The Need for an Integrated Solution
Organizations typically generate a lot of disparate information, but often do not have a clear view into the business. Integrating functionality and data sources that traditionally have been stored in separate applications and databases is essential for organizations that want clear insight into data from across the business.
Financial management solutions need to integrate processes and data to help break down the artificial barriers of information silos, and information entered into one application must be simultaneously available for use in other applications. Integration can also better connect everyone in the organization with customers, suppliers, and trading partners—including across the Internet and from intranet collaboration portals.
Integrating data across applications can boost productivity by freeing users from the burden of having to pull information from separate sources, and enhances financial management by unlocking data for what is rapidly becoming one of the most important areas of financial management—business intelligence. Business intelligence, in concert with other reporting and analytic solutions, helps inform and speed up decision-making. It enables an organization to respond more quickly to new competitive challenges and proactively take advantage of new market opportunities.
Ideally, a financial management solution also should integrate with popular productivity applications such as Microsoft Office Excel®, Microsoft Office Word, Microsoft Office Outlook® for customer relationship management, and Microsoft Office SharePoint® Server 2007 for collaboration portals.
The same application used for general financial management, such as general ledger, accounts payable, accounts receivable, inventory, and other traditional functions, should be expandable into other business processes. The value of financial management applications is magnified when CRM, SCM, and other business and strategic information management systems functionality can be integrated and shared.
This kind of expandability helps ensure a smooth user experience, and removes the barriers that might otherwise exist to sharing data and functionality across applications. Employees gain the ability to quickly and easily click their way to details about everything from production schedules and inventory levels to sales orders and marketing campaigns—all by accessing a single, security-enhanced database so people can make decisions based on the same store of data.
A financial management solution should provide a wealth of existing reports and forms, and also enable users to easily add or remove fields from existing forms or reports and create others as required to match how your organization does business. This enables users to create personalized solutions that can boost productivity, ease of use, and overall satisfaction.
Audit Trails and Legal Requirements
Today’s financial management solutions must provide easily accessible audit trails and support other forms of verification or security as mandated by Sarbanes-Oxley, Basel II, HIPAA and other regulatory and compliance organizations. The solution needs to support corporate quality initiatives and integrate with audit and compliance functionality.
Support for Reporting and Analytics
Organizations also need financial management solutions that support, or better yet, directly integrate with robust reporting and analytical solutions. Without a flexible and easy-to-use reporting and analysis system in place, executives and analysts cannot get the insight they need to make informed decisions about business expansion, product marketing, pricing, and a host of other success factors.
Organizations need an integrated, adaptable software solution that can quickly and easily provide multiple iterations of forecasts and budgets, enable user-defined forecast rules, and support what-if scenarios. Business intelligence scenarios, which are often built upon data warehouses and multidimensional analytic cubes, require that an organization be able to easily integrate its financial management solutions—including SCM and CRM—with relational databases and analytic and reporting tools.
Ease of Use
Ease of use is important to all organizations, but especially for small businesses that often have no IT department. Financial data must be accessible in a format that is easy to view and analyze as well as export and publish to security-enhanced tools and solutions such as Excel and SharePoint Server.
How Financial Information Is Used Throughout the Organization
Financial management information forms the foundation of business success. Organizations achieve better performance and planning when financial management data is measured precisely and then made available to decision-makers within and beyond the finance department.
In addition to enabling the essential bookkeeping functions, effectively managed financial management information enables organizations to plan, forecast, and track performance toward objectives. Financial management data can help keep individuals and teams focused on tasks that add high value, while providing the information needed to enhance collaboration.
Ideally, financial information is used throughout an organization. Executives need relevant financial information to guide decisions about profitability and strategic initiatives. Managers analyze and share information to help ensure that business processes are running smoothly, and employees share information about specific projects.
Providing a “Single Truth”
A financial management solution that is tightly integrated with all relevant data sources within an organization makes a significant contribution to forecasting precision and worker productivity by creating “single truth”—a core data set upon which all reporting and analytics can be based. In the absence of an accepted core data set and a corresponding set of definitions that guide report creation, different departments can create incongruent figures supposedly describing the same financial profile. Without a single version of their data, organizations can spend too much time trying to reconcile conflicting data instead of forming the strategies that the data should be guiding.
Supporting Better Decision-Making
With access to financial information, organizations can make better, more informed business decisions. For a variety of people—top executives, product development leaders, analysts, and warehouse and plant managers—success can hinge on having ready access to the most current and complete financial data possible.
Integrating data from across the organization can yield rich insights that might otherwise remain obscured. Financial information gains even more value when it can be exported to a spreadsheet for further analysis, or searched and categorized by integrated reporting applications.
As companies look toward longer-term planning, they’ll need data from the financial management solution to provide business insights and help guide strategy. Information from a unified data store can be queried and analyzed to help an organization identify opportunities for expansion and to identify and capitalize on market opportunities.
Organizations also draw value from their financial information, in part, by using it to generate reports. The better the reporting application and the larger the data store, the greater the value decision-makers can pull from the data. Reporting underscores the need to break down application and data silos and to deploy an integrated financial management solution that unifies information storage within a central relational database.
A reporting solution should provide the basic recurring reports such as inventory levels, monthly sales activity, and profit and loss statements, as well as support the ability to customize existing reports and create entirely new ones to better share relevant data across teams, product groups, and other entities. Creation of new reports should be supported with customizable templates or with report-making wizards.
Financial information should be easily exportable to productivity tools such as Excel and Word to simplify the use of data in spreadsheets, documents, and presentations. Organizations need to be able to share the information on the Web or from their intranet, giving security-enhanced access to the right information from any location.