Welcome to my fourth installment of helpful tips to prepare for HITEC 2021.  Today’s topic deals with financial management systems (FMS).  This includes those applications that you may refer to as accounting software, also known as enterprise resource planning applications (ERP), and cover tasks such as:
  • General ledger
  • Accounts payable
  • Accounts receivable (some use PMS for AR)
  • Cash management
  • Fixed assets and project accounting
  • Financial planning and analytics (FP&A)
Sounds uber-exciting, doesn’t it?  This tip is targeted to the financial professionals – CFOs, DOFs, controllers, CPAs, etc.  However, once you take a fresh look at today’s ERPs you will understand how much they could benefit the entire enterprise.
The monthly task of issuing financial statements and board reports is not easy.  And to make matters worse, it seems the finance team must deal with a never-ending list of other applications going through upgrades and replacements, requiring updates to general ledger interfaces.  Is it any wonder that over 53% of ERPs in use today are considered legacy applications running on local servers?  
Managing onsite servers adds a layer of complexity related to equipment, operating systems and maintenance. With cloud applications, all of that is managed elsewhere with higher levels of disaster recovery and business continuation results.  It also frees up valuable IT resources to focus on guest-centric opportunities.
It is not unusual for some companies to have FMS applications that are more than 15 years old.  While they may have been kept up to date with new releases, patches and server operating systems, the end-user rarely changes the way they use the application.  New features should drive improvements in process flow, but instead they are viewed as unnecessary. 
Time has come to upset the apple cart.  Take those green eyeshades off and take a holistic view of today’s cloud-based ERPs.  There are features that could be used throughout the organization with everyone working from the same common database.  Here’s a short list of many of the most popular features available:
  • Universal ledger using dimensions to replace account number segments
  • Robust treasury management with banking connections
  • Fixed asset management, including CIP
  • Close management
  • Corporate allocations and intercompany transactions
  • Purchasing and inventory management
  • Sales and invoice management
  • Full-scope budgeting and forecasting tools with analytics
  • Centralized reporting and dashboard portal

To better understand how a new ERP could make life easier for you, make a list of all the applications you use for revenue and expense management.  Objectively evaluate the possible replacement of one or more of these with the introduction of a new ERP.  For instance, if you use a separate application for purchasing and inventory management, compare it’s features against today’s ERPs.  I think you will be presently surprised. 
Integration with legacy financial systems usually takes place in batch mode, extracting data from one application and preparing for import to another, often through Excel.  Today’s ERPs work with application programming interfaces (APIs) connected to your other revenue and expense management applications.  This provides for real-time updates to all your financial data.
A well-designed ERP will allow easy access to common data across different disciplines necessary to accurately analyze operations using key performance indicators (KPIs).  Through its FP&A functionality, the application can incorporate non-financial data (statistics) with financial results for more meaningful management information. 
The FP&A solution, with both financial and non-financial data, becomes the platform used for budgets, forecasts and cash flow projections.  In some vendor offerings, it also becomes the platform used for all financial reporting tasks, such as monthly board reports.  This minimizes the need to collect final reports from multiple systems and “stitching” them together to create the final packet.
There are many cloud-based ERPs today that are full-featured and scalable in price, making them affordable for small- to medium-sized enterprises.  Do your homework on these new offerings, especially their on-board capabilities that might replace one of your existing applications.  The more business functions that can be handled through the ERP, means better data management and faster delivery of vital business results.
Implementing a new ERP is a scary proposition that requires plenty of advanced planning.  Coordinating the various phases must take place in parallel with the existing applications to avoid interrupting normal operating requirements.  Making the switch to a new ERP can be transformative to the organization with the right commitment and buy-in from senior management.
I hope you have found my series of tips for HITEC 2021 helpful.  Looking forward to seeing all of you in Dallas at the end of September.