Sep 6, 2022
3 min read

Number crunching vs. adding strategic value: New report reveals the impact of finance teams

CFOs discussing HBR/Payhawk report
Quick summary

A recent report by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services, published in association with Payhawk, finds that highly-automated finance teams are more strategic and able to add value to their businesses.

Press release

Businesses expect their finance teams to be more strategic, collaborative, and automated, according to a recent study by Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in association with Payhawk. Despite this, however, finance professionals are often burdened with day-to-day administrative tasks that make such a strategic role — in which they can provide financial information quickly and advise business leaders on meeting their objectives — more challenging.

In the current environment of geopolitical uncertainty, rising inflation, and supply chain woes, finance teams have come under pressure and are expected to be more strategic. According to the survey of 227 business executives, 89% said that finance teams can provide a unique and valuable perspective on the business challenges faced by their organization. Also, 83% believed there is a business risk if the finance department does not contribute to an organization’s strategy.

Despite this, finance departments are still focused on ‘nuts and bolts’ activities like day-to-day record keeping and chasing down receipts. When asked, 64% of the executives felt that finance teams could do more in making recommendations on their organization’s high-level business model and strategy.

“Now is the time for finance departments to automate number crunching and start thinking strategically,” says Hristo Borisov, Co-Founder, and CEO of Payhawk. “This would free them from their administrative burden and enable them to have a more strategic role in their organization.”

HBR report: how to drive business strategy and growth

Highlights from the report include:

  • 89% of executives surveyed noted finance teams can provide a unique and valuable perspective on the business challenges faced by an organization
  • 76% said finance departments play an important role in supporting their organization’s business objectives today
  • 64% said finance departments should work more on analyzing financial data to make recommendations on the organization’s high-level business model and strategy. However, 67% of business leaders still see their finance teams as spending most of their time chasing down receipts and expenses.

Automation is a crucial differentiator among finance teams. The Harvard Business Review Analytic Services report found that teams with a high level of automation are much more likely to be strategic. In fact, 74% of highly-automated teams, compared to only 49% of teams that rely on manual processes, were more likely to collaborate on high-level business strategy.

“Automation is a key differentiator for businesses that want to use their finance professionals more strategically - they must prioritize it to be successful,” says Borisov.

In order for finance teams to be more strategic, the respondents in the study also stated that they need to be more collaborative and develop stronger relationships with other departments. Most people said their finance teams were collaborative, but 36% said they were still stuck in silos.

“There is a desire for finance teams to be more collaborative, but they need to focus on the quality of the collaboration, not just the quantity,” says Borisov.

To learn more about the increasingly strategic role of finance professionals and how they can contribute to the commercial success of their organization, you can read the full report here

Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
Trish Toovey
Senior Content Manager

Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

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