finance transformation

Why finance is fit to lead the way for transformation

Learn why finance is fit to lead the way for transformation

With growing threats in today’s economy and increasing regulatory expectations, businesses are looking to finance leaders to support decision making. 

Covid-19 has reshaped the way businesses think about planning. 

With expectations for faster forecasts and insights mounting, transformation projects that improve planning, scenario modelling and forecasting need to be prioritised as business-critical rather than nice to have. Having these insights will strengthen internal business partnerships as well as support business strategy conversations. 

Despite the apparent shift to more forward-looking tasks in the finance function, the coronavirus has forced a large majority of CFOs to put off or change their plans for innovation projects. According to a Grant Thornton CFO Survey in May of this year, eight out of 10 surveyed finance executives had delayed or reshaped innovation projects. With the remaining two out of 10 reporting that the crisis had accelerated their transformation projects.

Why business agility is more important than ever

As the country faces further lockdowns, there is an increased focus on agility.

Business agility is the ability of an organisation to: Adapt quickly to market changes – internally and externally. Respond rapidly and flexibly to customer demands. Adapt and lead change productively and cost-effectively without compromising quality. 

It is difficult to respond rapidly and plan for various scenarios without access to real-time data.  Legacy systems and broken data models impact business agility and can become a roadblock to change if not addressed. 

Forward-looking businesses are adapting their operating model to the new world of work, what this looks like we don’t fully know but being able to drive performance improvements, test and measure effectively and accurately across the business is key to survival.

Why the hesitancy to get started with Finance Transformation?

The current pandemic is forcing organisations to respond and adapt rapidly to become digital-first. Pushing quicker, strategic decisions and increasing business appetite to introduce new technologies and ways of working. Incredibly, Microsoft has seen two years’ worth of digital transformation in just two months, according to CEO Satya Nadella (Source: Microsoft) demonstrating where there’s a will, there’s a way.

Despite finance leaders understanding the need to improve their business operations, not all companies have experience in introducing process change or even know where to start. Lack of expertise, hesitancy from cost constraints, reluctance to move out of comfort zones and lack of company-wide buy-in are often obstacles in successfully introducing change in a business. 

After all, it’s not just about finding the right technology solution and a way of implementing it; the world has shifted and reimagining your business operations with fresh eyes is required. Having a skilled taskforce to help you deliver on your objectives can help you move out of stuck quickly and effectively.

If you’d like help navigating your finance transformation, from mapping processes to stakeholder buy-in, we’re here to help.

Talk to us about Advisory

CPQ Project

CPQ Project Planning: The Critical Path to Success

Nick, a Finance leader at a hi-tech firm, was regularly noticing wrong products on customer quotes. These products were being mis-sold and were including excessive discounting practices that were causing the company to lose money. They needed a way to guide their sales team to configure, price and quote more accurately to help increase profitability and customer satisfaction.

To optimise the guided selling capabilities of the sales team, the Configure Price Quote (CPQ) solution would need to guide them through the product or solution bundles based on the information they were getting from the customer in real-time. Giving the customer a better experience and making it easier for them to do business with the company.

A solution would need to fit seamlessly between the Customer Relationship Management (CRM) programme and the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) software. Thus bringing the data and processes together to speed up the quoting and proposal stage, enabling data to be visible across the business and quotes to be delivered in minutes rather than weeks.

Sales automation impacts the whole business

Configure, price, quote (CPQ) software automates the sales-to-close process. It helps improve the accuracy of quotes, assure compliance with discounting and margin policies, accelerate the internal deal review process, and provide customers with detailed quotes far quicker than manual processes allow. CPQ solutions connect finance, product, and sales departments, linking product information and pricing policies with sales processes to generate and manage proposals.

CPQ tools can increase revenue through guided selling suggestions for complementary services or products. Some tools manage the contract process as well.

There can be lots of factors and requests from different business departments to procure the right solution. Considerations have to include whether a vendor has a broad geographical reach to support multicurrency/language considerations and manage the complexity around multiple lines of business to support growth.

“Building out the business requirements can be an overwhelming process, but it is critical to the success of the CPQ project.”
Tamara Roda, Practice Director at PhiX.

Rather than stalling your project due to lack of understanding and time constraints to gather these requirements, calling in external advice and support can keep the project moving and free up the team to continue with their day jobs.

PhiX understands the importance of expert advisory services at this stage to avoid unsuccessful project outcomes. Asking the right questions to get the desired result is vital. All our technical engineers have spent their careers fixing and re-engineering poorly implemented products and are on a mission to help companies get it right the first time, saving time and money and enabling future company growth. 

If you are planning on preparing a CPQ project yourself internally, our Practice Director Tamara Roda shares some best practice for consideration:  

Mapping a CPQ project for successful completion

  1. Assess, document and prioritise your business processes in detail

    Don’t assume that you are well informed!
    a) Identify manual steps, stakeholders and owners. b) Data needs and dependencies, access to the data and quality.

  2. Document the product catalogue

    Capture all product requirements and rules in detail. Your CPQ partner should be able to help and provide templates to provide structure and drive the level of detail required.

  3. Identify ways to cut-out unnecessary steps

    Review your ‘as-is state’ critically and remove any unnecessary processes or steps so you can map your ideal ‘future state’ which will deliver real value.

  4. Prepare your organisation for change

    Automating the sales process impacts a diverse user group within the organisation. It will most likely change or introduce new roles and responsibilities.

If you fail to plan, you are planning to fail!

When asked what makes the difference between a well-prepared project and one that is doomed for failure, Tamara continues to share; 

“Gaps in ‘identify manual steps, stakeholders and owners’ will manifest during the project and delay design and implementation. Detail will be missing, and it will be too late for decision-makers to make decisions on process changes. The solution could be compromised at this point, impacting scalability and maintainability.

Gaps in ‘data needs and dependencies’ will manifest in late stages of the project, potentially impacting key project milestones.

Gaps in ‘document the product catalogue’ will manifest during User Acceptance Testing. When users start testing, and critical rules or dependencies are missing. It could bring significant changes to the solution design and hence cause high re-implementation effort. This will also mean delays on project milestones/go live and increased effort/costs.

If you fail to ‘prepare your organisation for change’ it will manifest in different ways:

  • Lack of readiness will compromise the solution approach meaning increase in customisation, causing deviation from standard processes which increase complexity, implementation costs and maintenance costs downstream
  • User adoption. Reluctance to use the new tool will compromise the project success in the long term and not meet your projected ROI"

Once you have a clear definition of the business objectives, i.e. what are the issues you want to fix, and what does success looks like? You can assign quantifiable goals to help you identify how success will be measured. 

What would your final take away be for someone preparing for a CPQ implementation project? 

The project must be sponsored by the business and not just IT. CPQ tools are business tools.

A CPQ project will usually impact or require involvement from:

  • Marketing: branding on documents and templates
  • Product teams: definition of product catalogue, rules, dependencies and pricing strategy.
  • Sales: sales processes, forecasting, Opportunity management, etc
  • Legal: contracts and contract lifecycle management
  • IT: introduction of new IT systems and support with existing legacy systems
  • Finance: finance approvals, revenue rules, pricing rules

Ensure all teams impacted by the new CPQ Solution actively engage in the planning process, and you reach an explicit agreement on how to evaluate the possible CPQ solutions and select the most suitable implementation partner to work with. 

PhiX Technologies are supporting companies to discover, assess and implement solutions to optimise their business workflows.

Our Advisory Services supports the exploratory stage of introducing a new solution; we work with your team across your business and tech stack for a successful CPQ project.

About the contributor:

Tamara Roda
Tamara is our Practice Director. She has over 16 years of experience in the full Software Development Lifecycle, specialising in Quote to Cash transformation and user-centric adoption.

operating efficiency

Supporting the CFO to create operational efficiency

The new remote working landscape is pushing communication and technology capabilities to the edge. How are finance teams and auditors managing their processes remotely to achieve operational efficiency?

With all the usual challenges at year-end, and the next quarter looming, simply improving legacy systems isn’t enough. “Accruals, adjustments and internal transactions can throw up lots of queries that working in-person can expedite. If you have separate systems and haven’t got live data to hand, then any change can take several hours,” says Justin Wheatley, former RVP Financial Systems at NewVoiceMedia. 

We continue to hear from companies that CFOs with disparate systems and remote teams are making the best of it, trying to absolve the stress of their team, and mitigate the financial risk to the business that manipulated data and inaccurate reporting can cause. 

The value of a 360-degree view 

Companies with cloud solutions for Finance and tools for remote collaboration are reaping the benefits. Being able to see all your data in real-time will enable teams to close the month, quarter or year efficiently, with precision and accuracy.  

Keeping your ERP on an integrated, yet stand-alone platform is vital. It enables your finance team to update and access the financial information such as the general ledger and profit & loss account. But still display financial information to other objects, giving the business a 360-degree view of the customer account.  

“As a sales user, I don’t need to see the ledger or create journals, but I do want to see the financial return of an account. If outstanding payments are showing up and I’m speaking with the customer, Finance and Sales can work together to collect the money and close the deal,” says Will Davidson, VP, Sales at SalesTrip.

The customer journey 

The customer is at the centre of business. By having all your data on one platform, like Salesforce, you can get a 360-degree view on all the activity related to them. By tracking the customer journey from Lead to Ledger, you can focus on your top accounts and customers and jump in if any issues start to arise.  

Lead to Ledger includes Service team reports, i.e. is your customer raising cases, logging enhancements? Through to Finance, are their invoices outstanding? If one of your top accounts has had multiple issues with a product and is raising cases with Service, then Finance calls them to say your invoice is outstanding, you are likely to upset your key contacts. Having that 360-degree view of your customer would enable a Service Account Manager to add a ticket so Finance can see not to call until the resolution of any product issues. Keeping your customer happy and feeling supported, increasing loyalty and trust.  

Invest in your people and invest in systems that support your people.

There is a cost to design and implement a streamlined Lead to Ledger platform. But if you want to be head and shoulders above your competition, then you need a 360-degree view of your customer.  

By having everything on the Salesforce platform, you are empowering your employees to deliver the best possible service. The CFO, CTO and your CRO all have the most accurate information and a complete view of the customer. With disparate systems, additional resources are working unnecessarily. And you are still not achieving that full picture of the business!  

Creating a seamless process 

Customers want an enjoyable experience and a frictionless process. From the first touchpoint to becoming a customer, the end-to-end process should flow intuitively.  

CFOs who get the process right can shorten the close cycle. Improving forecasting and reporting, avoiding overly manual, error-prone processes. 

“When we were doing Billing at NewVoiceMedia, services were paid for annually in advance. We would raise the invoice, post it into the system, then spend days doing a journal to defer the revenue. Afterwhich, we’d start writing all that revenue back month-by-month. This is a huge process and would take about four people to action. When we systemised revenue recognition with Salesforce Billing, we could schedule this process and saved days on that close – just on that one process.” Justin Wheatley shares.  

“At the moment, companies are doing scenario planning more frequently. As a CFO,  you want to understand and prepare for the unknown impact on your revenue, costs and, most importantly, your cash flow. It is vital to be agile and have real-time data.” says Samantha Bodycomb, CFO at PhiX Technologies.  

Delivering operational efficiency for growth 

By transforming the Lead to Ledger process, you improve the customer experience and speed up processing. It also enables you to systemise manual tasks, reducing the need for junior finance roles, opening up the opportunity to scale the business in other areas such as R&D or Sales.  

“The return on investment is Finance goes from being an inputter of numbers to a real business partner. Giving value back to support sustainability and uncover growth opportunities.” says Samantha.   

Insights using real data is where you can add immense value; such as what is the company’s target market? Where should we be looking to gain the most sales? Which deals can be recognised as revenue? What percentage of discounts can we apply to particular products?  

How we can help 

We want the CFO to have accurate information at their fingertips. To be able to report how much cash is really in the bank? Or what type of deals are required to increase profitability right now? If the finance team is too busy crunching numbers, then this data is never released, and operating efficiency isn’t enabled. 

Some customers don’t become profitable until year two of their contract, with the right systems and accurate reporting; you can make that profitability come sooner. Having that information when you need it in real-time and all-in-one platform will help you to make informed decisions quickly.  

The good news is the technology is available to improve processes, overcome obstacles, and steer the business towards transformation success. We are supporting the finance leader to move away from traditional finance tasks. Empowering them to be a central and strategic business partner in these challenging and uncertain times. 

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