How are the roles of finance heads changing? Our Director of Enterprise Applications, Rob Jones, has been working with finance directors and CFOs for over 20 years and shares his insights, along with a cautionary note. 

You’ll also have the opportunity to sign up for two free events.

From Blurred Lines to Dotted Lines

In most medium to large companies, you’ll likely have an IT director alongside an FD or CFO. While IT assumes responsibility for the infrastructure, the ownership of business applications has been known to fall into a grey area.  

However, rampant cyber-crime has led to more clearly defined responsibilities. FDs and CFOs – as the custodians of sensitive financial information – now have the additional burden of safeguarding it.

Consequently, finance heads have an elevated profile and are more closely involved in the choice of secure and compliant technologies.

The Demands on Finance Teams

Few CEOs are prepared to wait weeks for management accounts. Finance teams are under growing pressure to realise delivery efficiencies.  

There’s also a massive shift towards financial information that’s predictive. The reality for most FDs is they’re focussed on historical reporting, trapped in an endless cycle of score-keeping. They’d relish the art of predictive analytics, but don’t have the time.

We explore these pains in our blog: How to Tame Your Data for Reporting Freedom.

The good news is that the nature of finance applications is evolving to support the expectations of the broader business. One such system is Dynamics 365. If you’d like a tour, join us in Manchester on the 13th of March for a special event at the GMCC.

We’re also hosting a webinar on the 14th of February. Sign up here: An Introduction to Dynamics 365.

Ripping off the Plaster

You may feel your current systems aren’t serving you or the business particularly well. However, you might also carry some fear and uncertainty around what best to do about it.

These concerns are understandable. You can’t risk investing in a system that might massively disrupt the business or swallow more time or money than anticipated.

It is, however, vital to overcome these overt or covert barriers to change. I address them in my blog: The Good News for Finance Directors: A Fresh IT Proposition.

You might also find this useful: The Top 5 Blockers to Implementing Your IT Strategy.

Nowadays, there are many tools which make system implementation easier. We’ll walk you through them at our events; the links are at the foot of this blog.

A Cautionary Note: Misspending

When meeting new clients, many privately acknowledge they never fully realised the benefits of their previous software. It’s often the case that their business was using a limited subset of the functionality or not efficiently. 

There’s no dressing this up: what it represents is misspending. Unpicking this, I’ve learned there’s often an exec-level perception that spending on software licences equals achieving the value.

Moving from a CapEx to OpEx model is attractive, but it’s crucial to choose the right partner. Clearly, the software doesn’t configure itself, nor do the users learn by osmosis how it works. People need training, documents designed, reports and dashboards set up. 

You, of course, appreciate the subtle difference between buying a licence and activating it. This applies as much to Office 365 as it does Dynamics 365. Which leads me to my next point.

Have You Found a Strategic Partner - or a Licence Shifter?

Dynamics 365 launched in 2018. Since then, there’s been an explosion of new entrants to the marketplace hoping to exploit this. And why not, D365 fits comfortably with Office 365 and Microsoft Azure. 

Some of these new entrants have traditionally sold Office 365 licences. The danger is some (I’m by no means suggesting all) see this as a simple licence transaction that creates an annuity revenue. Although in principle this is true, the activation piece isn't the same.

Some – let’s call them licence shifters - won’t care about this subtlety. They may well have an efficient billing engine to provide your licence on a subscription basis. However, they have no mechanism or apparatus to activate and support your use of it. 

A New Culture of Finance System Implementation

As a mature Microsoft Certified Partner, our approach starts from conception. Our goal isn’t to sell a licence; it’s to enable business transformation. The licence is a necessary component, but it’s not our focus. Our obsession is to help our clients get the most from the software.

As well as supporting your use of the application, this could take the form of extending it into other parts of your business, enabling other components of the software, or adding new elements to it.

There’s a growing culture of ‘take what you need’. The licensing is simple, in that you pay one price and get all the bells and whistles. You may not choose to ring every bell or blow every whistle, but you get them all the same. So, the process can be evolutionary.

This chimes with a more modern outlook around applications. There isn’t the drama of a go-live, ribbon cutting ceremony where everyone starts using the software. Adopt components over time as and when your business is ready and needs the new functionality.

Implementation is less impactful on everyone because changes are introduced in a considered, phased way.  

Learn More about Dynamics 365

Join us at the GMCC in Manchester on the 13th of March for:

  • A deep dive tour for finance directors: the rules of the game are changing
  • Route planning your journey to D365 and defining success in the new financial landscape
  • The art of the possible – what you can achieve with Microsoft Dynamics

Secure your seat at the Manchester event here. And don’t worry if you can’t make it. I’m also hosting an introduction to Dynamics webinar on the 14th of February which you can register for here.

Written by Rob Jones