Financial departments rely heavily on Excel for capturing and warehousing data, but it’s no longer sufficient to keep pace in our fast-moving world. Aside from its time-consuming nature, Excel as a tool cannot provide real-time insights. But automating processes such as revenue and capacity planning, budgeting and forecasting can assist in achieving that end.
While automation has long since been prevalent in the manufacturing and automobile industries, smart data management through automated processes is critical for decision-makers in legal organizations as well. So for those firms still relying on manual tasks for planning and budgeting, it’s time for an upgrade.
As you wade through the swamp of technological solutions to find the most suitable fit, know that there are five factors that are key to determining which system will work best for your company. Throwing just any new-fangled solution at a problem is not necessarily going to solve it.
When evaluating options, consider the following:
- Ease of use: How simple is the new solution to implement and apply in your daily workflow?
- Self-service: How important is a broad user base for the solution in question? Not everyone is an IT specialist, nor does everyone need to be. Find a solution that people in every department can use and does not require heavy IT resources to support.
- Flexibility: How crucial is an adaptable solution for your existing one? You don’t need to reinvent the wheel. Find a customized system that melds with the one you already have.
- Agility: Are you looking for the ability to adapt quickly to change? Identify a tool that will provide you with real-time insights for fast action when the unexpected happens.
- Maturity: Is your company digital-ready? The digital transformation journey does not have to be rocky, but you do need to ask where you are on that path first.
THREE LEVELS OF MATURITY FOR DIGITAL TRANSFORMATION
Where you start on your digital transformation journey depends on which maturity level your organization has right now. It determines the setting for modern, continuous capabilities toward process improvement and optimization. In terms of identifying how to best digitalize your planning, reporting and forecasting processes, the first step is to take your company’s digital-readiness temperature.
Level 1: Manual-Based Planning Process
Does your company rely solely manual input with tools such as Excel? Are you constantly updating multiple spreadsheets, sending them back and forth for cross-checking with several iterations before starting the planning process?
Level 2: A Hybrid of Manual and Digital Processes for Tactical Improvement Through Automation
Do you have some form of automation to update your data but still rely on manual processes that could be automated if you had the right tools? Could you optimize those processes to free up time if you knew how to replace them with digital solutions?
Level 3: A Strategic Enhancement of Planning Processes Through Full-Blown Digital Transformation
Have you replaced time-consuming manual, repeatable tasks with automated processes? Do you have consistent access to all the data and key performance indicators (KPIs) you need in order to gain insights? Are team members across the organization able to work with these processes too?
“For real digital transformation to occur, planning processes must be based on collaboration, business logic and data integration.”
While many manual processes are antiquated, technical improvements through digitalization itself do not add sufficient business value. For real digital transformation to occur, planning processes must be based on collaboration, business logic and data integration. The good news is there are already existing solutions to ease organizations through transformation. Let’s look at a successful example from the legal profession.
THE CASE OF THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA BAR
With a membership of more than 100,000 members in all 50 states and more than 80 countries, the D.C. Bar is the second-largest unified bar in the United States. In order to optimize their reporting, planning and data analytics processes, they needed to update their aging technology.
The finance team struggled with inflexible, awkward and user-unfriendly reporting software. The inability to access data at the right level of detail from the accounting system, as well as the inability to consolidate data into various groupings, made robust reporting virtually impossible. They needed a solution that could replicate all the structures within their organization and allow users to drill down to see the transaction-level data. The software also needed to be able to access data from both the general ledger and their association management software.
After researching the marketplace, the D.C. Bar chose a reporting and budgeting system that was flexible, easy to implement and easy to use. Implementation of the new reporting and budgeting system only took a few months, and 45 users were able to immediately start using it thereafter. The new solution ticked off all the boxes we mentioned above, marking a major improvement in their budgeting and reporting processes. In the end, it not only saved the organization time but also provided a more accurate view of their overall performance.
In today’s world, data itself is not gold until you have the right solution to manage and interpret its value. Wherever you are on your digital transformation journey, the time is now to move forward. It is never too late to do so.