This year I’ve spoken to over 200 finance leaders, and I find we are consistently talking about the same 6 challenges listed below.

1. Manual Processes – Manual and inefficient planning processes in Excel spreadsheets that bog down finance teams from completing month end ahead of schedule.

2. Formulaic & Spreadsheet Errors – Excel can be a powerful FP&A tool and will always have a place in Finance, but consolidating data and spreadsheets creates constant errors in the planning cycle. Organizations spend the majority of their time consolidating spreadsheets, version control, and manually fixing errors versus analyzing the data.

3. Siloed Data Locked Away In Spreadsheets – Disconnect between Operations, Sales, and Finance creates a lack of visibility into KPI’s such as Project Profitability, Customer Profitability, and Orders to Backlog, which inhibits companies from properly planning/forecasting and causes businesses to over/under-estimate profits and costs.

4. Complex FP&A Processes – Complexity in data and process, making platforms like Excel and ERP’s incapable of being the most effective planning tools.

5. Inability to Properly Forecast – With limited time for analysis after consolidating spreadsheets, using tools like Excel to forecasts makes it close to impossible to accurately predict and adjust forecasts in real-time.

6. Lacking Agility – Organizations are unable to run “what-if” scenarios in planning tools like their ERP and spreadsheets because it lacks the capabilities of a proper planning engine like Planning Analytics. Often when trying to run scenarios with large data sets, systems run the risk of breaking.

I feel the reason why these challenges are so common in these organizations is that the role of finance has yet to evolve and is limited by the tools and processes of the business. Often, I hear the same feedback that these individuals are stuck in the weeds, they take on more of a scorekeeping and caretaking role versus being advisors and stewards of change for their organizations.

Finance holds the information, and when empowered and supported it can transform a business. The challenge is understanding where to start and knowing the right steps to unlock your profit potential.

I found that a simple way to assess where your finance team fits between scorekeeping and advisory is to ask yourself the following questions:

1. Is 80 percent of your team’s time being spent on consolidating spreadsheets and data and only 20 percent on analysis?

2. With your current infrastructure is it even possible to flip that percentage around?

3. Finally, what would it mean to the business if you could and what is the value to justify your investment on return?

If you are not happy with the results of your assessment and want to transition your team to advisors, we should talk.

Written By Lance Tylor 

Lance is a business finance professional with a passion for helping businesses grow. He is a Charted Management Accountant (CMA) within Canada and in the UK and has had several roles within the Office of Finance. His experience has always been focused on business strategy, performance management and business process improvement (leveraging the latest technologies).