Why investing in financial technology is so important

The challenges presented by COVID-19 have been a force for good in some organisations where it has accelerated a digital-first mindset and driven some positive developments.

We’re unlikely to see a full-time return to office-based working in the near future, if at all. Businesses are experiencing the cost-savings of down-sizing from large, high-value city centre office suites to smaller premises, offering hot-desking and shared space for partly home-based employees. It is important that employees are equipped with the right tools to enable business success in this new landscape, specifically to work effectively and efficiently from home and from flexible office spaces.

The first UK lockdown was announced with very short notice, revealing many businesses to be unprepared for supporting home-based workers. Advanced’s Annual Trends Survey Report 2020/21 showed that more than half (57 per cent) of the senior business decision-makers who took part in the study had identified limitations in their organisation’s technology to support recent changes in working practices driven by the pandemic. Employees scrambled to set up technology at home; attempting to assimilate new working practices such as virtual meetings; and trying to access data held in legacy premise-based systems. Not surprisingly there was an increase in the incidence of data breaches as employees struggled to get up to speed. It also had an impact on engagement as people found themselves feeling ‘cut adrift’, without the usual support and back-up they would have in the office environment.

Businesses that had already adopted a digital-first strategy were much more able to be agile and react to the ever-changing situation. Having a Cloud-based solution for financial management allowed them far greater flexibility. Managers could extract real-time information on-demand, satisfying last-minute requests from their directors for a full and accurate report of financial status. Working in a Cloud-based system allowed multiple employees to access and use the same data at once, facilitating collaboration and mutual support within a team. They could also connect and communicate more effectively, being able to see and track each other’s progress and be aware when issues arose. Most importantly the high-level protection around the storage of data in the Cloud gave businesses, their employees, customers and other stakeholders the confidence of knowing that they were protected from costly data breaches.

Some employees have found working from home challenging – struggling to balance additional domestic pressures while feeling more isolated and less engaged. Younger and less-experienced staff continued to need the support, training and guidance from team leaders and peers. Employers who helped create an environment of mutual trust amongst their teams, providing them with the best tools to communicate and stay motivated, have reaped the benefit with happier, more engaged and committed staff. In some cases, HR teams are reporting that processes such as onboarding new employees are actually enhanced by being delivered remotely. They are finding that it creates a more focused one-on-one environment that supports a more tailored induction and training process for each new starter.

Beyond this pandemic, there will be other challenges to legacy premise systems for managing finance. These include the outcomes of Brexit, bringing new legislation and changes to regulatory guidance and compliance requirements; a broader shift towards digitalisation, for example, in the government’s Making Tax Digital initiative; and as we now realise, the possibility of another game-changing and unexpected event like Covid-19. Robust governance includes following best practice and identifying the most appropriate technology solutions. Cloud-based digital systems address the evolving needs of modern business, where employees feel supported and valued and in the best position to work well wherever they are based