The role of process in your SME finance team

Jun 2019

We recently wrote about the use of process in marketing, and mentioned that a common perception of marketing is that it is fun, creative and essentially like an episode of Mad Men.  

Although such perceptions can be reductive, they are often interesting. What do you think of when you think about finance and accounting? What kind of people work in finance and what does their role entail?

With the greatest respect to finance professionals all over the world, and in particular the excellent team here at beSlick, I would suggest that most people perceive finance to be a fairly mundane business function. The personal and professional qualities needed by accountants and other finance staff would be to be well-organised, have strong attention to detail, to be trustworthy and efficient. It should probably go without saying that they should be good with numbers too.

This isn’t the whole picture of course. Finance staff come in all varieties and have a range of different qualities that they bring to their role and the company. But even so, some elements of the above will ring true for most finance professionals. That’s why process is so important in finance and why process management tools such as beSlick can be invaluable to any SME finance department.

Need to improve finance operations?
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Need to improve finance operations?
Never miss month end again.

Bosses and finance micromanagement

The finance department is undoubtedly a hugely important one in any business. Paying staff and suppliers on time is essential and maintaining good cash-flow makes a lot of business sense. Businesses mostly function to make money and to generate profit, and if they aren’t doing so the boss understandably wants to know why.

That’s probably why so many SME bosses find it hard to let go of their day-to-day involvement in finance. Recent beSlick research with 1,000 SME employees revealed that the finance department was the second most micromanaged in the organisation, just behind HR. 38% of SME finance workers felt their boss micromanaged them, while 24% said that their boss was unclear when issuing a task or instruction.

While bosses want to keep a close check on the finances, such attitudes and behaviours are helping no-one. Finance staff will feel undermined and that they are not fully trusted, while the bosses themselves simply don’t have the headspace to realistically and productively get involved in day-to-day finance tasks.

Bosses and finance micromanagement

But the good news is, that if finance teams make smart and sensible use of process, they can ensure that everything gets done as it should be. Bosses then get the peace of mind that stops them micromanaging at every opportunity – checking whether invoice payments have been, asking if suppliers have been added etc – and can concentrate on actually running the business.

The SME finance team can then do a much more effective job, unhindered by boss interference, and freeing up some of their own time for more strategic work. There are many different tasks within finance that would benefit from process management. Adding new suppliers to the accounting system, adding new staff to payroll, knowing what to do if there is an overdue payment, producing monthly reports, compiling annual returns – all these and more are process based.

By using a process management tool to manage such tasks, everyone in the finance team knows exactly what to do at any given stage of that task. This can be applied to new starters too, so there is never any doubt about what to do. Processes evolve, change and improve over time, so as long as the process is documented and people collaborate and update it, then those processes will only grow more effective.

Where can process be deployed in finance?

We want to make life easier for finance teams and using beSlick can play a major role in doing so. But the initial process documentation phase can sometimes feel like an unwanted additional task, which is why we have launched a new library of finance templates for SME finance teams to use.

The templates can be changed and adapted to suit specific needs but will make getting started with process infinitely easier. If there are any finance processes that you would like to see as a template, just let us know in the comments below!