5 Essentials: Choosing the Right Financial Consolidation Software for Your Business
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To keep up with growth, efficiency and other demands, mid-sized organizations need the right tools. To make sure such tools succeed, they need to be intuitive, integrated and well-designed. They need buy-in from executives and front-line accounting pros. And, nowhere is this more important than choosing your financial consolidation software.
Why Invest in Financial Consolidation Software Now?
In an earlier article, we touched on why now is the best time to invest in financial consolidation and reporting software. Why? To give you and your team more time and more confidence in your data.
More time comes from automating manual consolidation work, freeing up days or weeks for more analysis and high-value work.
More confidence comes from making decisions based on timely, reliable data to ensure they reflect your current financial health. With better numbers you also get a clearer picture of your firm’s past and present performance to guide future decisions.
It’s no surprise that 73% of finance leaders say digital transformation - including new consolidation and reporting software - is critical to their survival.
The reasons why to invest in financial consolidation software are clear. So are the success factors when considering your options - from Excel to ERP modules:
- Quick Implementation: In a matter of weeks, not months or even years.
- Rapid Adoption: For administrators and power users alike.
- Quick Time to Value: From efficiencies to data accuracy, the value should be visible in the first reporting period using it.
Before we get into the essentials to look for, let’s look at what we mean by financial consolidation.
What is Financial Consolidation Software?
Financial consolidation software automates the three basic functions of the consolidation process - quickly and accurately:
- Collecting: Pulling actuals directly from your GL, ERP and other transaction systems for your most recent reporting period into a single source of truth.
- Consolidating: Performing complex accounting calculations to roll up actuals from different currencies, legal entities and more to produce accurate, timely consolidated financial statements.
- Reporting: Producing timely, accurate financial, regulatory and management reports to guide smarter, faster decision making.
In short, financial consolidation software provides efficiency gains and timely, accurate numbers for finance, accounting, and executive teams. In other words, more time and more confidence for you and your business.
The Five Essential Features of Your Perfect Financial Consolidation Software
To achieve the benefits and success factors above, look for these five essential features to pick the right financial consolidation solution for your business:
- Rapid Deployment Methodology
- Excel Integration
- Data Integration
- A Purpose-Built Solution
- Finance Ownership Out of the Box
Rapid Deployment Methodology
Implementing new financial consolidation software shouldn’t take up valuable time because of long deployment and slow adoption. You need a system with a rapid deployment model proven through the success of previous customers.
Unlike updating your ERP, which may take months or years to implement, deploying financial close software should take a matter of weeks. As a benchmark, anything beyond 45 consulting days is too long for mid-size companies.
Rapid deployment and adoption across and beyond finance results in faster reporting capabilities without disrupting how your teams work. Additionally, because of integration with existing systems, teams will feel at ease using accurate data the new consolidation software produces.
Excel continues to be the world’s best reporting tool. It’s on every finance desktop on the planet. Finance and business teams alike are comfortable using it for data input, financial, and management reporting. If your software doesn’t use Excel, expect resistance to adopting solutions that try (and fail) to replace it.
Using the wisdom behind “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” look for solutions that complement Excel. Trying to replace it rarely works out, with the result being slow adoption and even slower time to value.
Connecting your financial consolidation and reporting software with Excel is a win-win situation. In particular, you benefit from:
- Excel’s ease of use and familiarity, especially among your finance team.
- Rapid adoption among finance and other business users.
- Quick time to value as a result.
But to avoid the pitfalls of using standalone Excel spreadsheets, you’ve also got to connect it with the right data sources. Which brings us to our next essential feature.
When it comes to integration, many mid-market firms face the hurdle of dealing with disparate, patchwork systems. Silo systems that don’t connect with each other are not only inefficient; they lead to wasted time and questionable numbers to report.
That’s why integrating your financial consolidation software with other transactional data makes the most sense. By connecting directly with your GL, ERP, and other data sources, you’ll increase efficiency and lower the risk of reporting incorrect data.
The challenge with traditional consolidation software often boils down to time and results in human error - too many numbers handled from too many different sources. Introducing consolidation software makes this a moot point, removing human error from the equation.
When you combine an Excel interface with data integration, you’re looking at major efficiency gains with reliable numbers for your financial statements, management reports, and more.
A Purpose-Built Solution
When it comes to financial consolidation software for mid-sized firms, the market is vastly underserved. Looking at the marketplace today, you typically have to choose between one of the following essential needs:
- Software that’s easy to own, use, and quick to adopt.
- Solutions that put the mid-market at their focus, not as an after-thought.
- Technology that’s designed for all your consolidation and reporting needs.
And the usual result?
- Systems that few people use - meaning slow adoption and time to value.
- Solutions that disrupt your consolidations processes - by shoe-horning your needs into those of enterprise customers.
- Software that meets only some of your needs - but still requires manual, error-prone work on the part of your accounting teams.
With a purpose-built consolidation solution for mid-sized companies, you’ll get software that meets all your needs and that your teams love to use. Add in table-stakes features like workflow automation and data integration, and you’ve got your perfect consolidation software.
What’s more, modern financial consolidation software does more than just automate collection and workflow. The best solutions have built-in calculations, rules and other features to automate how you handle the full spectrum of (often complex) consolidation processes like:
- Account Reconciliations
- Intercompany Eliminations
- Cash Management and Forecasting
- Foreign Exchange Translation
- Financial, Management, and other KPI Reporting
In short, don’t settle for a financial consolidation software that’s meant for the enterprise market if you’re a mid-market organization. Or one that treats consolidations as an afterthought. Insist on one that’s purpose-built for consolidation and reporting specifically for mid-sized firms like yours.
Finance Ownership Out of the Box
Implementing new software often involves not only the team who’ll use it, but a heavy reliance on IT. From implementation to personalizing reports, the result is that your finance team depends on the bandwidth and capabilities of your IT department.
That’s why a finance-owned solution is so valuable - to your finance and IT teams alike.
The right, finance-owned consolidation software gives your finance team the ability to fully implement, manage, and own the system - right out of the box. You don’t need a Ph.D. in coding or IT’s help to get your software up and running fast.
So, how can your organization achieve this? Through a consolidation solution with out-of-the box features including:
- Easy administration, like a drag-and-drop interface to configure your rules, workflow automation, and access permissions for all your users.
- Built in calculations for your most complex, time-consuming accounting logic, from intercompany eliminations to roll-forward continuity
- Workflow automation to go from actuals to consolidated financial statements, quickly and easily.
Bringing It All Together
If ever there was a time to invest in accelerating your digital strategy - it’s now. The disruption caused by COVID has forced firms around the world to rethink the way they do business.
But in turbulent times lie opportunities as well. By investing in a sound financial consolidation and reporting solution, your organization will be on track to meet targets and thrive.
Making the right investment in financial consolidation software ultimately translates to an investment into the future success of your business.
Business leaders will continue to be in the hot seat for the foreseeable future. That’s why you need to ensure your consolidations, management, and regulatory reporting leads directly to smart, data-driven decisions.
And ultimately, better decisions translate into better business. For you, your team and your company.
About the Author
John Power is the CEO and co-founder of Fluence Technologies, responsible for strategic direction and operational execution across all areas of the company. Before Fluence, John was CEO for ten years at Longview Solutions, a global financial close and consolidation software provider focused on the enterprise market. His career spans three decades of leadership roles at organizations including Andersen Consulting (Accenture) and Southam Inc. John lives in Toronto with his wife and two children.