Break these six bad habits of finance with the cloud

Profile picture for user kroberts By Kevin Roberts February 29, 2016
Finance professionals can eliminate bad habits from their working routines when they put financials in the cloud, writes Kevin Roberts of FinancialForce

Business woman working at computer in dark office © DragonImages -
How often do you really look at how you are operating in your finance team? Just because it’s ‘always been done that way’, doesn’t mean it should stay that way. Falling into bad habits in finance can waste time, restrict growth, make reporting ineffective, and limit business insight – to name but a few of the downsides. Forward-thinking finance teams are already taking advantage of cloud technology to break out of some age-old bad habits which damage business, so don’t be left behind. Here are six of the most common we see.

Bad Habit #1 - “Which version have you got?”

When you’ve only got a hammer, every problem is a nail. When you are always up to your neck in spreadsheets, you use spreadsheets as the default tool to send information to the rest of the business. Out of the blue, your boss urgently asks for a quick financial summary of ‘Project X’ and all you can do in the time is to email a spreadsheet. You know all too well what happens next. Within 20 minutes that single spreadsheet has been cc’d five times and then by the end of the week someone sends you a butchered copy of the original data with a file name of V3-2_FINAL_Final.xlsx. That’s when your reconciliation nightmare begins. Getting your core financial data into the cloud gives you a chance to establish one single version of the truth, accessible to everyone who needs it and in a format your team can understand and collaborate on.

Bad Habit #2 - “Social life at month end? You must be joking”

You know how it is. Burning the midnight oil every month end. Manually reconciling ledgers, sorting through intercompany eliminations, allocating costs, recognizing revenue, building forecasts. Yes, you are submerged in yet another huge Excel workbook. Ticking and typing, line by line, in yet another dreaded reconciliation. Moving to the cloud gives you tools to automate these laborious processes. You’ll free up your time and your team’s time to serve the business, focus on strategy and get a social life back.

Bad Habit #3 - “Are we allowed to speak to Finance yet?”

The problem with all the heavy lifting work at month end means that for day after day you have the well-worn “Do not disturb” sign pinned to your door. Everyone in the company has to accept that “No, this is not a good time” for fielding customer questions, running non-standard reports or kicking off a new project. Decision makers in the rest of the business have to mark time until normal service is resumed, slowing the pace of your business. Moving to the cloud can not only shrink the time required for that period close process but also gives your business the self-service tools to answer their own questions and your customers’ questions.

Bad Habit #4 - “The sales prevention team just killed my deal”

You need to keep control and data security is a constant worry – so only the privileged few get to see the financial standing of customer accounts. Your sales team are convinced they are going to close the next big deal – but without access to that financial history, they’re completely unaware that the customer in question hasn’t paid a bill in months. At the same time, your baseball bat wielding Accounts Receivable team are currently hounding a blue chip customer who until that last aggressive phone call was pretty sure they were signing up for a game changing contract. Putting financial data in the cloud gives you industry leading tools to keep control, while giving your sales team essential visibility to the customer data they need to do their job.

Bad Habit #5 - “Can you remember why Joe approved that?”

It’s a pain to manually keep track of the supporting documentation and the conversations around why purchases are approved. Yes, you are keeping a file of documents, you’ve got the emails from the budget holder saying this was OK – but you can’t actually lay your hands on the conversations we had when we agreed this was a good idea. Now six months later the guy who insisted we had to do this is no longer with us and frankly this chat with the auditor is getting a bit uncomfortable. Finance in the cloud gives you one single location where scanned documents, conversations and approvals are all automatically maintained, attached directly to the relevant transaction.

Bad Habit #6 - “Your daughter just scored a great goal. You didn’t miss it again did you?”

From time to time the CEO, your board of directors or your management team need an answer and they need it now. It’s part of the job. So just in case, you always travel with your old clunker of a laptop because you need the horsepower to access those pieces of Excel wizardry or to log on remotely to the green-screen ERP. Sure the PC gets a bit hot on your lap when you are watching the ball game or trying to enjoy the music recital, but you get used to it. This is another bad habit you can leave behind when you move finance to the cloud. You’ll access all your accounting data from whatever mobile device you happen to have on you at the time - and better still you can give your management team the same mobile apps to answer their own questions.

How many times have you been guilty of, or even a victim of, one of these bad habits in a finance team? I’d imagine plenty. There’s simply no excuse for things to stay the same. Cloud technology not only breaks these habits but allows the finance team, as well as the rest of the company, to gain both a true business picture and a full 360-degree view of your customer accounts.

With customer-centricity more important in business than ever before, staying in the same rigid habits can not only waste time, muddy insight and prevent accurate business forecasting, it can damage customer relationships and prevent the creation of long lasting partnerships. How many businesses can afford to remain stuck in their ways? It’s time for a refresh and to break those habits once and for all.