Finance leaders in SMBs have the least time for strategy

What could you accomplish in a week if you had an extra day to work with? I’m not talking about giving up your Saturday, which should be spent with friends and family. I mean if you took out all the day-to-day admin and tactical processes that divert your attention away from important business matters during the week. If you had a whole Friday to devote to analysing business performance and optimising cash flow – how could you help your company change course and better plan for the future?


That was something we wanted to find out when we commissioned research with market specialist Vanson Bourne. By exploring insights from 500 UK finance leaders in businesses of all sizes, we were looking to pinpoint those problem areas draining the finance team’s time and identify opportunities where leaders could provide a greater level of strategic input to the business.


What we discovered is that finance in small- and medium-sized businesses (SMB) spend 20% of their time – that’s one day a week – just on general administrative tasks. Plus they have the least time to devote to strategic planning – valuable time that could be better spent strategizing and preparing for the next step on the path to business growth. And what could be more important for an SMB looking to expand?


Unsurprisingly cash flow is listed as the number one priority for finance leaders – it’s the lifeblood of the business and a few weak months can spell disaster for a fledgling company. But that doesn’t mean they always have the time to focus on it. In fact, 75% of finance leaders in very small businesses (VSBs) said the work they did was mainly non-strategic or at best an equal mix.


Expenses and invoices trail behind


Of all the processes a finance team is responsible for, employee expenses and supplier invoices appear to be lagging behind. In fact, 43% of SMBs expense processes and 36% of their AP processes were listed as mostly or entirely manual. That means having to rely on paper receipts and invoices, and predominantly using spreadsheets to manage these processes. Not only that, the smaller the company size, the more likely you are to have a manual system in place, even though cloud adoption is growing across the board.


When you’re just starting out it’s easy to turn to trusted free tools like Excel spreadsheets that have been around for decades, but you may find they don’t easily scale as you grow and you’ll need to invest even more time to make a broken process work.


Time to take back an extra day?


A revealing stat from the research is that by fully automating finance processes, the average amount of time finance leaders think they could save is 26%. That’s more than a day each week to redirect towards data analysis, reporting and strategic planning.


80% of those in VSBs said if they were to fully automate their finance processes, they would have more time to dedicate towards planning for the future.


Setting time aside for data analysis and forward planning is something that should be top of mind for many SMBs. At the same time, those who have begun a journey of greater process automation are listing the top benefits as being able to get a better view into cash flow, having a more productive team, making better use of their team’s skills and qualifications and being better equipped to plan for the future. So, what would your finance team be able to achieve with a whole extra day each week?



A report of the results from the Finance Leader Report is now available for download.



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