Emerging from one of the most significant workplace experiments in our lifetime, chief financial officers (CFOs) are considering the viability of remote work – permanently.

The verdict depends on companies having the right technology in place to manage every financial move with accountability, governance, and compliance off site without disruption.

After years of questioning whether their organizations can work effectively remotely, finance leaders finally received their answer less than one month after complying with local stay-at-home orders. CFOs, surveyed by Gartner at the end of the first quarter of 2020, realized cost savings that support business continuity and did not negatively impact operations. In response, nearly 75 percent expect to continue with this arrangement permanently with at least five percent of their previously on-site workforce.

Despite the benefits, adopting work-from-home policies is a sweeping shift in the workplace culture and must be treated as so. Finance teams must address the technology and human aspects of swapping physical interactions for online collaboration with the right software and training to optimize business and operational outcomes, as well as their value, without disruption.

Strengthening the Resilience of Everyday Finance Operations

Not a single moment can be lost due to delays in information gathering, response, and action. Finance must lead with cross-functional off- and on-site collaboration to help drive expectations – such as better customer experiences or more flexible and adaptable supply chains – with accurate forecasts, compliant and efficient processes, and data security.

Take, for example, the pressure to close first-quarter financials in the middle of a pandemic with nearly 100 percent of the finance workforce working from home. Some customers have relied on SAP Solution Extensions, such as the SAP Account Substantiation and Automation application by BlackLine, to standardize and automate their financial closing processes in order to improve operational efficiency, compliance, and decision-making.

Connecting people, information, and technology with a digital approach to account substantiation and automation enables the continuity of the accounting function. It fosters compliance in a complex regulatory environment and helps finance deliver strategic contributions to the business. More importantly, executives can access real-time performance insights at their fingertips to help navigate the fog of uncertainty and volatility strategically, intelligently, and innovatively.

Integrating Finance Intelligence for the Entire Business

Another critical aspect of running finance processes off site is uniting all data – from finance operations and accounting to treasury, compliance, risk, planning, and analysis. By expediting and simplifying the transaction integration process, CFOs can drive down costs and boost efficiency with greater intelligence and agility.

The SAP Central Finance Transaction Replication application by Magnitude for SAP S/4HANA is designed to deliver such an advantage by accelerating the integration of third-party enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems and SAP solutions. The technology connects and normalizes transactions from any source in real time, increases visibility into non-SAP operational details, and streamlines the implementation of intelligent finance ERP capabilities.

Securing a Diverse Landscape of Finance Data

As long as data collection and use continue to surge, finance organizations will remain accountable for compliance with various regulations concerning personal information – covering everything from security to individual rights for data removal. As this data is shared beyond the boundaries of the physical office, data protection and governance will only become more critical.

The SAP Privacy Management application by BigID is helping customers support the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), and other data protection mandates. With the power of machine learning, customers can streamline their governance of growing requirements, protect personal data, and safeguard business interests. Managing the use of data is also greatly enhanced through the automation of data subject access requests, data-flow capture, and sophisticated analytics and reporting.

Simultaneously, finance teams must balance the need to give business partners ready access to enterprise data and protect valuable intellectual property and sensitive corporate information across industries, countries, and regions.

The SAP Dynamic Authorization Management application by NextLabs helps achieve this balance by maximizing existing instances of SAP applications and providing real-time, secure, attribute-based access to enterprise data. A dynamic authorization logic helps ensure access control policies are automatically followed, and advanced auditing functionality facilitates continuous monitoring and documentation of regulatory compliance.

A certain level of risk is unavoidable when managing data access; otherwise, business productivity could be unreasonably limited. However, this does not mean that controls need to be manually driven and time-consuming.

With the SAP Access Violation Management application by Greenlight, CFOs can see the financial impact of access risk for business processes and transactions and enable a risk management strategy that suits the organization. The technology supports the ability to detail and summarize the monetary value of access violations for a true picture of a company’s exposure with predictive analytics.

Turning Ordinary Transactions Into Extraordinary Intelligence

Adopting a new approach to invoice, order confirmation, and delivery notes processing along with transforming accounts payable presents a unique opportunity to turn those transactions into business intelligence. Meanwhile, digital capabilities, such as machine learning and artificial intelligence (AI), accelerate these tasks to meet deadlines with greater accuracy and less risk.

Many customers depend on the SAP Invoice Management application by OpenText to set the foundation for this intelligent edge. It digitalizes and automates accounts payable processes, allowing finance teams to manage and speed invoice processing and workflows while supporting compliance with national and international regulations. These capabilities can help meet compliance deadlines, reduce data errors and associated costs, while improving financial visibility and reporting. Plus, CFOs can reward vendors with timely payments while taking advantage of discounts and lower supplier management costs.

By ensuring this transactional data is of high quality, the entire company benefits from efficient and effective processes and better decision-making to uncover and maximize new sources of revenue and business value. The SAP Convergent Mediation application by DigitalRoute provides the flexibility and unity to turn raw data delivered through billing applications into valuable information for revenue innovation.

By streamlining data mediation, the application helps to reduce process complexity and eliminate the need for expensive point-to-point integration solutions. Finance organizations are equipped to adapt to change through a simple drag-and-drop configuration instead of relying on time-consuming customizations. Plus, they can eliminate data and process duplication, detect inconsistent and faulty data, and prevent revenue leakage.

Rising to the Challenge of Business Continuity

Economic and market uncertainty present significant challenges to business continuity and financial resilience. But sometimes, better ways of getting things done emerge too – which may not have been considered in times of stability.

First, a coherent digital strategy of connectivity and intelligence, data security and governance, and compliance should be established for all critical systems in order to optimize the flexibility of the employee experience. These capabilities are vital during disruption; in better times, they will be the financial leverage CFOs want to sustainably move business forward.

Learn more about SAP Solution Extensions here.

The next article will explore how SAP Solution Extensions can help connect people, things, and assets to form a core ecosystem of intelligence.