In 2013, Oxford University published research which proved controversial amongst accountants: it claimed that the accountancy profession had a 99% chance of being automated in future. Though there was certainly a shock factor behind this, the narrative around automation, digital transformation and accountancy has certainly matured over the past five years with changes in financial technology.
There is no longer a dichotomy between embracing and rejecting automation: the industry now recognises the value of digitalising finance processes to help us work better, faster and on more skill-orientated projects.
As platform capabilities become more powerful and businesses increasingly migrate towards the cloud, clients expect a service that keeps up with technological advances. It is no longer acceptable to work as we did 5 or 10 years ago.
So, when discussing an investment in accounting software with your CEO, how do you prove the business value of automating processes?
Bust data silos
Imagine you’re a finance director at a growing business with offices all over the world – Europe, USA, the UK, Asia and even further afield in Australia or New Zealand. That’s a lot of different time zones and multiple finance teams to manage. To make matters more complicated, every office has picked a different system to work with, resulting in silos, a lack of integration and manual consolidation for reporting, ultimately resulting in a lack of visibility across the group.
Your board wants to see a detailed financial report every Tuesday morning at the weekly meeting. What do you do? Are you going to rely on emailing every office’s financial manager for the data, as you can’t access their system? Will you wait for Australia to wake up? What if Europe has an unexpected bank holiday on Monday? Will the spreadsheets even appear in the same format?
Life is so much harder when there is no single point of truth. Instead of wasting hours over email, with finance and ERP software like Microsoft Dynamics, every office works off one single system. Front and back office are joined so there is no data duplication. Now, the global finance director can pull data from all countries on one report bringing everything together in the right format whenever they need to. Making global decisions becomes easier and the data is guaranteed to be accurate.
Bring visibility to reporting
Gaining the ability to view all internal processes cycles from start to finish can refresh your outlook on performance. Finance staff can see how a deal is progressing through the sales funnel, allowing them visibility for future billing and delivery. Better process management also benefits the business as a whole. Sales teams can find out exactly how many leads are typically required to win an opportunity, Marketing can see the effectiveness of their campaigns and HR can track rate of growth to plan team expansion strategically.
You can really begin to use the data in your system. Because all business activity is happening within the Microsoft Dynamics platform, reporting can be more timely and comprehensive, allowing an organisation to produce reports from data from multiple parts of the system, i.e. a combined sales and billing report. You can have reports delivered to your inbox or even access the Power BI reporting dashboard on your iPhone. Assessing the ROI of business activities becomes much simpler and quicker, making financial reporting to the Board more accurate and less stressful.
Collaborate and boost transparency
With visibility comes improved decision making and collaboration. Though you might think that process automation will reduce staff’s desire to speak to one another, the reality is that when people are more aware of what is happening in the business, they are more inclined to collaborate and work together. Instead of discussing administrative tasks like locating files or requesting a report, employees are empowered to discuss matters that hold more value, like new ideas and how to solve business challenges.
If a finance team member is automatically updated when a new account has been won by sales, this removes the need for a sales and finance team meeting. With Dynamics, you are able to track things happening in other departments in your organisation before they are flagged up to you as issues – you gain essential foresight – and you can act on challenges that will eventually affect your team before they become business-critical. This transparency is invaluable for making the right decisions at the right time, which will help you stay ahead of the competition.
Improve the customer journey
Working in one system internally makes customer interactions feel seamless, with miscommunications avoided both within the organisation and with the client.
Let’s take the example of a company that delivers professional services. Sales will often quote for projects with a view to win the work, but the Project Management Office (PMO) who will have to deliver them do not see this data till the deal has been signed. Only at that stage, are they able to tell sales if there are any issues with the contract (e.g. if the numbers quoted are not right). This means one unlucky individual will be tasked with going back to the client and explaining the terms of their deal have changed, making the company look unprofessional.
Contrast this with an organisation where the PMO can see all the information of a quote before the deal is signed and can even input into the sales process, as is possible with Dynamics. This is much more efficient for the business and the client receives a better service.
If a new project is received, the right versions of data can be shared much faster, reducing human error and removing the need for complex handover meetings. The client never has to repeat themselves and the original brief is adhered to across the business as it’s stored in one central location on the Dynamics platform and can be viewed from multiple devices.
For finance teams, this can improve clarity around billing amounts and timelines, so both you and the client know what to expect when and there is a record of communications to refer to.
Scale the business
As a business grows, the ability to make quick, data-driven decisions becomes more and more important. Cloud-based solutions such as Microsoft Dynamics 365 enable your organisation to speed up processes to reflect this scaling up.
Since data can be integrated with your teams’ working processes, the time it takes to carry out transactions is significantly reduced – you don’t have to add more staff every time you add more clients, limiting the cost of growth and maximising profits.
Many businesses outgrow their CRM and ERP systems as they mature. Automation is one recommended approach to transforming the business so that everyone’s working processes can be fully digitalised. There may be many solutions out there, but Microsoft Dynamics is hard to beat, offering a truly integrated system that works with all the Microsoft software your teams are already using, giving you one login to your computer, Office 365 and your Dynamics 365 productivity suite.
Founded by accountants, at City Dynamics we are experts in implementing Microsoft Dynamics solutions for companies with growth ambitions. To find out more about whether Microsoft Dynamics is the right solution for your company, contact us here.