To say that the pandemic shook up law firms and finance teams in a big way would be an understatement. The past couple of years completely changed how we work and think about work.
Over the next 5–10 years, the breakneck pace of transformation particularly within the Finance function will be unlike anything we’ve ever seen. No one has all the answers, however, we have an excellent understanding of where things are heading, and how to best prepare for the future.
The State of Finance in 2022
With the unprecedented amount of change and disruption the world has encountered over the last 2 years, there has been unanimous support from C-level stakeholders for Finance teams to embrace change and accelerate digital transformation programs.
Image Source: The Future of Finance (KPMG Advisory)
Unfortunately, not all Finance leaders are ready to upgrade their core financial systems. In a recent study, Accenture found that only 14% of companies are digitally mature enough to compete in the fast-paced and rapidly growing financial technology and services ecosystem. There is however an impetus to deploy complementary finance technologies to tackle specific processes, such as expense management.
Below are some of the considerations we think relevant to workplaces and finance departments as we emerge into the future.
1. The workforce and workplace may never be the same
Due to the pandemic, many of us have adjusted and are very comfortable working remotely. According to Gartner, 44% of employers reported that their teams were “slightly more productive” or “significantly more productive”:
Image Source: The Digital Future of Finance (Gartner)
A recent survey conducted by Emburse found more than half of Australian workers prefer hybrid working. Employers are preparing themselves to handle the expectations of (and risks associated with) a remote workforce.
The tension point is that the Finance function is becoming more centralised in order to drive operational efficiencies and enable data-driven decision-making, yet the workplace is becoming more decentralised!
The good news is that automated, cloud-based solutions make transitioning to remote work feasible and manageable for forward-thinking centralised Finance teams.
A study conducted by Emburse revealed that 98% of customers agreed that automating time-consuming manual tasks made it much easier to support and monitor a remote workforce. Companies that move their Finance function online experience significant decreases in processing costs and turnaround times, too.
The bottom line: Finance leaders are becoming more strategic in their firms by promoting opeartional efficiences through the digitalisation of their technology stacks and support of their decentralised workforces.
2. Data-driven decision-making to unlock business value
According to a Deloitte survey of 784 global Finance leaders, 40% of respondents planned to implement or were in the process of onboarding advanced data analytics. Yet only 10.1% of Finance leaders had already implemented a solution. As such, few organisations properly aggregate, align or integrate their data—which means they are currently unable to drive the full value of digital transformation.
In a recent Gartner survey, financial decision-makers revealed their most concerning data aggregation, adoption, and analysis challenges:
- Data quality across data sources and landscapes (60% of respondents)
- Data governance and data security (60%)
- Identifying data that delivers value and scoping data management activities (43%)
Image Source: Gartner Research Circle Data Management Drivers Survey
In addition to the aforementioned and according to Emburse, 88% of Finance professionals believe better data and more reliable business intelligence are key. Currently, many Finance teams still don’t have easily accessible expenditure data nor the time required to consolidate the information located in different systems to properly analyse or glean insights that could derive better business optimisation and deliver time and cost savings.
The bottom line: The importance of clean, high-quality data cannot be understated, especially for firms that want to optimise operations and spending. Finance teams simply cannot rely on siloed, lagging financial data to make consequential decisions.
3. Modern apps are in demand
Traditional finance/practice management systems are being enhanced with complementary business apps however, most investment goes into the core finance solution. Therefore, specialised cloud-based expense management and AP automation technologies that integrate with systems of record/practice management solutions provide the modern edge with the latest features and functionality for a much improved user experience. These types of solutions continue to gain favour as they continue to evolve and keep pace with updated rules and policies without having to undertake hefty core system version upgrades.
According to Buddle Findlay, since implementing Chrome River Expense, their processing time has reduced by 75%, saving the team up to 24-hours per week that can be allocated to more rewarding work. 78% of Emburse customers that implemented expense automation solutions experienced ROI in the form of increased employee productivity within 6 months.
4. Optimisation leads to more time for innovation
Image Source: The Digital Future of Finance (Gartner)
Operational efficiencies will free up Finance teams to focus on more meaningful, high-value work that drives their companies forward.
It is proven that smart spend management automation will simplify labour- and time-intensive processes, reduce waste and revenue leakage, improve compliance, and reduce the risk of payment fraud.
Accounts payable teams that switch to automated spend management solutions firms spend far less time on data entry and reconciliation and, like Hall & Wilcox, will save 20-40 hours per month.
5. Finance cycles and "real-time" self-service reporting
Many finance teams are still slowed down by siloed and unreliable data, poor communication between teams, and sluggish periodic reporting.
In the era of remote work and collaboration, decision-makers want up-to-date financials and expense data automatically aggregated into a single “source of truth” for them to “sef-serve” and answer their questions faster than ever with accurate information.
Being able to perform as-needed financial modelling and generate on-demand financial reports is financially transformative.
Finance teams empowered by automation will generate as-needed reports, speeding up Finance and AP cycle times and unlocking valuable business insights. As processing cycle times go down and on-demand reporting becomes available cost savings will increase. Additionally, employees will perform their roles at a higher level by allowing them more time to focus on high-impact problem-solving areas for the firm.
Real-time reporting is being able to build on-demand reports in hundreds of different ways.
What's on your business transformation roadmap for FY23 and beyond?
What’s on your business transformation roadmap for 2023 and beyond? Are your current finance and expense management processes helping your firm stay competitive? If not, perhaps it’s time to consider a better future state of operating?
“It’s been incredible to witness what has occured in the legal industry over the last two years. There has been so much progression in the sector. We welcome working with law firms who are ready to modernise their businesses with leading technologies to humanise the work of their finance professionals by eliminating outdated processes and time-consuming tasks, so they can focus on what matters most.” Sarah Dart, Senior Director, APAC - Emburse.
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Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Novum Learning or Legal Practice Intelligence (LPI). While every attempt has been made to ensure that the information in this article has been obtained from reliable sources, neither Novum Learning or LPI nor the author is responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information, as the content published here is for information purposes only. The article does not constitute a comprehensive or complete statement of the matters discussed or the law relating thereto and does not constitute professional and/or financial advice.