Spend Management refers to processes used by a business to control its spending.
In 2019 when I was FD at another business and was told by the CEO that we needed to use Soldo – this was against everything I stood for at the time as I’d always been an advocate for removing payment cards to control spend (in the process inflicting the same pain on others that I’d experienced myself as an auditor!), not to mention concerns about working capital.
Needless to say, my opinion changed, and I am now the Finance Director of Soldo, encouraging other Finance leaders to make the same decision I did, 4 years ago.
According to the Grant Thornton 2020 Survey of CFOs, 91% of them will be regularly making use of automation technology by the end of 2022. Together with other transaction heavy areas of finance, Accounts Payable is largely automatable. Specialist software providers of OCR and approval workflows can benefit businesses greatly removing the manual effort. Not only does automation reduce human error but it also frees the team up to do more valuable, insightful work. Similarly, technology advancements and innovation significantly improves other areas, for example accounting systems. Developments within accounting software including Xero and Netsuite have been welcome over the last few years and businesses benefit significantly from many of the automated features that have been introduced.
By no means does it mean that this transition is easy. As I mentioned, I was resistant to change at the start but by following an implementation process the benefits quickly outweighed the effort.
Start at the end and work backwards. As with any project, without a clear business objective you will struggle to reach your desired output. Know broadly what your end state requirement is and come back to this.
Once you have that noted down, review your process “as-is”. Identify your pain points, where things are going wrong and highlight the areas that need the most attention. In relation to spend management, that might be the lost time finance spends on admin. Use this outcome to produce your “to-be” process. Think about the bigger picture – how big is the project, do you have the right people in-house? This could be people in your immediate Finance team or IT team, collaborate to tap into more advanced skills whilst expanding your internal network and sharing knowledge across teams.
Then comes the fun – execution! If you’ve done the prep work, this shouldn’t be hard. Stick to your rollout programme, continue to drive engagement and don’t lose sight of your timelines and budgets. Getting the team involved drives engagement and buy in.
Finally, don’t implement and forget. Monitor and report on the success, especially against those initial expectations. Share your findings, not just with senior leadership but with the finance team. If they’ve had anything to do with the project, even if not directly, they will be keen to hear the impact it has had.
Before embarking on this journey here are the top 4 things you need to consider:
These things are going to be your biggest obstacles. Time tends to be the biggest constraint, people know they want to make the change but practically they can’t make it happen at the time they would like. Being aware of these things when deciding on your business objective, always coming back to whether the activity is feasible.
Remember, although time is needed to implement financial automation, the time (and other cost savings) it rewards you with can be vast.
If like me, you question how adding cards can remove the admin burden, check out our Spend Management 101 Guide.