Why becoming data driven will be essential for post-Covid prosperity

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Why becoming data driven will be essential for post-Covid prosperity
Decision makers with access to contemporaneous business intelligence and insights will be at a powerful advantage.
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

In today’s times, having up-to-date knowledge of your organisation’s financial position has never been more important.

Has your business found the last 18 months an uphill slog? For many leaders, the answer is a resounding ‘yes’. That’s unsurprising, given the smorgasbord of challenges the ongoing Covid-19 crisis has served up, for Australian enterprises of all stripes and sizes.

Cash flow collapse has caused enormous angst for some, particularly in the hard-hit tourism, hospitality and entertainment industries, where border closures, protracted shutdowns and changes to consumer behaviour have made a mockery of best laid plans and forecasts.

‘Pivoting’ – arguably a contender for 2020’s most overused business term – has been a painful exercise for others, whose business models have not lent themselves to agile about-faces and the rapid creation of alternative income streams to replace those decimated by the virus.

Meanwhile, for enterprises that lacked the high tech infrastructure to support it – reliable secure mobile technology and core business applications hosted in the cloud – switching to remote working on the fly in early 2020 was a rocky ride. Many ICT departments found themselves having to cobble together the toolsets employees needed to keep on, keeping on, in home offices around the country.

Knowing where you stand

Business leaders’ chief responsibility is to make decisions: sound, well considered ones that will serve their organisation well in the short term and place it on sounder footing in the long run.

In uncertain times like those we’ve lived, and are living through, that’s no easy gig. It can be made immeasurably harder by a dearth of meaningful data: up-to-the-minute intelligence on how an enterprise is situated financially and where it’s heading, not where it was one, or three, or six months prior, last time the books were balanced and the bottom line revised accordingly.

Traditional finance systems and methodologies can be a less than optimal resource for data driven decision making. Very often, they continue to rely on innumerable spreadsheets and manual processes which don’t enable a high degree of visibility into operations, or a bird’s eye view of the organisation’s financial position, in the here and now.

Taking a new tack

There is another, better way, one that turbo-charges efficiency in the finance department and makes access to business critical insights much simpler. Continuous accounting is a technology-driven accounting methodology, based around an eminently sensible concept: that the finance team’s workload should be spread evenly across the accounting period, rather than concentrated at the end of the accounting period.

Automating repetitive, high volume manual tasks, such as transaction processing and customer payment matching, and harnessing the power of artificial intelligence to optimise the process further makes this change to the status quo possible.

As an added bonus, the continuous accounting methodology eliminates the human error that inevitably accompanies these activities, and enables fraud to be detected faster and more easily.  It also supports an organisation’s footing for accounts receivable automation and cash flow optimisation.  Moreover, relieved of the burden of the mundane, low value tasks that formerly occupied much of their working week, finance professionals can be redeployed to higher value activities.

Real time reporting and user-friendly digital dashboards make it possible for finance executives to monitor and evaluate the organisation’s financial performance continuously, automation to act pre-emptively when course correction is needed, and to support their colleagues in the leadership team with accurate, timely advice.

Smarter and stronger in 2022

As Australia moves closer towards its national vaccination targets, and the economic and societal opening up we’ve been assured will follow, businesses will need to adjust to whatever that ‘new normal’ looks like – and the faster the better.

Uncertain trading conditions, stiff competition and ongoing digital disruption promise to make things ‘interesting’ in many sectors.

Decision makers with access to contemporaneous business intelligence and insights will be at a powerful advantage to those seeking to navigate uncharted waters with yesterday’s map. If your leadership team is in the latter category, it’s time to do something about it.

Claudia Pirko is ANZ Regional Vice President BlackLine.

Copyright © BIT (Business IT). All rights reserved.

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