When you think strategic and value-creating, your first thought might not necessarily be your finance department. However, most finance departments do have the potential to be more strategic and create value for the entire organization.
Instead, these employees are often focusing on things that could be better managed in other ways, such as with automation. Then, once the redundancies are taken out of the equation, there are opportunities to make finance teams move beyond traditional roles.
Finance teams have the potential to guide other areas of the business and not only identify opportunities to save money but also to make money.
Finance departments need the right tools, and they need to be empowered to make this happen. The following are some ways to provide your finance department with what they need to be more strategic.
Automate Invoice Management
One of the best things you can do for your finance team and your entire organization is automate invoice management. With modern AP automation, finance teams can eliminate the burdens and potential problems that come with manual invoice processing.
Features to look for include a centralized databased with simplified visibility and real-time access to all invoices.
Even more important is looking for an invoice management solution that has analytics capabilities. With analytics, the finance team is already on the path to being significantly more strategic. The analytics can be used to drive data-based decisions and make for better negotiations with vendors.
If you can automate how invoices are managed in the finance department, you’re not just going to be helping the employees be more strategic and focus their energy on other areas. You’re also going to be reducing errors, fraud and other problems that can be costly and can derail the focus throughout the entire organization.
Identify Issues and Gaps
When you’re focusing on being more strategic, you need to have a clear understanding of where gaps exist and where your weaknesses lie.
Once you start identifying potential issues, you’re also better able to see where finance employees are working harder than they need to be, and where they could be working more.
Build and Cultivate Leaders
A lot of times with finance departments, there’s a tendency not to necessarily see the leadership potential. There may be a logistical leader of the department, but that person isn’t trained and developed like leaders in other areas of an organization.
Look for leaders within the finance department just as you do in other departments and work on helping them become the best they can be. You want to create a talent pipeline in every area of your organization, and this includes the finance department.
Work on Teambuilding
A lot of what happens in the finance department can feel like individual work. For example, employees might work completely separately from one another and have very little communication even with other people in their department.
Teambuilding is necessary if you want a more strategic finance team. You want these employees to be working together and sharing concerns and ideas.
It’s much more likely that your finance department is going to come up with a way to reduce supplier costs, for example, if they’re all working together.
Sometimes there’s a good reason that members of your finance department don’t feel like they’re part of the organization—it’s because they aren’t. There are often significant silos that can keep finance team members feel like they’re cut off from everyone else.
Find creative ways to get the accounts payable and finance employees communicating with people outside of their department and working with them.
This is much more likely to lead to strategic thinking and brainstorming that can reduce costs and also increase revenue. When the accounts payable team is working with people from other departments, they may also be able to come up with new ways of doing things and new workflows that will help improve efficiency.
Finally, along with automated invoice management, the idea of analytics was touched on above. Big data is one of the most important components of competitiveness in business right now. The finance team is going to be inherently comfortable working with data and numbers. Charge the team with taking on a more analytical role if you want them to be more strategic.
Let them use their data and look at the numbers to identify potential trends and patterns and maybe even spot problems before they become significant. Let members of the finance team take charge when it comes to many of your areas of analytics and ensure they’re ready to do so with the right software and tools.