Blog Article Archives - X3 Consulting

Customers rated Sage Intacct #1 in customer satisfaction for the 9th year in a row, in the G2 Winter 2023 Reports. Sage Intacct soared to great heights winning 106 awards, including 23 #1 rankings in Grid and Index Reports.

These results are testimony to Sage’s dedication to build authentic human connections. After all, Sage Intacct is all about people–they listen to their customers and value their input. We help Sage to provide people with the insight they need to build their businesses, and flow at work, with simple and straightforward products. It is a huge honour for Sage Intacct to be ranked at the top in so many categories.

Here are some highlights of the winter report:

Sage Intacct places #1 in 7 Grid Reports

The independently validated reviews of users ranked Sage Intacct #1 in 7 Grid Reports, which are awarded for customer satisfaction, popularity, market presence, and more.

Sage Intacct ranks #1 in 14 Index Reports

We earned the top spot in 14 Index Reports for the usability of our products, relationships we build, quality of support, and more. We are especially excited about these rankings because we had a huge jump, earning more than twice the amount this quarter compared to last quarter.

Sage Intacct takes 1st place in 2 Momentum Grid Reports

G2 also awarded us 1st place on 2 Momentum Grid Reports for year-over-year change in employee growth, review growth, social growth, and web growth.

Sage Intacct ranks #1 in Customer Satisfaction in 17 categories

Sage Intacct rated #1 in Customer Satisfaction overall true competitors in a whopping 17 categories this winter. Users LOVE Sage Intacct!

  • Overall Project-Based ERP
  • Overall ERP Systems
  • Overall Revenue Management
  • Mid-Market Accounting
  • Mid-Market Nonprofit Accounting
  • Mid-Market Project-Based ERP
  • Mid-Market Subscription Management
  • Mid-Market Subscription Billing
  • Mid-Market Revenue Management
  • Enterprise Accounting
  • Enterprise Project-Based ERP
  • Enterprise Revenue Management
  • Enterprise AP Automation
  • Small Business Project-Based ERP
  • Momentum ERP Systems
  • Momentum Project-Based ERP
  • Momentum Revenue Management

This customer satisfaction score is based on things like how easy it is to use our product, set it up, and work with us, as well as how likely customers are to recommend us, and more. We are grateful for our customers’ support and honest feedback.

Sage Intacct wins 83 additional awards

On top of all that, Sage Intacct received 83 awards and regional recognition for our strong placement on reports across various market sizes. Included are 41 Leader awards for being in the Leader quadrant in various categories such as Accounting and Revenue Management. We also won multiple Easiest to Use badges for earning the highest Ease of Use rating in its category, as well as a ton of other badges such as High Performer in India and Europe. You’ll hear from our customers following these award details so be sure to keep reading.


Why we use G2

Now that you’ve heard from customers, we would like to share why G2 is more than just proof points. G2 is the leading platform for software reviews. It collects and analyzes feedback from customers and shares the results each quarter in Grid Reports. These Grid Reports help us understand how well our products are serving our customers. This information is important to us because we are driven to create ground-breaking solutions to help organizations and the people behind them and meet and exceed their needs.

G2 is also a valuable resource for technology shoppers. The review platform gets 80 million buyers coming to their site annually. G2 helps buyers make informed decisions on what to purchase for their organizations based on customer testimonials. The reviews influence their decisions. In fact, according to G2, 86% of software buyers use peer review sites when purchasing software, and 100% of Fortune 500 businesses use G2 to discover new software.

We are inspired by the results of the G2 Winter 2023 Grid Reports. They motivate us to continue to improve. In the coming year, Sage Intacct will continue to build simple, straightforward products that save you time, and enable you to build deeper connections in your community. We look forward to seeing how we can help you thrive and flow.

Want to learn more?

Take a coffee break tour of Sage Intacct and in 20 minutes you could be on your way to greater control of your businesses finances.

Learn how data visualisation can lead to increased profitability, and why using real-time data can result in making intelligent business decisions.

Stared at a spreadsheet so long that the numbers began to blur?

Or spent hours crunching data, only to struggle to explain the results to your team?

You’re not alone.

Today, where data is touted as the new gold rush, you might feel you’re drowning in a sea of data, but starving for insights.

What if there was a way to turn those raw, complex numbers into easily understandable, actionable insights?

This is where the power of data visualisation steps in.

In this article from Sage, we explore how this approach can revolutionise your financial reporting and fuel growth in your business, helping your finance team understand and better communicate your financial data to stakeholders.

Get insight to make good business decisions quickly

Analysing financial data quickly and accurately is becoming increasingly critical to stay competitive in your market.

As you digitalise your financial processes, you collect enormous amounts of data about operations and customers.

And what should you do with that data?

Use it to provide insights that your people can use to make better decisions.

One rising trend in financial reporting is visual reporting.


What is visual reporting?

Visual reporting provides a more intuitive way of understanding financial data, making it easier for stakeholders to identify key trends and insights.

It presents financial data in a more engaging and accessible format.

With the help of visual reporting, your finance team can create interactive dashboards and reports that provide real-time insights into your company’s financial health to inform strategic decision-making.

Visual reporting is gaining momentum.

Foundry is an integrated marketing technology and data provider firm. Its 2021 Data and Analytics survey found that 69% of organisations are piloting or using visual dashboards and data visualisation tools to consolidate and share information.

By 2025, data stories will be the most widespread way for organisations to consume analytics, according to research and consulting firm Gartner.

“Portraying financial data in a user-friendly way allows people to discover connections they wouldn’t have seen otherwise,” says Scott Freedman, director of marketing at Sage Intacct.

“With that information, they can make decisions that improve the business.”

But it’s yet to gain traction at many organisations.

Gartner says more than half of finance departments struggle to provide data or reports stakeholders can rely on to inform their decisions.

The struggle with traditional reporting

Despite the critical role that financial reporting plays in decision-making, traditional reporting methods can be challenging to manage.

The prevalence of data silos, which occur when data is stored in separate systems, makes it difficult to consolidate and analyse. This results in a lack of context and a fragmented view of the company’s financial health.

Another significant limitation of traditional financial reporting is the use of spreadsheets, which can be time-consuming and error prone.

Spreadsheets can be challenging to manage when dealing with large volumes of data. This can lead to inaccuracies and delays in decision-making, which can have significant consequences for your business.


A lack of real-time data

Today, you want to quickly access the most up-to-date financial data to make informed decisions.

Spreadsheets can’t handle real-time data, which can result in missed opportunities and costly mistakes.

Data is only useful when people can easily find it, understand it and put it to work. When data is buried in spreadsheets and scattered across departments, teams often don’t know where to look for it.

Searching takes time, and the numbers teams do find often lack context.

“Data is too often siloed and represented in ways that don’t allow people to slice and dice it the way they need to,” says Freedman.

In addition, spreadsheets can’t keep up with real-time operations.

“They are stuck in time,” adds Freedman. “They show recent or long-term past performance, but not the real-time reporting you need to predict the future.”


The power of customisable dashboards

Customisable dashboards are a powerful tool that can help your business consolidate and present financial data in a user-friendly way.

Frustrated by the inability to use their data effectively, management teams are turning to new solutions that collect data across the business and present it in customised dashboards.

The dashboards don’t just display facts and figures.

Instead, they create a narrative that places the data in context, along with graphical depictions that help bring it to life.

Your finance team can easily filter the information to learn what’s working and what’s not and then use these insights to improve operations or find new revenue opportunities.

Customisable dashboards play a crucial role in modern financial reporting by consolidating and presenting data in a user-friendly way.

Dashboards provide a real-time snapshot of critical financial data, allowing you to monitor key performance indicators (KPIs) and gain insights into your company’s financial health.

With dashboards, you can select the most relevant data points and visualise them in a way that is easy to understand and more accessible to a broader audience.

  • Data narratives and graphical representations help to create a story around the data, providing context and insight into the numbers.
  • Graphical representations, such as charts and graphs, help to visualise the data, making it easier to identify trends and patterns.

Customisable dashboards also help you tailor your reporting to specific user groups.

For example, executive-level dashboards may focus on high-level financial data, while departmental dashboards may drill down into more granular data relevant to specific teams. Each user group has the information they need to make informed decisions.


Data visualisation leads to increased profitability

An example of a company using data visualisation is Quicksilver Express Courier.

This ‘last mile’ delivery service collected data about its fleet but lacked visibility about individual vehicle profitability.

After adopting cloud financial software, Quicksilver’s finance executives could drill down into the profit and loss for each truck.

As a result, the company learned it was overpaying for workers’ compensation insurance, and subsequent adjustments saved £100,000 a year.

Other changes based on insights Quicksilver gained from the platform helped the company increase total profitability at some locations by 5% to 25%.


Enhanced communication and experimentation

Customisable dashboards provide a snapshot of critical financial data and can improve communication between your executives and teams.

Your senior executives can confidently make informed decisions with real-time access to the most up-to-date financial data.

Additionally, customisable dashboards facilitate communication between executives, finance teams, and organisational units.

Dashboards provide a common language that everyone in your business can understand, helping to break down silos and ensure everyone is on the same page.

This not only improves communication but also helps to build a culture of data-driven decision-making.

Access to the same data allows your people to collaborate more effectively, leading to better outcomes.


Experiment and innovate with real-time visualisation

Customisable dashboards provide a powerful tool to experiment, innovate, and make data-driven decisions-based insights you gain from real-time data visualisations.

Think about playing around with your dashboards, using real-time information, charts, and graphs. It’s about trying out ideas for improving processes or services.

“You can look backwards or forward and use real-time insights to predict future results,” says Freedman.

With access to real-time data, you can test ideas and adjust on the fly, helping your teams respond quickly to changing market conditions.

For example, your marketing teams can use real-time data to test different messaging and campaigns, while product teams can use data to identify areas for improvement and drive innovation.

The ability to experiment and innovate in real-time is a significant advantage. You can stay ahead of the competition and drive growth with real-time data visualisations.


Final thoughts on data visualisation

Data visualisation and customisable dashboards provide the business tools to analyse financial data quickly and accurately, ensuring you stay ahead of the curve and make better-informed decisions.

Visual reporting provides a more intuitive way of understanding financial data, making it easier for your stakeholders to identify key trends and insights. Consolidate and present financial data in a user-friendly way, and you’ll improve communication between executives and teams,

Don’t wait any longer to unlock the full potential of your financial data and fuel growth in your organisation.

Consider exploring the power of data visualisation tools to transform your reporting process today, which may mean looking at financial management software tailored to your needs.

It’s time to shine the spotlight on our third and final winner from our team away day last month. In our recent training day hosted by Sage at their offices in Newcastle we chose to highlight 3 members of the team who had stood out for many different reasons and who Nick and Jaco felt had earned some well deserved recognition. As a small team it’s important to share and promote our successes and the work the team do. X3 Consulting want to cultivate an environment of growth and support of the team not just within their roles, but also their own personal development.  By recognising the hard work, it shows that X3C value their team and have chosen to award a select few for their achievements.

Jeremy joined the X3 Consulting team in 2021 and brought his product knowledge and experience of Sage X3. Jeremy, has this year brought in the biggest deal to X3C! Jeremy has carefully built rapport and confidence over minutes, hours, days and months of with this client and eventually through confidence and persistence, sprinkled with some good old charm he’s secured the deal. The hard work taking the client through the discovery process and getting inside their business and challenges has really paid off and meant that Jeremy is now topping our leaders board for 2023!

The team has shown incredible growth over the last 12 month and is adapting to the latest expansion which almost doubles the team! X3 Consulting builds up their people through support, recognition and growth. The recent awards was part of a new initiative to highlight the hard work of some of the individuals who have stood out over the last 12 months. Both Nick and Jaco, the Directors of the business, lead the team by supporting everyones roles within the business and offering ways to promote growth through industry training and personal development. Through this supportive, encouraging approach, X3C can grow as a team and help build on their potential and strength as a smaller business. Keeping their uniqueness is key, which is why customers and clients stay with them.

Spotlight this week:

Jeremy Cook


Big Deal!

We are putting the spotlight on our team and just how great they really are. In our recent training day hosted by Sage at their offices in Newcastle we rounded off the day with a little surprise awards ceremony to recognise some of the hard work by the team. As a small team we have a high level of communication between our team and remain committed to keeping our customer focussed support. Working with a smaller team not only gives our client a personal touch, but allows us to coordinate easily and efficiently when ur clients need us the most.

Alfred has gone above and beyond to help resolve customer issues and is always happy to help. He has worked the longest hours known, without a flinch and enjoys supporting the wider team. Alfred always goes the extra mile to help the team which is why he has been chosen as the ‘Support Superstar’ of the team.

The team has shown incredible growth over the last 12 month and is adapting to the latest expansion which almost doubles the team! X3 Consulting builds up their people through support, recognition and growth. The recent awards was part of a new initiative to highlight the hard work of some of the individuals who have stood out over the last 12 months. Both Nick and Jaco, the Directors of the business, lead the team by supporting everyones roles within the business and offering ways to promote growth through industry training and personal development. Through this supportive, encouraging approach, X3C can grow as a team and help build on their potential and strength as a smaller business. Keeping their uniqueness is key, which is why customers and clients stay with them.

Spotlight this week:

Alfred Mlambo


Support Superstar

X3 Consulting will be attending this years it Showcase at Twickenham Stadium, held on the 14th March. This event is specifically focussed on helping businesses identify what software they require to grow their business.

Getting your software project off to the best start requires that you speak to the right people. People who understand your business and the challenges you face on a daily basis.

Not only does itSHOWCASE present more specialist software suppliers than any other UK event, but we’re also the only event that brings them to you.

Venue and date:

South West London

Twickenham Stadium

Tuesday 14th March 2023

10am to 2pm


Ready to upgrade now?

If you have already decided it’s time to update your business software, the itSHOWCASE ERP software discovery event is a great place to start looking. The X3 Consulting team will be there to guide you through the benefits of upgrading to Sage X3 and Sage Intacct and discuss the unique software from Trax3ion developed to help in scoping your needs prior to the Sage implementation.

Not quite ready to change yet?

That’s no problem either. You still need to keep your finger on the pulse of what’s out there. Meet our Sage X3 and Sage Intacct experts and discuss what the future holds so, when the time comes to upgrade, you know you’ll be ready.

Learn what the future holds and how to access the software

The pace of technological change has never been greater. Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA). The Internet of Things (IoT), Big Data and Cloud Computing. Visiting itSHOWCASE will help you demystify the technologies that fuel digital transformation and help you avoid some of the pitfalls when deciding to embrace digital change for your business.

Why start your project with a large financial outlay when you’ll only start to reap the full benefits of your new system after you’ve gone live? We are helping businesses get the software they need for tomorrow, today with Buy It Your Way from X3 Consulting, find out more by clicking this link.

If you’d like a one-to-one discussion with our team you can book a session now on-line using our contact form here or come along on the day and speak to one of our experts.

We look forward to seeing you there!

It’s an understatement to say our world has faced (and continues to face) significant challenges recently, and as we reflect on past lessons, we look forward to taking on new challenges and what they may mean for the future of the manufacturing industry. Here are three key predictions about supply chain disruptions, outsourced manufacturing, and digital manufacturing in 2023.


Agile supply chains

First of all, supply chain disruptions aren’t going anywhere. Every supply chain manager should know by now that the pandemic was not an isolated incident. The US – China trade war and large-scale natural disasters — including severe flooding, typhoons, hurricanes and droughts — preceded the COVID crisis. We don’t know what disruptions to expect in 2023, but we do know that something (or things) will happen to throw a spanner in the supply chain.

That’s why the keys to successful supply chains moving forward are agility with strategic, proactive contingency planning, and supplier diversification.

Companies well prepared for the inevitable supply chain disruptions will undoubtedly fare better than their competitors dealing with the problem reactively and after experiencing a lot of damage. While strategic proactive contingency planning and diversification may take some time to develop now, it will be time well spent on reducing likely delays, declining profits and potential loss of key customer relationships.


Outsourcing to increase

Secondly, more companies will turn to outsourced manufacturing. To reduce operating costs and increase focus on core competencies, we will see an increase in outsourced manufacturing in 2023. Peloton led this trend in 2022 by outsourcing all of its manufacturing, and while not every company will go to that extreme, I expect many more companies to outsource some production in the coming year.

Increased reliance on outsourced manufacturing is an ongoing trend supported by data from the 2022 State of Manufacturing Report, which shows 48% of companies reported an increase in outsourced manufacturing this year. Additionally, nearly three-quarters of survey respondents view outsourcing positively while specifying that quality, efficiency, speed, and pricing were the primary benefits.

Doing your due diligence up front to find the right outsourced manufacturing partner or partners is critical to effectively navigating supply chain disruptions. Best practice is to ask potential partners about their strategies for future supply chain disruptions, and dig into the details — the ones you want to work with will have concrete, articulable plans in place.

And keep in mind that manufacturing networks have geographic diversification and resilience built in to ensure that supply chain disruptions aren’t so disruptive.


The future is digital

The third prediction is that 2023 will be a digital manufacturing tipping point. The pandemic was a serious wake-up call to manufacturing companies that adopting digital manufacturing tools was no longer optional. Now, headed into a likely recession, it’s mission-critical. Companies are searching for ways to increase efficiency and productivity, and technology can provide what they’re looking for.

Strategic implementation of technologies supporting digital manufacturing continue to evolve, and implementing them will be a differentiating factor for companies in 2023. A digital manufacturing partner can help your company leverage the power of digital tools, streamline workflows, and make your team faster and more productive.


Time to get ready

Does your company have an effective manufacturing readiness strategy for 2023? If you haven’t started planning for next year, now’s the time — then you’ll be ready to tackle 12 months of come-what-may.

Source of information: Forbes

Data is key in 2023.

Whatever your industry, cloud technology allows you to chase accurate and up-to-the-minute data to innovate, compete and increase the profitability of your business. By maximising your use of data, you can turn it into a valuable asset and leave your competition trailing in the dust. To lead with data, you want to chase growth and innovation through cloud technologies that offer benefits such as predictive analytics, business intelligence, AI, automation, and machine learning. So, as a CFO or business leader, it’s you who may be required to steer your businesses on your data-driven journey, supporting a move to the cloud.

It’s not just about getting rid of old technology and keeping up with the Joneses. It’s about taking advantage of the strategic value and edge in the marketplace that cloud technology can give you. Look at automation, for instance. For many cloud-ready finance leaders, automation has already improved productivity within their finance teams.

Why is automation vital to a finance team?

It stops people from spending large chunks of time on repetitive and low-value tasks, which can cost businesses thousands of pounds each year. Funds which you could use for reinvestment into other areas of the business. In addition, the time you spend on manual processing is time your business can’t spend on more valuable tasks, such as winning new business. Cloud finance software can automate those dull and pesky accounting tasks, crunch those numbers, produce reports, and provide valuable analytics.

Before the cloud, the most you could reasonably hope for was accurate financial statements and reports. Now, with the cloud, you can access a treasure trove of data. You can predict what will happen in the future, shape your strategy to fit, and improve your day-to-day decision making in real time. Your finance team can find data patterns and trends, modelling future scenarios with machine learning and artificial intelligence. You can move quickly on projects because you have real-time data that provides evidence they will work.

Another big business challenge you can solve with cloud tech is cybersecurity. In a 2019 Sage research report, cybersecurity concerns were cited as the number one challenge to digitalisation. In two years, that wariness of cloud cybersecurity seems to have been replaced by positivity. In a recent survey of 500 UK finance leaders by, 49% of finance professionals who considered their organisation cloud-ready said improved cybersecurity was the leading benefit of new technology implementations.

Typically, cloud solutions configured correctly can be more secure than on-premise solutions. Cloud providers typically guarantee the safety and security of their platforms. They offer users additional safety measures, such as password protection, encryption and access limitations based on user profiles. Cloud vendors also offer 24/7 monitoring and dedicated cybersecurity teams trained to rapidly identify and respond to potential threats, reducing the impact.

If you’re a CFO and can connect business success with improved technology, you’ll be in an excellent position to make a business case to the rest of the company that you should be putting in more tech investment. In research undertaken by our business partner Sage, businesses that aren’t cloud-ready say cost is why they aren’t investing in new technologies. With the cloud, you can overcome financial arguments against digital transformation, as you can articulate the value it provides.

The more you use cloud technology, the more you’ll expand the areas where the technology can bring value. You can measure the financial impact of the decision making you’ve driven with data. You can also identify and validate your most valuable revenue streams and apply data to the processes.

The senior leadership team might ask you to steer the ship when it comes to getting value out of data, working with IT in moving your business to the cloud and implementing technologies such as automation, analytics and artificial intelligence.

As a principle, you should understand how to assign economic value to data. The cloud will allow you to set up a foundational framework to manage, measure and monetise data as an asset.

Through working with data in the cloud, one of your jobs will be to support your finance team in building insights into new revenue streams and support tech and finance to work together in improving efficiencies.

Here are a few pointers for CFOs to drive data value out of the cloud:

  • Define the accounting practices and principles to speed the adoption of cloud technology and data insight.
  • Support IT in setting up the systems to allow your business to extract value out of data. It’ll be up to you to assess commercial models, look at the risks, recognise and account for value, and apply controls and governance.
  • Plan and get strategic. Examine what your business goals are what is going to drive your use of the cloud. Examine what cloud technologies are going to work for you and create a clear roadmap for implementation.

Once you’ve put the technology in place, you’ll need to work at measuring your progress and ask a few questions of your finance team:

  • Are you using the cloud tech and are you doing it in the right way?
  • How effective are your new processes? Are they leading to the productivity and efficiency improvements you expect?
  • What outcomes do you see with the new technology? Get business metrics for your intended goals.

We started talking about the value of data, and that’s how we’ll end. A CFO today has a central part to play in a future where businesses are becoming more dependent on extracting value from the immense amount of data that’s generated. Starting with the finance team, you have a critical role in the digitalisation of the business.

By developing your data capabilities, you can make the right decisions about what cloud technology to invest in based on the economic value of the data you’re playing with. Make that connection between cloud technology and business value. It will be the most effective way to advocate for digital transformation and elevate the role of your finance team.Prove the value of the cloud. Show it can make your business more agile, forward-thinking and data-driven.

Source of data and information: Sage

Is your finance team spending too much time on manual processes?

Could automation give you more time?

Ideally, as the CFO or financial manager, your finance team has a strategic role, supporting you, the CEO and the leadership teams to make critical business decisions that shape the future.

But what if you don’t have time to do that necessary work?

What if you’re spending 10 or more days on monthly financial closes, reviewing and reconciliating your records?

You might have monthly closes, quarterly closes, or annual audits to deal with.

Today for most businesses, there’s a lot of repetitive work involved to get through those cycles due to time-consuming manual processes.

In this article, we highlight how you and your finance team can say farewell to those manual processes courtesy of automation.

Here’s what we cover:

  • Challenges of manual processes for finance teams
  • How spreadsheets are slowing the financial close process
  • Why automation can speed things up
  • How to adopt automation for financial processes
  • AI forecasting the future

Challenges of manual processes for finance teams

Managing processes can be time-consuming for finance teams, especially with issuing and processing invoices, keeping track of budgets, and creating financial reports.

As your business grows and processes and reporting become more complex, it’s common to waste incredible amounts of time with manual data entry, unruly spreadsheets and time-consuming workarounds.

No matter how skilled your finance department may be, any system that relies on manually inputting data from paper is slow and subject to human error.

Every time a piece of paper changes hands, you introduce an opportunity to misread, misplace or misunderstand something.

For a company that handles tens of thousands of invoices per month, even a tiny margin of error can result in huge losses.

Manual processing also leads to a lack of control and visibility, leaving you unable to make informed decisions to effectively lead your team, creating an environment vulnerable to fraud.

How spreadsheets are slowing the financial close process

Spreadsheets are cheap and flexible.

We all know how they work. And in lots of cases, they can be really useful.

However, a significant problem with spreadsheets is that you must enter calculations as formulas, so you need to learn the correct formula for each calculation you need.

And that can be a big problem when it comes to dealing with your financial close processes.

Training for this takes time, and some users still find them challenging.

If you enter a formula or data into a cell incorrectly, all calculations related to that cell will also be wrong.

Large spreadsheets can inevitably have some input or formula errors, which can be time-consuming to find and lead to severe consequences if uncorrected.

You can add spreadsheet on top of spreadsheet as you need them.

But as your business grows, your workbooks will become more complex, leading to more time wasted on maintenance.

The more complex spreadsheets are, the more of a problem it can be for anyone to change, modify and even destroy data.

If you lock them down, they lose the very flexibility that made you use them in the first place.

Why automation can speed things up

By incorporating automation into your financial processes, you can significantly reduce close days, increase agility, lower costs, improve productivity, reduce delays, minimise errors, and ultimately give your team more time to focus on strategy, business growth and success.

Automation can decrease the financial close to a more manageable three to five days and has the potential to get rid of the close entirely.

One day in the future, you might be able to automate all the processes within your finance team fully. Automation makes a future possible where real-time data removes the need for a close—as you’re always current.

Software as a Service (SaaS) businesses that might have only been able to forecast renewals quarterly can trend-spot in real time, flagging material changes.

Perhaps most importantly, automating routine tasks of assurance and accounting workflows frees up your finance team to focus on more strategic activities.

How to adopt automation for financial processes

If you’re looking at getting automation going, here are some steps you might want to take.

1. Understand what kind of automation you need

Every business is different, and it’s crucial to get the best value. It’s essential to understand what area of your finances could do most with automation.

You could focus on reconciliation, for example, a massive drain of resources for any finance office.

Reconciliation is a process where you must match the entry in the bank account with the relevant invoice in your system once you receive a payment.

Why not automate reconciliation?

With some types of financial management software, it’s possible to create rules where regular payments automatically get matched to their invoices.

Additionally, artificial intelligence (AI) means you can match up one-off or otherwise discrete payments.

Of course, someone from your team will still have to check the reconciliation.

Still, there’s a considerable time and labour difference between peering at two lists, matching things up, and simply checking that an existing reconciliation is correct.

Automation could allow you to import statements from your financial institutions and automatically reconcile them in minutes when managing your cash.

You’d be able to quickly spot exceptions, manage bank errors, monitor for fraud, and maintain accurate cash balances.

2. Develop a business case

When looking at automation within departments, you should question how economically viable opportunities are.

You should investigate what the return on investment would be.

Get relevant stakeholders in from the departments in question and try and create a business case.

3. Get management buy-in

You need to get information straight from stakeholders on what they understand when it comes to automation and how it would be able to benefit them.

You and other leadership team members should help the wider business understand what automation can do and how it could make their working lives easier, letting them focus on more critical, less repetitive tasks.

4. Support IT in setting up the systems

The IT team can provide technical expertise to ensure automation implementation runs smoothly and at the right speed.

The technical leadership needs to start small with automation, get the business used to the technology, and expand it when it gets used to the changes.

With the cloud, your finance team can become more agile and faster, gaining efficiencies through the time you save by removing time-intensive manual tasks.

To extract value from automation, it will be up to you to assess commercial models, look at the risks, recognise and account for value, and apply controls and governance.

5. Get results

Create a clear automation roadmap. You’ll have to work closely with your people, who will drive the use of new technology.

With the tech in place, you’ill need to work at measuring your progress and ask a few questions of your finance team:

  • How are you using automation, and are you doing it right?
  • How effective are your new processes?
  • Are they leading to the productivity and efficiency improvements you expect?
  • What outcomes do you see with the new technology?
  • How can you get business metrics for your intended goals?

AI forecasting the future

Automation is a subcategory of AI that follows pre-programmed rules to run processes.

However, we’re bound to see more advanced forms of AI in the future as systems apply self-learning capability through machine learning.

The future will see forward-looking finance teams use data science and AI to look into the future, using real-time insights and AI-powered forecasting.

Today, AI can help support small businesses with cash flow forecasting, while, as we’ve said, larger medium-sized SaaS businesses in specific industries might use AI to forecast renewals.

Members of your finance teams can use AI to build patterns of understanding, identifying transactions flowing through the business that don’t match these patterns—in real time.

Your team will have confidence when reviewing hundreds of thousands of transactions a month. Humans cannot review all of that manually.

Aaron Harris, chief technology officer at Sage, says: “The real value in AI-powered forecasting isn’t that it’s more accurate than humans; the real power is that AI can do it continuously, and basically for free.”

Looking after staff, ensuring investors are happy, managing cash flow and keeping customers content – CEOs have to keep more plates spinning than ever these days.

In the latest episode of Agility Unleashed, the podcast series from Sage that helps Britain’s businesses pick their way out of the pandemic, a group of business leaders from a variety of industries share their thoughts and insights on how CEOs can help their businesses thrive.

Here’s what they talk about:

Tackling uncertain times

Managing cash flow

The pandemic requires lateral thinking

CEOs need to look after themselves

Running a business: Data versus gut feeling

Cyril Journoux is CEO at PCL Ceramics, which makes pressure casting, mould development and advanced ceramics for the sanitaryware, hand former, pharmaceutical, defence and aerospace industries among others.

He describes 2020 as “a year of two parts”.

The first was very difficult while the second saw an “amazing recovery” with November witnessing the largest monthly sales for the company’s consumable division.

But it was that tough first half that tested Cyril and his team. “It’s really [a case of] reacting and managing cash and seeing how we are going to manage the business and make sure we don’t spend money we don’t have,” he explained.

The team focused on the long-term vision of the business. It took the opportunity, as well, to look at its technology and services and to talk to its customers and listen to what they wanted. Open communications with staff was also essential as was keeping positive, he believes.

Sinead McHale is CEO of Satago, a platform that helps businesses to manage their cash flow by covering cash flow gaps, managing debtors and predicting credit risks.

Running a business that helps other businesses to manage cash flow provides her with unique insights – in particular an alarming fall for some of them in revenue of around 50% year-on-year in March, April and May.

“The pound in your bank account today is worth more than that pound tomorrow,” she points out, as customers re-evaluated their payment terms. “It was a reassessment for a lot of people about how their cash flow worked and how it would impact them that was so unprecedented.”

However, this wasn’t so much of an issue for Richard Youngman.

He’s the managing director at Sicon, which develops innovative, high quality and highly functional additions solely for Sage 200.

Richard’s positive balance sheet left him feeling “a little smug”, as he puts it.

“I was able to say to the staff, ‘Look, guys, we have got enough money in the bank to get us through the next six months,’” he says.

But that didn’t mean that he and his senior managers rested on their laurels: “We decided not to furlough anybody and to spend that quiet time, assuming that nothing was going to happen for three months, looking at our products and development and doing all that work we never get time to do.”

As well as products, the Sicon leadership team focused on the mental health of its staff in these unprecedented and worrying times.

After a few weeks, the company discovered that it was not alone in using this time to review internal systems and procedures.

Richard says: “We started to get people knocking on the door going, ‘We have got someone who would like to put in a new manufacturing system’ or put in a barcoding system and it was manufacturers I think that came back first into the sector.

“It was them reflecting on ‘What can we do better, how can we improve our systems?’ We saw a big increase in people just then starting to buy software to improve the processes and manufacturing was a big sector for that.”

This was indeed the case for PCL Ceramics, reveals Cyril.

He says: “We spent a lot of time working on our technology road maps and we surveyed our customers and talked to them to understand what they wanted from us in the future, and we also introduced a lot of technology to work with our staff.”

Employee consultation and training were key to making the success of this technological upgrade.

Coronavirus put Sinead to the test and forced her to do some lateral thinking – and to pivot the company – something many CEOs have been forced to do.

“You have to lead from the front and say, ‘We’ll grab this opportunity’,” she points out. “We don’t just do cash flow, we’re also a lender, so we had to really think about how we were operating and lending to businesses.

“I’m answerable to a board, to investors and so I had to really believe in what we were doing.”

She agrees with Cyril: “You have to pivot slightly and think, ‘Let’s really get down to what pain points the customer is feeling and what anxieties they’re having right now and see how we can solve that’.”

Again, the effective pivot has been important to Richard in the way that he’s led his team through the pandemic.

“What I think I’ve been better at doing is putting down a good story to the team, making a change in strategy quickly, giving them a good explanation of why we’re doing it, making sure everyone’s on board with it and then we’re all going together,” he says.

Good teams, if well managed, will shine in these challenging situations, he believes.

For Cyril, building trust in a remote working environment, being aware of the power of emotion and then complementing it with gut instinct are two key learning points.

He says: “You have to be mindful that sometimes your emotions can make you go in a different way.

“It is all about making the difference between being overwhelmed and having too many changes and saying, ‘How am I going to manage that?’ and saying, ‘I need to make a decision and the right decision is this’.”

In response, Sinead emphasises the importance of data, explaining that her decision making is “100% data driven.”

So what would the CEOs take forward from their experiences of managing their businesses during the pandemic?

“Make your CFO your best friend,” advises Sinead.

Familiarity with the numbers and careful contingency and scenario planning is essential, she argues.

Forward planning with cash flow, based on the assumption that invoice payments may well be delayed is essential to avoid being rushed into expensive short term financing options.

Investing in technology can help here, she adds.

Cyril has a different but equally important insight to share: “Look after yourself. It’s been a very draining, stressful time and we need to look after everyone, but I’ve also made sure I looked after myself.

“If your mindset and head is in the right place the team will follow you.”

But what about another key issue for the health of any business – sales?

“I think we’ll still have face-to-face meetings and we need to build the relationship, we need to shake hands,” Cyril argues.

This is still the key to building trust but it will increasingly be backed up with customers having ever greater access to information about your company before they do business with you.

Inevitably, technology is important for our CEOs.

The need for more integrated systems has been another lesson of the pandemic, according to Richard.

“But ultimately it comes back to that same point we talked about a few times which is data, getting access to that data in an easy-to-understand format,” he adds.

A new service desk, a project management system and a customer relationship management (CRM) solution, which are joined up, has made a huge difference to Sicon, he explains.

Subscription services increase agility and have helped to manage costs and cash flow, he’s found.

Looking back over the past 18 months, Sinead admits that business has been more about the survival of the strongest than it usually is.

That said, she’s generally optimistic.

“We’ve had more new businesses set up in the last 12 months, which is fantastic because people are taking the opportunity to probably reset where they are from a personal perspective, to think about their careers and think about what they want,” she says.

“I guess [there are] pros and cons to everything but I think there are huge opportunities.”

Customers have been willing to embrace innovations such as remote installations, Cyril has been encouraged to find, but good old fashioned customer service is also key.

He says: “For us, that effort in supporting the customer despite the tough times has made a massive difference and we will have to keep that going as they expect that now.”

Richard agrees: “Bringing that whole ethos into the company and just trying to go the extra mile – I think that’s going to be the thing that will hopefully set us aside even more from the competition.”

So what advice would our CEOs give to themselves as they sat at their desks in March 2020?

“I spoke earlier about efficient gut feeling and so use your gut and make sure you take the decision and do it,” says Cyril.

Sinead takes a similar line – you need to own your decisions, even if they turned out to be wrong.

She adds: “You make a decision, based on the information you had at hand, so it was the best decision you could make at that time.”

Richard agrees: “It’s a funny thing to say that we run our businesses on gut feeling but I do.”

In his case, his gut told him not to furlough staff: “I think that was a good decision because we were there for the people that needed us, and we could respond to them quickly.”

And how can CEOs deal with uncertainty?

Using data to make well-informed decisions can help here, suggests Sinead. However, taking the general business temperature with other business leaders is equally important, she adds.

For Cyril, the key is simple: “What’s the best decision I can make with what I’ve got in front of me and what do I see as the implication of the decision?”

Richard applies gut instinct to a major decision about the purchase of a new office.

He says: “I’m going with what my gut tells me there and acquiring that building to allow us to spread out a little bit more and be ready for that expansion.”

Whatever the decision, having the executive committee, the senior leadership team and the board onside is essential.

Sinead adds investors to that list: “Having the support of an investor that acknowledges and appreciates what’s happening in the market and supports your decisions, good and bad, is really, really important.”

The pandemic helped Cyril’s team to bond with its board.

He says: “I think coming out of it we gained the trust of the board, and all the stakeholders are really confident that we’re doing the right thing.”

Richard is in a different position.

“Myself and my wife own the business, so we have no shareholders and investors to worry about,” he explains. “Fortunately, I have a good senior management team who temper some of my crazy ideas sometimes and keep my gut instincts of doing something new and innovative a little bit more under control perhaps.”

And surely that’s the role of any good senior manager?

Article shared courtesy of Sage, see the link here: