The function of the finance department has changed. It involves a lot more than dealing with payslips, receipts, and invoices. Today’s finance team should be collaborating on high-level business strategies. But they need to be free from manual admin to do so. And they need strong cross-team cooperation, i.e., there should be no friction between finance and non-finance teams.
The finance team is unique because it’s one of the few business areas that works across all the others. The finance team will likely work with each group, from HR to marketing, to support budget creation, policies, and expense management. For your finance team to unlock the potential of collaborative work and process (including adoption, compliance, and visibility), they need everyone to work harmoniously across departments.
A recent report, Building a finance function that drives business strategy and growth from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in association with Payhawk, uncovered some compelling data here. 84% of executives agree that the finance team can provide a unique and valuable perspective on business challenges.
But organizations need to do more than identify this possibility of a unique and valuable perspective. Businesses must also find ways to increase finance collaboration across the business.
For finance teams to glean the insight required to drive business growth, they need complete financial visibility — something they can’t achieve without the help of non-financial teams. So it becomes a cyclical problem.
Finance professionals rely on employees to provide them with receipts so they can coherently match all payments. But this manual-intensive process takes time away from the ultimate objective — to scale the business successfully. Non-finance teams, meanwhile, rely on the finance teams to pay their suppliers and subscriptions to keep business moving in their fields.
To forecast the budget confidently and plan resources, your finance teams need cooperation, and sometimes that cooperation isn’t there. Removing this friction in any business scaling up should be a priority, but how do you eradicate this friction and make the experience better for everyone?
For your finance team to help your organization through a period of rapid growth, they need to be able to work strategically alongside other departments. But just 24% of the execs surveyed said their finance team is “very collaborative” with other departments, so it looks like there’s some way to go in team collaboration.
This low figure could be partly down to the siloed mentality of the finance teams — the report found that 36% of respondents felt the finance team is siloed. This scenario doesn’t help create the collaborative atmosphere your company needs to achieve its growth objectives.
The report also found that other team members agree that finance departments should focus on becoming more collaborative and focus even more on strategic activities rather than menial and time-consuming tasks like receipt chasing.
But the finance team can’t begin to collaborate effectively with others if departments don’t understand the function of the finance team and vice versa.
Other teams need to be aware of the importance of the finance function, why they need expense information, and why it’s important to receive it on time. On the flip side, finance departments should be tasked with better understanding the challenges facing other departments. They need to share crucial information faster and improve the quality of support they provide to their business colleagues.
Teams need to embrace free-flowing communication, but the tools currently available to team members are inhibiting this progression.
Ultimately, finance teams can learn how other departments use their data in the organization — notably tech, sales, and marketing teams.
They need to understand how the business makes its money and how the data the team finance team provides contributes to that. Data analysis is a core skill all marketers possess. Working alongside this team can help finance professionals better understand the business they’re serving and how they might collectively reach their objectives.
Understanding how each teams’ financial data is used means they can identify how to support these teams going forward.
All departments deal with the financial team at some point. And they all have expenses to process and budgets to manage — so finance can be a good connector of people in the organization. Financial professionals know a lot of stakeholders, so there’s an opportunity to connect them with the right person in your product team, for example.
All non-financial teams have to budget and manage projects, and finance can assist with these business processes. There's no doubt that financial teams are highly analytical, so other departments need to leverage this. The finance teams' skillset can assist with costings for projects and commercial proposals, adding a problem-solving element those teams might otherwise lack. Often finance can help with process design and controls, too, as it's a vital component of the skillset they need to function in their roles.
Working collaboratively across departments means the siloed nature of finance becomes non-existent. And data is shared freely between teams to enable more focused business growth.
Although finance and non-finance teams still need to work on collaboration, some progress has already been made at the senior level. 73% of the report respondents state the CFO or head of finance has been getting more involved in collaborating in high-level business strategy.
And this action seems to be encouraging the entire finance team to get involved, with 65% of respondents agreeing that the finance department, in general, is immersing itself in this type of finance collaboration.
To fuel strategic business growth, the finance teams need to be empowered with the help of expense management software that helps not hinders their job role. The finance team requires dynamic, simple software that encourages other departments to share information easily. Software that will also reduce the time spent on manual receipt collection and ancient expense management techniques.
According to the report, teams that manually manage their financial tasks are less likely to get involved in business strategy. Which makes sense — they simply don't have the time. Payhawk helps transition your manually-intensive tasks into effortlessly automated processes.
Finance teams need to stay in control of company spending. Suppose they currently use company-wide or department-wide credit cards where payments aren't attributed to anyone via expense management software. In that case, there will be massive confusion and ambiguity. And there's no place for ambiguity with financial reporting. When every budget holder is given their own company card (connected to expense management software), you can set team or individual spending limits while making every payment traceable.
Having control over all company cards without the help of software is pretty time-consuming. And manual approval workflows mean important payments can get delayed across the organization. Payhawk lets you group card-level controls when it comes to recurring limits or ATM withdrawals and allows you to manage cards in bulk — which is handy as your business scales up. You can also define limits for automatic approval requests and build custom approval workflows to suit your organizational structure.
As we've already touched upon, employee collaboration is the key to business success. And delivering a good employee experience is paramount — it connects everything in your business. You don't have a business without your employees, so you will have problems if they're unhappy and you're not making their job as efficient as possible.
But it's more than unhappy employees — it's about how poor expense management processes affect your organization. On the face of it, it might seem like it's not causing too many problems, but the reality is very different.
The report also found that 80% of respondents believed compliance would decrease if the expense management processes weren't simple enough, with many people choosing not to comply altogether. And 90% state that if expenses aren't easy to submit, this negatively impacts employee experience.
These alarming statistics should undoubtedly be a cause for concern in any organization.
You must provide employees with the best resources possible to do their job effectively and efficiently, which means investing in the right software.
Reporting on financial performance should be effortless. And part of this involves making it straightforward for employees to upload their receipts. Compliance is vital to ensure all spending matches at the month's end and, most importantly, to give the finance team the technology and tools they need to be successful.
Giving employees autonomy holds every person in the organization accountable and helps employees feel valued. Equipped with their own company card (and intuitive mobile app), every payment is attributed to them via expense management software, making managing company spend much more streamlined. This modernised expense management process removes many points for finance and ensures employees get paid quickly.
The expense management software also includes many other features to ensure that spend management is as automated and efficient as possible for both finance and non-finance teams. The features include mileage tracking, per diems, and subscription management.
Instead of collecting receipts and relying on manual processes, employees can enjoy a streamlined experience when submitting their expenses. They can simply snap receipts on the Payhawk mobile app, automatically matching spending to the payment.
This process means finance teams don't need to hassle their colleagues for receipts. And instead, they are freed from chasing them for the receipts in the first place.
To sum up
It's clear that finance teams can play a pivotal role in driving change in your organization. But to do it well, they need support — support from other teams and support from technology and integrations.
Everything ends up in finance — sales-won contracts become finances' sales invoices, outputs from marketing and products come into finance at some point, and the list goes on. And for the finance function to operate well, they need to understand how those teams operate and how they can mutually benefit from the other's skillset.
*"You can only achieve financial control of the business if you achieve good business control. This control requires finance to engage with other business stakeholders to optimise core processes which have a significant financial impact" *
— Robbie Hadfield, Solution Engineer at Payhawk.
Schedule a demo to learn more about how Payhawk can enable your finance teams to automate and collaborate in order to scale the business.
Whether you have tens, hundreds, or thousands of employees, we’re making your business spend work for you, giving you control over spending at scale with a single solution. Say goodbye to tedious finance tasks, and schedule a demo with us today.