Small businesses employ small and mighty teams, but they’re often challenged with pulling the resources needed to analyze spend in real time. In fact, a survey conducted by Wakefield Research and SAP Concur found 84 percent of small- and medium-sized businesses have yet to achieve fully automated AP systems, with nearly half of those respondents (49 percent) still relying on handwritten records to track, manage and analyze spend.
Cash flow is the lifeblood of small businesses, so it’s critical that small business finance leaders gain visibility into corporate spend. Luckily the rise of the cloud has unlocked this opportunity, offering enterprise technologies at a lower cost and easier deployment. However, this has also ushered in a proliferation of apps that finance leaders must sift through and choose wisely to ensure ROI is effectively delivered and needs are met. Ultimately, small business IT and financial professionals need to collaborate closely to choose the right technology that will answer a company’s specific financial management needs.
Unfortunately, this isn’t as easy as it seems. A 2017 Forrester study sponsored by SAP Concur on travel, expense and invoice technology found:
- 61 percent of firms believe IT is focused on user experience, and less on spend reductions.
- Conversely, 64 percent of firms say finance is focused more on reducing spending, and less on usability and employee experiences.
By collaborating, finance and IT leaders can choose user-friendly tools that also drive cost savings. Here are a few tips to improve finance and IT collaboration:
- Develop a unified strategy. This should satisfy the needs of both small business IT and finance managers. According to Forrester, 75 percent of companies with a unified finance and IT strategy report much higher levels of satisfaction with travel, expense and invoice management tools than those without a unified strategy. The two leaders should compare their respective goals and identify how they can integrate to benefit business objectives.
- Educate one another. Finance professionals aren’t always aware of the IT technology selection process, while IT employees often lack insight into finance teams’ specific technological needs. By setting aside time to educate one other on their respective workflows, finance and IT personnel can better understand department priorities and collaborate on the best-fit products that address specific needs. For example, IT leaders can recommend better tools to help finance leaders manage employee spend in real time if they have a greater understanding of the unique financial challenges involved.
- Audit current spend management methods together. Finance and IT leaders have valuable yet unique perspectives when selecting technology to benefit a business’s bottom line. In addition to educating one another on finance and IT priorities, an important step toward a closer relationship is collectively auditing current processes and technologies to consider whether they should be updated or replaced. Small business IT and finance leads should also schedule routine check-ins to share feedback on current technologies and pinpoint areas for improvement.
- Consider cloud solutions that integrate. Cloud technologies provide small businesses with flexible and scalable solutions that seamlessly grow alongside businesses. But the value of the cloud does not stop there–companies can choose apps that harness APIs and integrate with each other so data can flow seamlessly between corporate tools. This can automate certain processes and help teams gain valuable insights. Finance and IT should consider expense and invoice solutions that integrate with an ecosystem of third-party apps to unlock greater value with their spend data.
By employing these best practices, small business finance and IT leaders can work better together and identify cloud technologies that provide greater visibility into corporate spend to empower business strategies, reduce costs and poise small businesses for growth.
Christal Bemont, SVP & GM of the Small, Midsized and Nationals business unit, is passionately committed to the idea that Concur shouldd “be the best company to do business with, and that everything we do should be about simplicity.” She started her career early, helping her mother with several small business ventures, and this experience still informs her approach. She has held both sales and leadership positions since she joined Concur in 2004. Christal serves her community through supporting and volunteering at organizations such as the Anderson Animal Shelter, the local women’s shelter and Feed My Starving Children.