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3 digital trends finance departments are leveraging in 2021

Jul 08, 2021

In today’s world, digital touches every part of an organization — including the finance department. 

Finance teams, and especially the CFO, have a critical role to play in helping the business set and achieve its strategic goals. For years now, finance has been evolving beyond a focus on compliance and past performance to include acting as a strategic forecaster and a visionary for where the business can go.

To guide this evolution, finance departments are increasingly adopting digital technology. Here are three of these top digital trends 2021:

1. Improve the customer experience with internal transparency

All companies want to increase business with current customers and gain new customers. The way to stand out from the competition is by providing a superior customer experience. But how do you achieve that?

If you look at it from the customer’s point of view and work inward, you’re able to identify breakdowns in the customer’s experience and why those breakdowns exist. The answer is usually silos. Too few people in your organization know what their fellow employees in other departments are doing. But your customers have a much better idea — they’re the ones interacting with the entire value chain of your business: sales, customer service, finance, etc.

This means that when it comes time for the business to get paid for the products or services it delivered, and finance is the one contacting customers, they often have no idea what kind of interactions a specific customer has had with other parts of the business. They don’t know if the customer has been on the phone with customer service for hours at a time. They don’t know what promises the salesperson may have made about the product or service. They’re just trying to do their job, but they’re unknowingly contributing to a negative customer experience.

That’s what makes digital such a big aspect of customer experience. Technologies like customer relationship management (CRM) tools that put the entire organization on one system break down silos and enable much greater transparency. People in any department can view customer interactions across the board. They can provide a much more tailored and positive experience that helps retain customers instead of being the last straw that makes them start looking at the competition.

2. Improve the customer experience with external transparency

Businesses that don’t have a client portal or a mobile app are missing out on a huge opportunity to improve customer experience. 

It’s not just your employees that need to know what’s going on throughout the business. Customers want to know, too. They want to research their needs, place their order, view their order, track their order, make a customer service appointment, track the location of the field service agent, pay their invoice and so on — all from the convenience of a single platform. If your business is a professional services firm, customers want to connect with their service team through a portal. They want to exchange the necessary documents through this portal.

Apps and portals make you easy to do business with. And any company that’s easy to do business with is hard to walk away from. It could prove to be that much-needed differentiator in the marketplace. 

Because businesses are increasingly relying on CFOs and the finance department to be strategic drivers of transformation, this is a key trend for finance to be aware of, start advocating for and make room in the budget for.

3. Become more strategic, proactive visionaries using data analytics

Speaking of the evolving strategic role of finance, data analytics are critical to achieving that evolution. Data analytics not only help the finance team analyze the past and forecast the future but also enable all relevant areas of the business align to the same goals. Data analytics help an organization perform profitability analysis, make recommendations on product mix and calibrate execution to deliver maximum client satisfaction at greater efficiency. And they help the CFO sit next to the CEO and actively contribute to creating and executing a roadmap for the business and setting short- and long-term strategic goals.

To help businesses stay competitive, finance must be able to work less based on historical performance and linear trends and more on forecast-based scenario-planning. The finance team must be able to provide executives with the financial reporting they need in order to make business decisions. A business intelligence suite provides data visualization and higher-level analytics, such as predictive analytics and operational modeling. This helps the finance department and business executives not only better understand business results but also gain better insight into desired future outcomes.

Get assistance with finance digital transformation

It’s clear that finance is being called upon to do more than its traditional role. As part of its strategic function, finance must understand how technology can help the business envision and achieve its vision, from accounting software to investor reporting platforms to supply chain management tools. And it must be a top of mind consideration that the choice of technology does not end up creating more silos within the organization. Any technologies selected must be able to talk to each other, so that the organization can create and enable the transparency your employees and customers are looking for, and scale with the business as it continues to grow.

Fortunately, you don’t have to go it alone. Digital transformation is a key undertaking for any organization, and there are advisors and service partners whose experience, expertise and platforms can help you get your business on the right track. 

From assisting your finance department with implementing financial planning and analysis, to guiding the software selection process, to tackling the planning and execution around an organization-wide digital transformation, Wipfli can be your trusted advisor. Contact us to learn more about how we can help your finance department and CFO become a strategic leader of the business focused on helping you achieve your vision, mission and goals.

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Author(s)

Murali S. Iyer
Principal
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