Running a successful business has always been about keeping pace with change – and these days change is faster and more drastic than ever.
The past two years have radically transformed the way we work. Now, as we move out of the “pandemic era,” yet another shift may be coming. The new anytime, anywhere model has put IT at the core of a company’s ability to stay agile, resilient, and in control as it faces new challenges and rises to meet new opportunities ahead. But too often, IT departments lack the tools they need to help develop successful, future-proof business strategy.
So, how can IT best realize its full potential and serve together with finance as a true business partner?
To find out, the SAP Concur business unit of SAP and Oxford Economics teamed up on a survey of 500 IT and finance decision-makers at organizations with fewer than 1,000 employees from across many industries and around the globe. The goal was to learn more about the changing nature and relationship of IT and finance, and what that could mean for the years ahead.
It’s not surprising that operational agility and functional efficiency are top priorities for IT and finance alike. But we found that IT experts who have been on the front lines keeping operations running now find themselves unable to fully embrace the strategic nature of that new role. A major issue is too much time spent managing manual operations. In fact, nearly 6 in 10 IT leaders report that they are spending more time executing manual processes since the pandemic began than they are on automating those processes. Not only does this waste time and limit IT’s ability to collaborate with finance and other departments, it makes it harder to step back and fully evaluate broader digital transformation needs over the long term.
Also at issue is the cultural perception of IT as a strategic business partner. For example, a large majority (nearly two-thirds) of IT leaders report that aligning growth strategy and long-range planning with executive leadership presents a challenge, as does bolstering cybersecurity. And only 52% say they are effectively working together with finance. Perhaps this explains why just 36% say their organization maintains the financial visibility and data it needs to inform decision-making, budgeting, and forecasting.
The finance leaders in our survey clearly see themselves as critical to setting overall company strategy – in contrast to many of their IT counterparts. But without the right technology foundation, finance (as well as most other business functions) will not have the tools required to effectively perform that task. From supporting hybrid work to safely enabling omnichannel customer engagement and achieving total spend visibility, IT is the driving force behind every aspect of a successful business operation. Yet too few IT leaders report having the right tools and infrastructure to make those things possible.
A clear remedy is the digitalization of finance tasks. By introducing technology that helps increase financial visibility and control, IT can begin playing an active role in building an intelligent, agile enterprise that is prepared for the good, the bad, and everything in between.
In fact, of IT respondents whose companies have already digitalized key finance processes, such as invoice and expense management, nearly half reported increased organizational agility, better collaboration, increased productivity, and greater spend visibility. Unfortunately, few businesses have made meaningful progress in this direction. Invoice management scored the highest, with just 38% of respondents reporting substantial progress, compared to nearly 70% of respondents reporting minimal progress in digitalizing expense and cash flow management.
The bottom line: It’s time for IT leaders to step up to the plate and take their place with finance at the decision-makers’ table.
By working together to digitalize finance tasks and provide deeper spend insight company-wide, finance and IT can function as a strategic powerhouse to increase business agility and control – helping steer the ship forward toward continually brighter horizons.