At FSN The Modern Finance Forum we ‘practice what we preach’. As you may know, our “Future of the Finance Function Research” released in the summer found that 52% of CFOs consider that they spend too much time on transaction processing and 42% spend too much time on management accounting.
So, I wanted to share with you how we saved considerable time and money in 2016 through process innovation and moving to the cloud. Hopefully, our experience will inspire you as we move into 2017.
We moved our accounting into the cloud
We wish we had been able to do this years ago!
Like many SMEs we used a popular on-premises accounting package but it developed glitches, was always being upgraded and had to be backed up regularly in-house. It was a competent and safe accounting system but did very little for our productivity and ultimately presented poor value for money compared to the new breed of cloud-based business systems.
So we moved to the popular XERO accounting software and without exaggeration this has been transformative.
- Our bank account transactions are updated on demand directly from Barclays UK. Some of our recurring transactions are automatically identified as a match without any further data entry and others can be matched within seconds. Bank reconciliation which used to take a day now takes a couple of hours.
- Our purchase invoices (usually sent electronically by vendors) are automatically saved as documents or images directly attached with the reconciled transactions. No more paper files of purchase invoices and very few invoices need to be scanned. Saves office space and lots of manual work.
- Recurring sales invoices or contract invoices are produced automatically and can be emailed directly to our customers. Invoicing which used to take a man-day now takes an hour.
- Management accounts are always available in real time – no spreadsheets at all, honestly, not one!
We let our auditor have direct access to our accounts at year end!
It took a while to convince our traditional audit firm to change its processes but this year was very different. In the past we have prepared the usual audit pack (debtors, journals, audit trails, GL history, bank reconciliations, VAT, PAYE and salary reconciliations etc) all as separate working papers in hard copy and spreadsheets.
- This year we gave our auditors an “Advisors” link directly to the XERO system. The result has been spectacular.
- They have been able to do everything without raising any audit enquiries (because they had complete access and could see all relevant documents behind each transaction).
- They have identified over and under payments
- But best of all, our accounts have been produced 3 months earlier than in any other year!
It meant that they could focus on a management commentary about our results. (We didn’t want to hurt their feelings but we already knew how we were performing throughout the year because of the visibility we had to real-time accounts.)
We moved our creative systems to the cloud as well
As a publisher, our creative systems are our lifeblood. The on-premises world simply hasn’t kept pace with the functionality available in the cloud. So, we use specialised cloud-based products for graphics, video footage, for photography, for document design and production. Simple, Best-of-Breed products in the cloud have enabled us to avoid expensive specialised labour or external agencies. And because of this we can turn around documents and publish them speedily in-house.
Our CRM system is also in the cloud!
In the past subscriber and reader information was scattered around in different spreadsheets. Now all of our relevant data is contained in a cloud-based CRM that anyone in the organisation can see. A well known CRM vendor quoted £18,000/year for this facility but our cloud-based solution cost us £8/month per user (about £1,000 per annum) for very similar functionality. What a difference!!
At FSN we want to focus on our professional work….. healthy discussions in our Modern Finance Forum on LinkedIn, networking events, leading edge research and thought-leadership….not on financial and other business processes.
Our cloud innovation has allowed us to grow without adding to headcount. And it’s more fulfilling. Everyone is happier…even our auditors!