How a unified IT and finance strategy helps in smart spend analysis

Neeraj Dotel, Managing Director, SAP Concur, India

Too many finance leaders still rely on manual spend management tools, which are time intensive and prone to errors. In other cases, businesses use multiple solutions from different vendors to manage travel, expense and invoice processes. This leads to inaccurate data, inefficient IT processes and increased resource time.

According to a Forrester report, 75 percent of companies with unified finance and IT strategies report much higher levels of satisfaction with travel, expense and invoice management tools.

The following are some best practices for IT and finance teams to adopt so that they can accomplish their collective goals:

  • Break down silos: Financial leaders aren’t always aware of how IT prioritizes software to increase efficiency and improve performance when developing an organization’s technology stack. Conversely, IT decision makers often lack the required insight into how these processes take shape in financial workflows. When finance and IT leaders take the time to better understand one another’s priorities, they can guide each other toward solutions that address collective needs. For example, if IT departments have a better understanding of the financial analysis process and goals, they can more accurately suggest recommendations Audit travel, expense and invoice solutions together: Employee spend data is fast becoming a critical tool by which many departments manage their businesses and meet their objectives. And finance and IT leaders have valuable albeit unique perspectives when evaluating the best options for travel, expense and invoice management. The first step toward a more collaborative relationship is collectively auditing how the current tools and systems are working. This helps pinpoint the pros and cons of different solutions. They can then consider integration with other tools and systems – even those outside finance such as IT, HR, compliance and risk. With a connected ecosystem, companies get a better picture of spend so they can pinpoint savings and improve the overall financial performance across the entire company.

  • Create a comprehensive strategy: A unified strategy should satisfy the needs of both IT and finance. By applying insights from the solutions audit and prioritizing shared goals, organizations can identify user friendly, innovative tools that equip finance leaders to manage spend wherever and whenever it occurs while enabling IT to drive business innovation and agility.

  • Consider the cloud: With more employees working remotely, or traveling companies are forced to consider different ways to maintain control.  Employees have more mobile devices than ever and have expectations on how technology should work.  Scalable and flexible cloud technologies are more important than ever in meeting these evolving workplace needs. Cloud technologies provide flexibility to bring much needed control, visibility, and savings to the overall spend by capturing data directly from travel suppliers, hotels & restaurants, credit card providers and virtually any other source.  This is especially important to business travelers who are making transactions and submitting expenses from coffee shops, airports and hotels around the world. IT and finance teams should invest in cloud solutions that quickly deploy and scale, and leverage APIs so data flows seamlessly between enterprise tools. When IT and Finance join the forces, finance leaders are equipped to manage spend wherever and whenever it occurs, and IT benefits from more agility, flexibility and scalability. So, it’s a win-win situation for both.

  • Believe in automation: Nearly a third of the respondents whose revenues grew by certain percent over the past few years credited automation with improving the finance function’s efficiency, particularly in the areas of governance, risk, and compliance. Arrival of new technologies streamlined repetitive tasks and helped focus on strategy. Involvement of big data, shared platforms, and cloud-based applications that foster collaboration and decrease complexity became an added advantage.

 By automating the invoice process, companies have been able to drive greater compliance with the terms of payment provided by vendors, and in doing so have realized significant savings by avoiding penalties and interest fees on late payments. Vendors are receiving payments 51% faster, and the number of delayed payments has been reduced by 67%. On top of these savings, companies have reduced the IT staff time required to administer their invoice management technology and have seen an increase in overall user productivity.

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