The recent gadget conferences show more and more the focus on a more connected world. There are smart toothbrushes, smart hairbrushes and even your fridge starts to introduce artificial intelligence.
Also in operational finance departments, innovative technology solutions are continuously evolving to allow finance to transition towards a true finance business partner and add value to the overall operational innovation and excellence goals.
As a operational and finance innovation specialist, working with some of the industry leading organisations, I have seen how the following 3 trends, which have kicked off in late 2016, will influence operational finance in 2017.
1. Increasing self-service behaviours to reduce the need for transactional centres (e.g. Shared Services, etc.)
2017 increases the focus on self-service through technology. E.g. In the Purchase-to-Pay space, the introduction of "matching" supplier portals, allow suppliers to validate their invoices with the agreed/ received quantity and price. Transitioning issue management and ownership of supplier invoices back to the supplier. Instead of creating complex, time consuming internal purchase-to-pay systems, to resolve mismatches, businesses focus on only dealing with exceptions. Another example is the introduction of travel and expense systems which allow employees to manage, upload their photo-receipts and even obtaining payment from their phone.
2. Further adoption of Robotic Process Automation (with focus on Machine Learning)
Through using RPA within transactional services, organisations have been able to reduce manual transactional processing. The following selection of finance transactions are optimal for using RPA are:
- Transaction matching, e.g. bank or intercompany reconciliations, customer allocations,etc.
- Recurring or specific journal processing (e.g. Project accounting, Fixed Assets),
- Month-end activities (e.g. Closing),
- and many more
3. Introducing cross-functional technologies across the organisation.
A connected world is becoming the norm in our private lives, but many organisations have addressed this connection with the "outside world", but have forgotten to create a integrated technology landscape across their own business departments. Even though most organisations have introduced ERP across their business, this should be seen as the first step towards a "connected organisation". Introducing technology connections between finance and other functions have started with technology alignment to deliver e.g. Sales & Operational Planning (S&OP), Integrated Business Planning (IBP), allowing finance to become a true integrated business partner, which is where the true value of finance happens.
These are some of the key trends that we, at Unique Excellence, have seen developing in 2016 that will continue to drive Financial Operational Innovation in some of the leading organisations.