March 17, 2020
Finance Industry

Why Finance Needs More Than the Cloud to Support Remote Work

Remote work isn't the future. It’s the present. Whether due to transportation cancellations, gaps in childcare, health concerns, or simply a flexible work structure, there are many reasons that employees may want or need to work from home.

Research has found that remote employees are more productive and engaged than their in-office counterparts, and distributed teams save organizations money on office space and other expenses related to having staff in the same location.

In addition, offering remote work allows companies to draw on a wider talent pool, while being more inclusive to employees whose personal situations may make it difficult for them to commute to an office each day.More and more, companies are appreciating the benefits of a remote workforce:40% of companies offer employees the choice of whether to work in-office or from home and another 16% are fully remote.

In order to fully leverage remote employees, however, organizations need systems in place to support them—this includes finance processes, not just cloud collaboration software.

Collaboration software is only the first step

One of the biggest objections that companies have with remote work is the lack of face-to-face interactions between colleagues. In fact, remote workers cite collaboration/communication as their biggest struggle, according to a Buffer report.

Fortunately, companies such as Slack, Zoom, and Google have developed software to aid remote collaboration. Using these tools, employees in different locations can communicate in real-time—ask questions, share documents, and participate in virtual meetings.With enterprise-level collaboration platforms in place, individual departments may also have plans for their own remote workers. This also likely includes a suite of cloud-based software solutions, such as a CRM, marketing automation platform, or ERP.

When it comes to building employees’ tech stack, it is all too easy for finance to be siloed as just another team with its own software to worry about. But finance is much greater than its ERP. Finance processes affect the whole organization, especially when employees are remote.

Remote employees contribute to distributed spending

Employees need to make business purchases, wherever they are. This is especially true in today’sEnd User Era, when more employees across the organization are making more buying decisions than ever before.

Remote employees in different geographies and time zones need a system in place that allows them to make the purchases they need quickly and efficiently so they can make progress with their work.

Many businesses use legacy processes to manage employee spending, such as shared corporate cards. This requires team members to operate from the same office, so that they can borrow a shared card when they need to make a purchase.Because they work in a different location than the rest of the company, remote employees can’t easily access a shared corporate card. They may have to go through a long process of requesting purchases through a central department or follow theexpense reimbursement model.

These processes lack robust controls, provide abad employee experience, and slow employees down.

Real-time visibility increases finance agility

Finance teams often lack real-time visibility into the spending that takes place on shared corporate cards. Employees spend willy-nilly, and finance only becomes aware of the transactions at the end of the month when the credit card statement comes in. This reactive process requires finance to process transactions after money has been spent, rather than adjusting spending as it happens. For example, if multiple remote employees need the same software, they might each purchase the tool using personal cards and submit for reimbursement. Now, finance has to retroactively issue a reimbursement to both of them.

Had finance been able to view these transactions in real time, they could have stepped in and prevented the duplicate purchase or negotiated a better price for a license package. Real-time visibility into spend allows finance to maintain a holistic view of the transactions taking place across the company. This is especially beneficial when managing remote teams, who may not talk to others in the company about everything they plan to buy before making a business purchase.

Automation streamlines the workflow

Many traditional purchasing processes involve a lot of back-and-forth between employees, their managers, and finance—whether this be to request funds, borrow shared corporate cards, submit receipts, or answer questions about incomplete expense reports. Since remote workers are in distributed locations, finance teams can’t swing by an employee’s desk to inquire about a transaction or missing receipt, and email conversations take longer to resolve due to time zone differences.

By automating and unifying the entire workflow, from request to reconciliation, finance teams can streamline the process and reduce the frustrating back-and-forth. Proactively collecting complete and accurate information from the get-go is key to maintaining a full picture of remote employee spending.And automated solutions are scalable, so they can continue to support distributed spending even as the remote workforce grows.

Empower remote employees with finance processes

Remote workers are especially prone to bumps in communication and may experience greater friction from corporate bureaucracy than in-office employees who can work things out face-to-face if necessary.Nowhere is this more apparent, perhaps, than with company money. In an effort to make necessary business purchases without delay, and in order to avoid frustrating back-and-forth, remote workers may spend outside of policy.

When finance uses legacy systems to manage remote spending, they often admonish employees who spend out-of-bounds, rather than ensuring their compliance in the first place. This can mean awkward conversations and denied or reluctant reimbursements—negative experiences for remote employees and finance alike.Software that proactively enforces policy empowers employees to spend with confidence. They can buy what they need to do their jobs best, without risking making an unapproved purchase.

Build out your finance tech stack

Just as you stock your pantry in preparation for cooking at home, building out your finance tech stack is the best way to ensure that your people can work outside the office. By enabling remote employees to spend confidently and without friction, finance technology supports a distributed and agile workforce.

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