Is Finance Lagging Behind Current Tech?

Digital technologies are transforming business across almost every industry. But when it comes to technology adoption in finance, the numbers look bleak. To take just one example, according to a 2018 study by the Hackett Group only 45% of finance teams are currently using a cloud-based service in any capacity.

While cloud-based computing continues to advance and other technologies grow in usage, the average finance team is lagging behind, still using outdated technology or no technology at all.

What gives?

Well, change can be expensive. A finance team may have invested lots of time, money and manpower in a technology or service. It’s hard to justify doing that all over again for something shiny and new. In addition, adopting new technologies requires disruption to old, familiar ways of doing things.

Whether it’s the latest accounting platform or the addition of freelance workers to the team, the usual patterns are upended and new ones must be developed. Former experts become struggling learners. Things that took minutes take hours.

When the finance team is struggling, it impacts the entire company, who relies on the team to provide key reporting on the health of the company and guide it in a solid financial direction. Even if a technology is long past its sell-by date, it often seems easier to keep going along the same path and try to optimize a legacy system, rather than adding something new to the mix.

Embracing Financial Tech Yields Faster, More Efficient Work

But the benefits of today’s digital technologies far outweigh the cost of change. Most current software systems are focused on maximizing company time and automating formerly laborious processes. While it might take a few slow weeks to learn a new technology, the end result is faster, more efficient work.

Initial stumbling eventually becomes skillful use, which leads to greater financial stability overall. Collaborative tools can enable remote work, enhance team productivity, and harness an organization’s collective brainpower more effectively. And new freelance services mean that teams can think outside the office and pull from a wide range of expertise. In the short term, change can be tough, but in the long run, it makes the company better.

How Do You Keep Finance Teams Happy and Motivated Through Tech Transitions?

Here are a few ideas:

Plan ahead. The finance team is essential—which is usually a good thing, but can be a bad thing when trying to make a change. So before you start using a new technology, make a plan for how you’ll ensure that nothing important gets lost in the shuffle. What systems or processes need to be in place so that reporting, budgeting, payroll and other essential responsibilities won’t be abandoned? Will you roll out this technology gradually so people can slowly adjust? Will team members have to work late or take on unusual roles to make sure all the bases are covered? Whatever your answers to these questions, make sure you have a clear plan in place—don’t leave your company floundering without your usual help.

Make it a team effort. Change is often the most frustrating when it comes from the top with no employee input, and when team members don’t feel their concerns are being listened to. If you’re implementing a new technology, keep all your employees in the loop. Be available to answer questions and discuss concerns they might have about it. Help them see how the technology will make their jobs easier and more efficient. (Finance team members will certainly appreciate a delineation of the money you hope to save.) And encourage them to collaborate with each other in helping the change get off the ground. The more you’re all in this together, the less daunting it will seem.

Set clear expectations. Why are you using this new tool or service? What are your goals for the first month of implementation? The first three months? What impact do you want it to have on the company? Make it clear exactly what you expect the technology will do for the company, how you’ll judge if it’s a good or bad fit, and what the team needs to be working towards with regards to implementation. Without guidelines and well-outlined expectations, it’s easy for conflict and confusion to arise.

Block out time for onboarding.  It’s unfair to spring a new technology on your team without giving them a chance to get used to it and laying out how it works. When legacy systems are exchanged for new ways of doing business, team members who were formerly experts are now beginners again, and roles or job functions can often be altered.  Set aside time to get everyone up to speed on the new platform or service. During this time, people can feel free to go slowly, ask lots of questions, and experiment with different ways of working with the new system. Rather than expecting your employees to jump right in the deep end, give them the time to get their feet wet first. They’ll thank you for it—and implementation will go more smoothly.

Celebrate. This change was meant to make your company work better, smarter and more efficiently. So when those improvements happen, whether big or small, point them out. Send email updates to your staff with the latest stats on efficiency. Host a lunch to celebrate a big milestone in using the new technology. Make an effort to thank employees who have gone out of their way to help with the change or who have adjusted their work habits in significant ways. If you want to send the message that change is good, celebrating the benefits of change needs to be an integral part of your company culture.

Related: KPIs: 5 Critical Questions to Help Define Your Business Metrics

Transitions Don’t Have to Be Painful

If you’ve been hesitating to adopt a new technology out of fear that your finance team will react poorly, worry no more. It’s possible to shepherd your team through change and come out the other side with the benefits of the new technology and a stronger, happier team.