CFOs - who is looking after the store when you are away?

27th May 2013

For many CFOs, staying in touch with the office when travelling is becoming a major concern. But the rapid coalescence of mobile technology and Cloud computing is removing a lot of the stress of being away from one’s desk. Gary Simon, Financial Systems News’ (FSN’s) managing editor explores why it is becoming increasingly feasible for CFOs to not only stay in touch with the office but to manage the business as well.

 

 

 

For many CFOs the mobile device has been truly liberating in the sense that it has reduced the disruption and anxiety that most of us feel when travelling.  The past decade has seen an explosion in the capabilities and use of mobile devices –especially hand held devices such as iPhone and tablets.  But a quick look around any airport lounge quickly confirms that most of the current capability (or at least usage) is limited to email exchanges and bellowing instructions to colleagues down the phone. 

The rapid growth of Mobile apps has assisted by making our lives more organized – booking train tickets, finding colleagues and places, checking-in for flights and even collecting orders for household provisions on exiting the airport terminal but there are now clear signs that we are entering a new phase in mobile apps that will usher in an era of increased collaboration, business efficiency and even control.

The amalgamation of several technologies, principally unified communications, Cloud computing, mobile computing and social networking tools, is at the heart of increased collaboration. Whether you are a follower of Google or Microsoft you can now take your critical office documents wherever you go courtesy of Google Docs of Microsoft Office 365.  Both these technologies not only allow critical documents and spreadsheets to be saved (and accessible 24/7) in so called ‘data vault’s in the Cloud but, crucially allow CFOs to review the latest changes to shared documents that have been made while travelling and out of reach.  That trumps having documents stored on a laptop with all of the security risks, such as theft or forgetfulness that this implies.  Once edited, so called ‘presence checking’ within unified communications allows a CFO to see who in the team is available to take matters forward supported by an impromptu web conference (with or without inbuilt webcam).

Mobile computing is also unleashing considerable potential for process improvements and access to information.  Mobile dashboards from companies such as CXO Cockpit provide a window on popular financial reporting and consolidation systems such as Hyperion Financial Management, Hyperion Enterprise, Essbase, Tagetik, and SAP BPC – allowing CFO’s to review financial results and KPIs on the move.  Wouter Born, COO of CXO Solutions, told FSN, “We see that mobile tablets are taking boardrooms of large corporations by storm.  CXO-Cockpit for iPad takes SAP BPC based business intelligence to a new level of touch-based interactivity, enabling exploration of SAP BPC information without the limits of static reporting or being behind a computer connected to the network.”

CEO of ESE World René Wolfkamp agrees.  He says, “With this iPad app I can have access to all the important EPM and financial data anywhere and anytime during our reporting cycle. Knowing that the information is always instantly available and correct, adds incredible value to my day to day business, especially when I am travelling and during my meetings with fellow board members, shareholders and other stakeholders”

Process improvements courtesy of mobile computing continue to emerge as the emphasis shifts from using a mobile device as a means of reviewing information to a more proactive role in supplying information as well.  Time and expense management from companies such as Concur allow travel expenses (monetary values and images of receipts) to be captured on a mobile phone while FinancialForce.com’s Professional Services Application enables remote workers to complete time sheets and project activity. Several providers of budgeting, planning and forecasting applications allow workflow approval via a mobile device as well.

However, a most recent and interesting development has been the use of a mobile app to enable control over the ‘Record to Report (R2R) process.  Trintech, a specialist provider of integrated software solutions for the Last Mile of Finance, this month announced the availability of the “Cadency™ mobile application” giving users of its financial governance solution secure, real-time access to the Cadency Management Console.  This allows CFOs to review the status of financial reporting, from the reconciliation of the balance sheet, to ensuring adherence to financial controls, completion of statutory disclosures and filings, period-end close process management and journal entries.  

Paul Byrne, Trintech CEO told FSN, “Despite the host of devices that make information more accessible than ever, the office of finance has struggled with adopting technology to improve both the efficiency and effectiveness of the financial close or “Last Mile of Finance” process.”

“For many companies, the close process has evolved into a complex web of point-solutions, spreadsheets, and the routing of myriad documents and emails, a process that is not easily managed on a mobile device.  Cadency helps companies break free of this clutter by orchestrating all record-to-report processes through a single console, giving companies crucial visibility into the closing process on their computer, phone or tablet.”

The rise and rise of mobile computing is not a fad.  Intel, predicts there will be more than 15 billion devices connected to the internet by 2015 - many of which will be mobile devices as sales of laptops, tablets and mobile phones continue to outstrip sales of PCs.  Interestingly, British Airways reports that nine out of 10 flights carry more mobile devices than passengers.  Mobile computing is literally taking off!

But it is the transformational qualities of mobile computing that is perhaps underestimated. Whether it is increased collaboration, better information or enhanced control, mobile apps put business agility just a small touch away.

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