How Can Finance Executives Go from Watching to Driving Growth?

Today, finance leaders are being tasked to use data to think far beyond finance – and their impact on the business is widely recognized today; in a recent survey from SAP of 500 finance leaders, 91% of respondents said the finance team plays a vital role in helping achieve the business’ growth objectives, while 79% said their financial insights are important for driving growth strategy. Organizations of all sizes are now asking their finance leaders to provide the real-time, data-enabled decision support necessary for everyone else in the company to plan and manage growth.

However, too many finance leaders don’t have the time or data to actually drive growth. A Vanson Bourne study noted that 60% of a finance team’s time is taken up with day-to-day tasks as opposed to strategy and looking forward. As a result, finance teams are spending too much time on administrative tasks to be able to go beyond monitoring growth to actually driving growth.

To drive growth, you need digitally transformed finance processes that harness automation and intelligent technologies such as artificial intelligence, machine learning, predictive analytics, and more. These technologies have the potential to radically transform the value finance can provide to growing businesses.

Consider something as fundamental to finance as travel, expense, and invoice management; the processes used to manage them are notoriously inefficient and manual, even in large enterprises, despite the huge impact these discretionary expenditures have on cash flows needed to fuel business growth initiatives. According to Greg Tennyson, head of global corporate services at VSP Global, automation has a large role to play in providing the visibility needed to inform policy making. “By having transparency into spend, you can better inform and educate the business on how to spend the right way,” he said. “Instead of imposing policies from the top down and making employees resistant to change, leaders can use data to listen and develop policies from the ground up. It makes employees a part of solving the problem.”

IT leaders have a key role to play in all of this, of course. IT is tasked with leading the digital business initiatives and IT innovation projects that will increasingly account for company growth and scale. According to an Oxford Economics study, the top three day-to-day IT tasks of companies that experience growth are process innovation, making technology investment decisions, and exploring emerging technologies.

To reduce the time it takes to unleash the insights that will drive growth across the organization, both finance leaders and technology leaders must work together. For example, an AMI-Partners study notes that 64% of businesses consider the reduction of operating expenses a strategically important goal, with more than half of firms citing technology as the key to reducing costs. That means both finance and IT will share responsibility for managing costs and driving innovation. Taking on these challenges requires total control of spending as well as a broader, comprehensive way to orchestrate spending and policy across categories.

To learn more about how finance and IT can work together to drive growth – for example, by fueling it with optimized cash flows and cost management – read the new paper from SAP Concur solutions, Partners in Intelligent Growth: How your finance and technology leaders can take the lead in growing your business.”

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