5 common accounting & finance technology roadblocks to avoid in 2021!

We all know how important it is to look both ways before crossing the street. We’ve held our breath as death-defying teens skate through busy intersections without a glance. We’ve also done our time holding the sticky, sweaty hand of a kid who sees a car a country mile away and flat-out refuses to cross the street because “Wait! There’s a car coming!”

We get it. Change can be scary and hard. Sometimes it’s a little bit of both. But, hey, 2020 is in the rearview mirror and it’s time to merge onto the expressway of 2021. 

The world we’re navigating now is far different than the one we were happily speeding through just 12 months ago. As companies rapidly embraced digitization to prevent the global economy from stalling, new and improved online communication technologies materialized, enabling quick-thinking leaders to dream up new business models. Technology helped us meet the fickle demands of a changed — and changing — world. 

While these new technologies proved critical, legacy accounting and finance systems quickly emerged as a huge obstacle to productivity.

Is it time for a technology tune-up?
Don’t let these common accounting and finance roadblocks stand in the way of your company’s progress.

SLOW TRAFFIC AHEAD
Roadblock #1: Limited automation in accounting and finance

Limited automation is one of the biggest roadblocks businesses will face in 2021 — and beyond. Our experts agree: companies and accounting teams that have embraced automation by investing in cutting-edge SaaS solutions are well-positioned to overcome challenges and seize opportunities. 

Is your company still tethered to legacy accounting systems with limited automation? If so, it’s time to explore modern, automated accounting options. Automation can be a valuable arrow in your quiver as your company and your accounting and finance teams arm themselves for a post-crisis economy. 

There’s no time like the present to push for finance transformation. 

“There’s nothing magical about being in the cloud from an F&A standpoint, but it does provide a more modern, more configurable platform from which the F&A teams can meet the demands placed on them. From an IT perspective, being in the cloud  significantly reduces the maintenance costs compared to legacy on-premise systems,” says Jerrad Hall, Vaco finance transformation practice leader.

There’s another surprising benefit to automation, too: it enables efficiency and productivity while liberating experienced professionals from their spreadsheets to discover new opportunities, find creative ways to save, develop strategic skills, and enjoy a renewed interest in their work. 

“No one went to school to learn how to use Excel and a three-hole punch … lack of automation limits fulfillment and leads to costly employee turnover,” notes Hall.

If you’re worried that implementing new technology will detract from your demanding day-to-day accounting needs, there’s a simple solution: work with a trusted technology partner. Accounting and finance technology experts can help you identify the accounting solution that’s best for your company — whether it’s BlackLine, Oracle, NetSuite, or Microsoft Dynamics 365 Cloud. They can also help you develop an implementation and training strategy that fits your company’s unique needs. 

If you’re going to take the plunge, it’s a smart move to make sure you’re getting the biggest bang and highest ROI possible. The right technology consulting partner — one that listens and cares about your company’s culture and vision  — can help make that happen.

DETOUR
Roadblock #2: Insufficient accounting system integration & redundancies

We asked Vaco managing partner, Steve Shoemake, to tackle this one, and did he ever!

“If you stapled yourself to a standard accounting transaction and followed the (electronic) paper trail, how many hands would it touch? How long does it take? How many times is re-work required? How confident are you in the numbers? How much manual effort do you employ to buy that confidence?

“If you looked at all the systems you’ve kept going through acquisitions to ‘speed up’ the integration, how much redundancy and support has been baked into your technology landscape? Do you have certain transactions for one business unit running through one accounting system with similar transactions in another part of the business running through an entirely different tool? How is this impacting your IT support costs? How easy is it for you to analyze the data from these different systems?”

You get the picture. 

Insufficient accounting systems and inefficient redundancies slow processes down and limit transparency. 

These aren’t new considerations for our “new normal” times; they’re timeless. But that doesn’t mean that timing doesn’t matter! Go ahead and take a fresh look at your accounting processes and make sure that they’re built for today’s fast-charging, data-fueled times.

NO TURNS
Roadblock #3: Lack of real-time A&F data

Monthly reconciliations and yearly audits aren’t going to disappear anytime soon, but companies are quickly shifting to real-time accounting.

“Real-time data is key to capitalize on market opportunities and effectively mitigate risk. Clients need the ability to process massive amounts of data quickly and efficiently so they can use data to better manage and grow their business. If you don’t have the data at your fingertips, you’re basically a huge tanker in the ocean trying to turn on a dime … if you do have the data, you can be as agile as a speedboat,” says Hall.

See the bigger picture more clearly with real-time financial data.

 To clearly understand business performance  at macro and micro scales — and at any given moment — real-time data is necessary. Depending on your accounting system’s capabilities, you may be able to take a deep dive into performance by location, department, project, service, or customer. With the right KPIs, real-time data helps you benchmark and better understand your business’ cash flow, assets, revenue, expenses, and more.  

In addition to up-to-the-minute reporting capabilities, other benefits of real-time accounting and finance data include the ability to more quickly detect fraud and errors, improve business predictions and forecasts, and set smart goals for the future. 

BE PREPARED TO STOP
Roadblock #4: Inadequate internal accounting controls

Internal accounting controls are policies and processes that companies establish to safeguard their assets and mitigate risks. Strong internal controls help ensure  financial statement accuracy and reliability, and minimize the likelihood of fraud, security breaches, and human error. 

If you’re considering adding additional systems and redundancies (see Roadblock #2) in hopes of strengthening your controls, then it’s time to consider migrating from a legacy accounting system to a SaaS solution. 

Cloud-based solutions are an easy way to make sure that your internal controls are always strong. 

When the controls are built into the system, you don’t have to worry about a system-specific compliance plan. The platform takes care of everything for you. With easy-to-access real-time data and reporting, modern accounting platforms also reduce external audit costs. 

“Having controls embedded in the SaaS tool greatly reduces the possibility of doing something that’s not compliant, and it takes the burden of evidencing that controls were in place from a manual check-and-verify via testing to an automated evidence-based approach,” says Hall.

DIVIDED HIGHWAY
Roadblock #5: Internal resistance to change

Your accounting and finance systems safeguard your company’s most sensitive data, but these tried-and-true processes may also be protected by a small but fierce band of devotees clinging to the “it’s always been done this way” school of thought.  

Whether we like it not, the nature of our jobs will change. Automation will eliminate manual, repetitive, and mundane tasks. This is actually an incredible breakthrough! Accounting automation frees your talented employees to do what humans do best: analyze, find connections, identify opportunities, and use data in creative and innovative ways.

Although it may take some encouragement and empowerment to get them to the other side (remember the kid who was scared to cross the street?), it’s worth the investment. 

To borrow a concept from the shipping and logistics world, swapping your legacy accounting and finance system for a cloud-based SaaS solution is a lot like bridging the “last mile.” It can be incredibly complex, potentially challenging to implement, and it touches virtually everything about your business. 

Increasingly, however, the cost of doing nothing starts to show itself in the form of limited automation, redundancies, lack of real-time data, and dangerously lax internal controls. Don’t let these roadblocks stand in the way of future progress.

When done well and with cultural sensitivity, financial transformation can be an ROI superstar. If you’re thinking about upgrading your accounting and finance technology solutions, but you’re not quite sure where to start or how to do it, we’d be honored to pave the way with you. Contact Vaco’s technology consultants for a tech tune-up today.

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