There is currently no modern framework designed to walk finance leaders through the process of financial transformation. You are a finance leader, not a technology expert, but you want to be empowered to make the right decisions and lead the delivery of your own strategy.
The ION Financial Transformation Framework is designed to help answer questions on how to deliver this.
This page provides a guide for starting this journey and help you make the right decisions.
Use each of the sections to help you consider your various objectives, options and outcomes.
Depending on the size of your business and its current setup, you need to select a strategy that fits with your needs.
Maybe it's just to get off a legacy accounting system and into the cloud, or maybe you need to integrate your payment system and banking. It important to understand your objectives and use the appropriate strategy to design your systems and processes.
Most mid-market businesses are having to tackle the challenge of moving from their legacy accounting solutions into the cloud.
This could be Sage 50, Sage 200, Access Dimensions, or any other older accounting systems.
These products won't enable you to continue in your growth, and will become a significant technical overhead. This restricts your ability to process transactions efficiently and limits your ability to generate more revenue, so its important to move to a modern accounting platform.
Whilst cloud-accounting gives you the foundations for building a scalable organisation, it will become essential to build out your infrastructure further.
Integrating with other systems (such as payroll, payments and expenses), will centralise all your financial data in one place and allow you to have a holistic view of your organisations performance.
Automating financial operations will reduce the cost of processing, but also provide a significant improvement in data quality.
For some businesses there will be a need for a complete business platform that allows them to transact end-to-end.
This could start at the CRM, marketing, or e-commerce, but allows for complete traceability, automation and reporting from end-to-end. This allows you to deliver no-touch/low-touch financial operations, with endless scalability.
This strategy is ideal for businesses using Salesforce, have a large e-commerce function, or who process billing and payments automatically.
Vertical integration of your revenue model is critical to fast, low-cost and accurate processing of financial data. This can be achieved through the integration of systems and the automation of processes that are often costly and at risk of error. It allows you access to real-time performance data, based on transactions currently being processed. You want this to be low-touch or no-touch.
This diagram contains some of the key financial systems you may require. Note that only some may be relevant to your business.
You can also use the table below to identify the key systems and functions you may require, as well as a number of products that ION recommends for use. As you design your system, each of these elements will interact, creating one seamless and (hopefully) automated journey. In some cases it might be that your business has a different order to what you see below, which is fine.
Please note, there are many other products in the market, just make sure they are cloud-based, scalable and offer integration APIs. Just like building a manufacturing process, if you get one part wrong it can act as a bottleneck and prevent scaling across the business.
Having selected the right products, you can now do the work to modernise you financial operations and start to see a real impact in the overall performance of your finance function.
Use the tabs below to switch between some of the impactful things you could do.
Cloud Accounting allows your business to operate more accurately and efficiently providing savings whilst increasing value within your process infrastructure. At a time where attracting and retaining staff is arduous, it is imperative that staff feel valued and empowered.
By providing the market leading cloud based solutions you are enabling staff to do the best they can do for the business and allowing them to grow and advance to be best they can be.
In a fast-changing macro environment it is crucial that decision makers are armed with the best information available to navigate uncertainty, mitigate risk and capitalise on any opportunities.
In all businesses the protection of data is of paramount importance and by housing your most confidential data in the cloud you are protecting not only your business but your key stakeholders, proving that you are a forward thinking business who values all those who touch it.
With Multi Entity functionality you can report actuals and forecast in accordance with local accounting and tax regulations as well as consolidating into one jurisdiction to give both a local view and a consolidated view at the touch of a button.
This removes the need for manual intervention and the use of many spreadsheets. Consolidation can be automated and periodic reporting scheduled to the relevant stakeholders.
With Multi Currency functionality you can report in entity specific currencies that will translate any foreign currency transactions to the local currency.
Pre-determined exchange rates can be utilised, as well as linking to live exchange rate providers to give live spot rate translations or specific internal rates to allow for currency neutral comparisons, everything is customisable. It provides a timely view of foreign currency exposures and allows for automatic scheduled revaluations to be carried out at any reporting period end.
Together with Multi Entity this allows for a smooth and clean consolidation taking into account any foreign currency impacts.
Multi Dimensional reporting allows for real time insights relevant to your business and are not dictated to by the rigour of the Chart of Accounts set up.
Whether this is by location, department, product, function or revenue stream, segmented reporting is predesigned by you to give timely, accurate insights into the area of the business you are interested in to help drive smarter and more informed decision making.
A true cloud-based billing solution allows integration between CRM, billing and accounting systems giving a full lead to ledger automated and seamless flow. Invoices can be linked to contracts and set up at the required billing cadence to automatically trigger the invoice, send the invoice and track invoice status after the due date.
This solution can not only create real tangible efficiencies and therefore savings in your business but provide powerful reporting capabilities to track the most important area of your business.
Revenue recognition is one of the most important aspects of your business. This significant area has accounting compliance impacts as well as performance management dependencies that can influence major business decision making.
Cloud-accounting solutions create efficiencies and improve the accuracy of the operation of your whole cash generating model. This ensures your business remains compliant with the relevant accounting standards IFRS 15 or ASC 606, and with the availability of live accurate reporting it provides all relevant stakeholders have the most up-to-date information for all revenue streams across your business.
Use intelligent allocations to eliminate the need for error-prone, time-consuming data analysis. Allocate indirect costs, revenue contributions, asset, and liability amounts across products, projects, departments, and other critical dimensions of your business.
Replace manual and time-consuming processes with automated, efficient workflows. Using your business rules, powerful workflow automations can help to make nearly every part of the business work better and more efficiently.
Save a huge amount of time by integrating your bank accounts into your finance system and use business rules to automatically match transactions off within your accounting system. Financial standards now allow nearly every bank in the world to directly provides feeds into your business.
AR automation automates repetitive and time-consuming tasks and reduces the operational overhead of your finance team. It increases the probability of payment, reducing average time to get paid, whilst avoiding mistakes that can occur through manual creation or lack of contractual knowledge.
You can empower your finance team to manage and control the end-to-end financial close process by automating accounting workflows, providing a central and secure system to perform period-end accounting activities, streamlining operations and finalising financial reporting.
Build notifications into your finance and accounting applications, to notify you about critical events or when direct intervention is required by your team. This allow for rapid data or process course corrections, ensuring a continuation of business as usual and avoiding critical bottle necks.
Most cloud-based applications have APIs that allow them to integrate and speak with other applications. These connections can talk directly to each other, or use middle-ware when a more complex business scenario occurs. This means that all your systems can stay in sync and provide highly accurate and real-time data.
Third party billing applications can be integrated directly with your accounting applications, or other systems, to provide complete visibility on revenue. This can be at either business, department, customer or custom level. The billing events can also flow through your revenue recognition processes, to ensure you are accuratly accounting for these.
Whether you are using Stripe or another industry payment provider, you can integrate these transactions directly into your accounting and financial systems. This helps track payments made before they've even hit your bank account, whilst matching off against invoices sent and bank transactions.
Integrating with your bank is probably one of the easiest and most effective integrations you can do. Through the use of bank feeds, you can pull all of your transactions from your different bank accounts and automatically match them against you accounting transactions.
You can massively cut down hours of manual data entry and make it faster than ever to process expenses, reimburse employees, and close your books each month, by directly integrating your expenses applications into you finance systems. You can then automatically tag expenses by departments, locations, projects, etc. This gives you deep insight into the actual costs associated with your customers.
Integrating your accounting and CRM system is one of the most effective and proactive tasks you can complete. By doing this you are providing your business with a 360 degree of the customers, but also allowing for highly efficient automations to occur, such as sales order or invoice creation.
By integrating your projects and timesheets, you can see all your time, expense, and project-based accounting data, both financial and non-financial, in one place.
Most cloud-accounting systems will allow you to directly integrate best-in-class payroll applications. This helps reduce manual inefficiencies and error, by automatically updating employee changes, record keeping of expenses and other financial and statistical journal entries.
Email is still the de facto communication between most organisations, so allowing email integration with your accounting system allows you to keep track of conversations and agreements. All this can be embedded directly within your records for fast and easy access.
Most businesses have now adopted e-signature capabilities for contract and sales. These can be integrated directly into your company workflow, allowing you to digitise all contracts in a safe and secure format. Once integrated, e-signature can also be used for additional sales and renewals.
Most cloud-accounting and financial applications now contain a library of powerful pre-built reports which can be accessed immediately, or can be customised to meet the needs of the business. These reports can be exported into various formats.
Using powerful reporting tools, you can build your own custom reports, interogating any financial or statistical element of your business. Structure these reports based on any time period, nominal code, or dimension, and then export in multiple formats, or embed in dashboards.
Sometimes standard management accounts don't provide what you need, so to have the ability to build advanced management accounts will be critical to continuous growth of the business. This can be an extension of the financial management data, or the additional of statistical data, directly within the management reports.
Multi-entity consolidation is a major challenge for growing mid-market organisations, and can become especially complicated when it includes multiple currencies and consolidation levels. These businesses should look to use an accounting product that can instantly and automatically consolidate these accounts, saving an enormous amount of work on a monthly basis and providing real-time preformance at group level.
Dashboards allow your business to present multiple reports and KPIs side-by-side, using components on a single screen. These statistics can come in a variety of charts, and can be customised to show grouped and summarised data. In a single snapshot you can see the overall performance of your organisation.
Use powerful AI-driven data analytics to discover new financial insights, predict outcomes and provide improvements and recommendations. Each of these will allow ongoing and incremental improvements to the organisations overall performance.
GRC relates to how your business manages its financial information, which includes how you monitor cashflow, look after financial and customer data, and produce the information you are required to provide by law.
You need to understand what information you own, track and have the ability to retrieve it when ever necessary, and be able to instantly analyse and present your finances as required.
User access controls can allow you to open up your financial systems to the business as a whole, providing greater visibility and access to other data sources, such as expenses, time sheets and project costs.
Roles and permissions can be used to control and restrict access to records, reports and functions, ensuring that you can manage a users behaviour at a granular level. This not only prevent access to restricted data, but can also prevents incorrect or inaccurate data from being entered into the system , avoiding polution.
Data entry validation allows fields within the system to run validation rules, preventing incorrect or inaccurate data from being entered. This can significantly improve the overall quality of information output in reports, but can also reduce the amount of time fixing data or creating manual journals.
Given the nature of financial transactions, it's critical that there is a continuous audit trail of all activities within the accounting or financial software. Data audits can help you trace back issues or discrepancies and help you prevent similar activities from occurring again.
When building complex or integrated accounting and finance systems, it will become important to have powerful approval processes that restrict certain activities or processes being triggered without an element of intervention first.
These approvals could be automated, based on a series or criteria, but may also require human review. This again ensures high quality data flows through the system, but also prevents unauthorised activities from occurring.
Migrating between accounting and financial systems doesn't have to be a lengthy process, but it's also important it is done right. This prevents potential disruption of the business, inaccurate data, or other organisational risks. From experience, an average accounting migration takes about 2-3 months. Don't worry, that's not you working on for 2-3 months, but that's the period of time it takes to Go Live.
The process normally includes designing your new accounting systems, configuring the solution, testing to make sure everything is correct, migrating your data and then deployment. At that point you can have a little party (and automate the expenses).
Other Systems and Functions
Since you are building a roadmap, you also need to consider other systems you want integrating, or other features you want running. We don't recommend a big bang approach, as these usually end with a big bang and a big bill! Rather, create yourself a prioritised list and start planning from there.
For example, CRM integration might be a key goal, but you will also need to consider how you protect data integrity, both-ways. This doesn't always have to work on day-one, but you could integrate and build approval processes in phase 2 or 3.
A high-level roadmap may look like the following:
This page has been designed to give you a start to your transformation journey, but ION developed its own proprietary FT Framework to ensure a robust and repeatable framework, which could be used by CFO's, Finance Directors and Financial Controllers alike.
Step 1 of this page discusses the importance of selecting the right strategy and is heavily dependent on the desired business outcome. This is critical to defining key systems and processes that are required for the transformation to be complete.
ION has worked to build a library of Scenarios, based around common outcomes businesses are looking to achieve.
For example: A multi-entity organisation that needs automated consolidation, but is currently stuck on Sage 50.
This allows a suitable solution to be presented and referenced, allowing for the best product selection and the correct technical configuration.
Step 3 of this page discusses modernisation. These are the key categories of financial transformation that will maximise your overall success. It help compartmentalise requirements and allows you to logically progress through the solution design.
For reference, this includes:
Finally, ION has developed a detailed accounting taxonomy, which allows you to drill down into any key part of your finance function and find recommendations and improvements that you can use to transform operational performance.
You've made it this far and hopefully you now have a good idea in your head about what to do next.
Having delivered over 150 business and Financial Transformation projects, ION has the experience and knowledge to take the pain out of Financial Transformation, and our team of experts can take your business as far as you want it to go.
Our goal is to be the CFOs' choice for financial technology and transformation services, and we do this by providing the very best service in the industry.
If you would like to speak with us, please complete the form below and we'll get right back to you.
When undertaking a new financial transformation project, ION utilises its own delivery methodology, designed specifically to de-risk the process of migrating between financial systems. This is the industries only proprietary delivery model designed with the CFO and Financial Transformation in mind.
You can download a PDF of our process by clicking the image below.