Innovation is a fundamental element for businesses to remain competitive and achieve success. Innovation leads to increased efficiency and effectiveness and contributes to improved business performance. With the ongoing economic challenges and recession facing global economies, the importance of innovation is even greater. The finance team plays a vital role in this endeavor by incorporating innovation into its strategies and operations. CFOs must not only fulfill their responsibilities as the financial stewards of the business but also actively collaborate with other departments to foster innovation and prepare for potential disruptions. In this challenging environment, CFOs must accomplish more with limited resources; innovation is the key to achieving this goal.
This blog post will explore the advantages organizations can gain by implementing a Finance Center of Innovation to review internal operations and discover ways to improve efficiency. Additionally, we will highlight a practical example from our Microsoft, where implementing robust and flexible technology enabled swift closing of technical deficiencies and automation of previously labor-intensive manual tasks.
Learn how low-code applications can help your finance team accomplish more with less.
One of the biggest challenges facing finance teams today is the sheer amount of data being generated, which can be challenging to manage and use effectively. In many cases, legacy systems that were once sufficient are now unable to keep up with the times and are costly to replace. Furthermore, there needs to be more tools available to finance teams to anticipate the growing complexity of businesses. Manual and inefficient processes and errors continue to plague finance teams and cost valuable time and money. Additionally, with increasing risks and threats worldwide, the regulations and compliance requirements that finance must abide by are growing in complexity. To mitigate these challenges and ensure business success, implementing a Finance Center of Innovation can help identify opportunities to use digital technologies, enabling finance teams to stay focused on the future and remain agile.
At Microsoft, we are proactively adapting to the dynamic landscape by implementing a resourceful approach throughout our business operations. By embracing this “do more with less” philosophy, we are able to accelerate innovation, empower our employees to accomplish more, and ultimately drive better results. To achieve this, Microsoft has established a “Center of Innovation” strategy to facilitate the collaboration of technical and non-technical finance professionals to optimize existing processes. This allows our finance teams to direct their attention towards high-impact activities that foster growth and increase profitability. By thoroughly evaluating internal operations, the team identifies opportunities for improvement and efficiency, then deploys low-code applications, such as Microsoft Power Platform, to rapidly automate processes and streamline operations.
A “Finance Center of Innovation” (FCI) is a specialized team or department within an organization focused on driving innovation and creating new solutions in finance. The FCI aims to improve financial performance by exploring innovative technologies, approaches, and business models. FCIs will range from a diverse group of financial experts, engineers, data scientists, and business leaders to a small, dedicated team of finance professionals with an aptitude for using technology and solving problems. The specific composition and approach of an FCI will depend on the organization’s needs and goals. There are many valid approaches to take when building an FCI team, both simple and complex. The benefits of an FCI are numerous, so CFOs should get started with whatever resources are available and add complexity over time.
Having an FCI can bring many benefits to finance teams, such as:
Assembling a team of experts is a crucial first step toward driving innovation within your organization. However, the next step is equally important—identifying opportunities for acceleration. Finance teams should work closely with their Center of Innovation to identify and prioritize areas where automation can be introduced to optimize routine tasks. Some common examples include data entry automation, accounts payable and accounts receivable, expense management, compliance, and audit functions. However, it is crucial to note that the implementation and specific tasks will vary depending on your company’s unique needs. By collaborating with your Center of Innovation and identifying critical opportunities for automation, you can streamline processes, reduce costs, and free up your employees to focus on more strategic initiatives that can drive growth and revenue for your organization.
Once optimization priorities have been identified by your FCI, the next step is selecting the appropriate resources to solve the problem. This can be challenging, as many teams are held back by inflexible legacy systems and processes that can only be easily corrected with significant technical resources. However, with low-code automation tools, FCIs can make these improvements and innovations without replacing expensive legacy systems, effectively breathing new life into their solution ecosystem without an expensive rip-and-replace. Microsoft Power Platform offers a powerful solution for finance teams looking to solve complex business challenges within their legacy enterprise resource planning (ERP) quickly. Our low-code tools empower innovation, conquer business hurdles, and open new opportunities to do more with less. Whether you are a pro developer or not, our user-friendly tools allow anyone to create solutions, saving time and costs while reallocating resources to focus on what matters most.
Microsoft identified an opportunity to streamline payment term exception requests and improve the compliance process. Historically, contract payment term exception requests were received through multiple email inboxes, often needing more information for quick and accurate evaluation. The process owner was required to research and develop a compliant response. Still, finance controllers could not track the requests, measure impact, and analyze cash flow implications, leading to a lack of accountability and consistency in understanding payment policies. To improve this, the team used Microsoft Power Platform to automate the payment terms exceptions workflow for intake, dispositioning, decisioning, and reporting. Then, a Power Apps and Power Automate flow was developed to standardize request intake, automate alerts, and establish accountability. Finally, a Power BI dashboard was created to give executives visibility into change requests and cash flow impact. Within six months from the start of the project, the team had a more than 14 percent improvement in payment compliance while saving 5,000 hours (about seven months) per year of manual processing time, which reduced the average service time from 8 to 10 days to approximately 3 days.
At Microsoft, we understand the various challenges that finance teams and CFOs face in today’s business landscape. To address our challenges, we have implemented a finance-first innovation approach that utilizes our low-code platforms to enable the rapid creation of solutions to handle almost any business challenge. Our low-code apps are compatible with any ERP, including Microsoft’s own Dynamics 365 Finance, making it easy to get started. With easy-to-use technologies and helpful best practices, you can help your organization to optimize its resources and free up time for more value-adding activities, demonstrating the power of doing more with less. By embracing this approach, you can transform many manual and time-intensive activities into streamlined and efficient financial operations, keeping your organization agile and prepared for the future.
Discover the power of innovation and automation at Finance Reimagined on February 28, 2023. Join us for a session specifically designed for CFOs to learn how low-code applications can help your finance team accomplish more with less. Register now to take the first step towards revolutionizing your financial process.