This December will mark two years since Covid-19 was first reported to the World Health Organisation. During this difficult period, the benefits of digitisation proved themselves. In our most recent quarterly report, Hybrid Working: The Impact of Covid-19 on Finance and How to Excel During Such Times, we found the impact of the coronavirus pandemic was lessened for those who had gone through a digital transformation. 

We thank all the finance professionals who provided survey answers, as our reporting analytics showed a direct relationship between efficiency, digitalisation and the impact of the pandemic. In simple terms, the higher the level of digitalisation an organisation possessed, the lower the impact of the crisis. When processes are transformed digitally, the efficiency of an organisation increases. If the organisation has adopted cloud based processes, remote working is easier, and in the pandemic the importance and value of this was proven. 

Benefits beyond the coronavirus crisis

It hardly needs to be said that digitisation’s benefits aren’t just limited to lessening the impact of Covid-19 on business. If digitised processes mean higher efficiency, many organisations are squandering these potential gains. Many respondents labelled their spend management in the survey as ‘manual and time-consuming’, and this sentiment is confirmed through anecdotal evidence – spend management processes were one of the most obvious areas of development we found while performing transformative advisory work. 

Spend management isn’t the only proccess left unadapted. Despite several tasks lending themselves to digitisation and automation, many are still at least partly manual for many organisations. Our report found exactly this; only a minority of respondents had fully digitised tasks such as supporting document submission or expense validation.

Graph showing low efficiency for financial processes

What’s stopping finance from digitally transforming?

So, if the benefits of digitising these processes are clear, why are so many organisations still yet to do so? The desire is there – the survey placed both updating current technology and embracing new finance technology high on the list of strategic priorities. They also collectively recognised that the financial team’s productivity would increase post-digitalisation. Despite this, the majority of respondents did not rate their P2P and spend management processes as ‘highly efficient’, and only a minority were in advanced stages of digital transformation. As the desire and the knowledge of the benefits is apparent, clearly there are other barriers preventing the realisation of digital transformation.  

These barriers can be narrowed down to three main culprits: time, technology, and mindset. Those surveyed cited time constraints faced by the finance team as the most significant factor preventing them from transforming their P2P and spend management processes. Mindset and culture was also widely named as a barrier – digital transformation requires cooperation amongst many departments, and this is not always easy. This is set to change however, as  collaboration and partnership are increasingly identified as strategic goals for finance teams. If collaboration between departments is realised, the process of digital transformation becomes significantly smoother. 

The other issue many respondents noted was technology constraints. These constraints could be in the form of inadequate technology, such as poor enterprise resource planning functionality. In some cases, the constraint could be as severe as a lack of technology all together. 

Overcoming these constraints

It is not impossible to challenge these barriers. Time and culture are often difficult areas to affect change in, as transformable processes require the collaboration of many. The most important step towards combating this is the right attitude. As one respondent stated:

“The biggest challenge will be upskilling the existing team, although this is not something I am concerned about. We are a very dynamic team and keen to embrace new ways of working and systems.”

It is also possible to overcome the technological barriers. Many respondents had an ERP solution as their core transactional platform – but only half who used it for purchasing rated their P2P process as very efficient. This  means many are suffering with an under-performing ERP module rather than looking for a more efficient best-of-breed solution. Mindset and attitude come into play here again; if an organisation is dynamic and open, they will look out for a better way of processing. One way to do this is to start their digital transformation.

So, how can I get my hands on the report?

To access the full report on Hybrid Working: The Impact of Covid-19 on Finance and How to Excel During Such Times, please click on the button below.