brings to light some of the most important financial close management issues we hear about from our mid-market clients, plenty of whom are just as complex as their enterprise counterparts. A key challenge they face is that most if not all other financial close solutions are really focused on large enterprises – often involving big budgets, steep learning curves and long implementation cycles.”

The report itself has a short executive summary and an introduction and is then broken into three sections entitled: The Process, The People, and The Progress. It ends with a brief conclusion.

Key findings

The summary highlights five key findings in the research:

  • 66% say standalone spreadsheets hinder informed business decisions
  • 70% had to re-evaluate their consolidation and reporting process post-COVID
  • 88% state modern software is critical for recruiting and retaining finance staff
  • 95% want agile, light-weight solutions over rigid legacy systems
  • 100% want to automate the financial close process, but only 21% have done it

From the findings, it appears that finance has changed little since pre-Covid, however, the appetite for change has grown. The second point is perhaps the most important. It adds a reason for embracing change within Finance. Automating processes requires less manual work. This should attract additional applicants for more interesting roles at a time when vacancies are hard to fill. It is also critical for staff retention as companies look to avoid a ‘Great Resignation’.

The Process

72% of finance teams are still using manual processes. This section highlights some stunning findings indicating that finance teams desire automation, but the budget holders have not invested in it.

The People

The challenge for many finance teams is that they cannot see the wood for the trees. They are bogged down with the manual processes. These are increasingly is breeding dissatisfaction. 36% of CFOs are concerned about staff turnover and yet why have so few modernised finance systems. While change has not happened in previous years, many have taken that first step of re-evaluating their processes.

The Progress

If the people are finally ready to go through the change management process required for automation, why is there so little progress? An answer to this question is focused on adoption and data integration barriers. The study found:

  • 36% of respondents commonly complained about adoption
  • 36% have found maintenance costs are more than they imagined

Adoption challenges exist, the report states, because “teams had to adapt to the technology, rather than have the technology mesh with their habits.”

The report offers a list of five criteria for selecting automation solutions.

  • The ability to drag-and-drop data without requiring a developer or IT
  • The availability of pre-built tasks that relate to common business processes
  • Notifications to ensure key tasks don’t fall through the cracks and are done properly
  • Options to set up new automations or workflows as needs change
  • Workflows that over the entire journey from cash flow forecasts to the close

Autonomous automation

This seems contradictory. Yet finance teams cannot assume their current processes are fit for purpose, nor can they expect out of the box solutions to work for their business immediately. Any new solution should provide automations that are already general best practices but can be tweaked simply to become best practices for the organisations concerned. Fluence aims to provide such a solution.

Michael Morrison, CEO Fluence Technologies
Michael Morrison, CEO Fluence Technologies

Michael Morrison, chief executive officer at Fluence Technologies, commented, “The close process has been a finance priority since I started in the financial software space over 20 years ago, but today it’s not only for the sake of speed, data accuracy and transparency.

“Just as no accountant wants to spend their days copying and pasting numbers between spreadsheets, no CFO wants the added burden of employee burnout or turnover from doing mundane work that modern software solutions can do for them.

“Apart from the cost of recruiting and retraining, employee turnover is limiting the capacity of today’s finance teams to fulfil their role as a trusted, strategic driver of business decisions.”

Enterprise Times: What does this mean

The report is worthwhile reading. Finance leaders find cause for reflection about their own processes and automation. They will also discover insights and tips on transforming their finance processes. Fluence has also leveraged the people angle to create urgency in the current working environment.

Digital Transformation is more than a buzzword in 2022. 90% of organisations have put it at the top of the priority list. The challenge for finance teams is to find the budget and time to focus on their transformation first.

There is a biblical saying: “First remove the plank from your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” This holds for transformation. Finance teams freed from manual processes can better support the wider business with financial and strategic advice on their transformations. Perhaps it is time time to do more than just think about transformation and actually do it.


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