You’d be hard pushed to find an industry that hasn’t been affected by the wide scale disruptions of COVID-19. For the financial sector in particular, the future remains fragile, with businesses now closely monitoring and assessing what the lasting effects of the pandemic will be.
You need only look at the hit the global economy has taken due to a world on lockdown or the large scale supply chain disruptions, credit losses, and subsequent closure of numerous businesses both temporarily and, in some cases, permanently, to see how the financial landscape has been left shaken.
While it’s true that no one can yet be certain what the full fallout of the current pandemic will be, there are ways businesses can prepare themselves for what lies ahead.
Technology for tomorrow
For a number of years now, experts have been weighing up the topic of digital transformation in finance. Though some had been reluctant to adopt the latest advancements into their strategies, the recent lockdowns across the globe have forced many business leaders to accelerate these plans.
Connecting remote workforces through video calls and cloud-based solutions, technology has played a fundamental role in helping businesses adapt to the current climate and, ultimately, paved the way for a progression towards a greater adoption of technology in day-to-day business life.
However, post-COVID, the use of technology to support finance teams will go far further than the communication benefits it offers. There are still some hanging on to archaic spreadsheets and manual paper filing, but even the most traditional of finance teams are starting to see the benefits of the automation of everyday tasks that free up individuals to focus on the bigger picture. I hate to use what’s now seen as a cliche phrase, but it’s becoming the ‘new normal’.
While today, there are still many businesses reliant on manual processes to generate invoices and keep track of finances, a post-COVID world will bring about a need for increased efficiency. As a result, it’ll be those teams that harness the benefits of automation early that are likely to recover faster.
Cloud accounting and true flexibility
Right now, it seems hard to ignore the ongoing conversations surrounding flexible working, with many business leaders reviewing their current employee requirements and working arrangements. Given that many employees have proven they can be just as productive working from home as in the office over the past few months, we’re likely to see more employees calling for true flexibility in the future.
While some might have been comfortable with employers that let them work from home once or twice a week, employees will increasingly now look to options that let them choose when, where and how they work.
Integral to this though, is a move towards cloud-based solutions such as cloud accounting software which streamlines employee communication and allows them to access key applications, documents and data quickly.
By providing teams with a real-time view of key financial data at all times, it means key decision makers have a clear picture of essential financial information at any time and in any place, so they can make well-informed decisions even when not in the office environment. In addition, it ensures that all parties are viewing the most up-to-date data without having to wait for information to be updated manually.
Scenario planning, shock-proofing and greater resilience
2020 has certainly been a year of great upheaval, the likes of which have never been seen in peacetime before. And, though no one could have predicted the events of this year so far, one thing that has come out of this, is the growing demand for scenario planning and shock-proofing strategies.
Naturally, no business will be able to plan for every eventuality, and no one can be sure whether the world will be faced with a fresh pandemic to battle in years to come. However, the need for clear plans for what to do when the unthinkable becomes a reality, have never been more pertinent.
As a result, we’ll see savvy financial-planning teams putting in place key strategies that cover a range of scenarios and uncertainties. Ones that crucially identify trigger points that will prompt the business to make important adjustments to forecasts when needed to ensure they catch any potential cash flow issues before they become a reality.
It’s clear the world of finance is at the dawn of a great change. But once the dust has settled, it will be those forward-thinking finance teams that have taken the time to identify and unpick the lessons learned from the crisis that will put their business in good stead for any future uncertainties that may come its way.
Brendan Flattery is managing director of ERP at The Access Group, a leading provider of business software to mid-sized UK organisations.
Brendan Flattery is managing director of ERP at The Access Group, a provider of business software to mid-sized UK organisations