Get your financial department running like a Michelin rated kitchen

November 9, 2018 Matt Vermeulen

Who hasn’t watched a cooking show these days? Somehow, watching people prep food is prime entertainment for the masses. Maybe you love watching chefs traveling the world, tasting the local ingredients you wish you could, or maybe you’re a fan of the cantankerous kitchen demigod, Gordon Ramsey of, really any gimmicky cooking show, but best known for “Hell’s Kitchen.” Then there’s the more sublime and definitely more smug “Chef’s Table” series and the good old cooking disaster reality shows like “Restaurant: Impossible,” hosted by the British beefcake Robert Irvine.

All of those shows, to varying degrees, highlight the necessity of a streamlined and collaborative process. Whether it’s the fine-tuned machine of a Michelin rated restaurant bringing the meal from farm-to-prep-to sous chef-to-head chef-to-server-to-table, or the disastrously hilarious system breakdowns in a struggling local restaurant in Jersey: the health of the business and the customer experience comes down to sharing resources, information, and skills across the entire chain of the restaurant. In a high stakes environment, each role can’t afford to exist in a completely siloed environment.

If you’re a finance professional, that may ring a bell.

Imagine modern finance as a line of cooks

The pace of innovation is now so rapid that, “since 2000, 52 percent of companies in the Fortune 500 have either gone bankrupt, been acquired, or ceased to exist.” And yet, one of the areas that has the biggest impact on a business’s fiscal health is often one of the most technologically neglected. Finance teams in procurement, treasury, and accounts payable can all have an outsized impact on an enterprise’s success, yet they’re continually left playing second fiddle in funding and resources.

Guess what can change that? Digital innovation, folks.

Right now the organization structure of financial departments, the systems used, and the metrics employed to measure success all combine to keep departments siloed—leaving little time for anything more than reactive work. And you surely know what that means: with less time to do anything but reactive work, leadership has little time to invest in improvements throughout the system and punts decisions on updates further down the field.

You know how they interview the restaurant owner about why their restaurant is so shabby and they say, “well, we just never had time to make changes in our kitchen” and the camera pans around and shows the rats scurrying around in the corners and the waterlogged drywall near the dishwashers, and the gross old food in the walk-in refrigerators? Yeah, that’s what a dilapidated finance team can feel like.

It’s time for new tools in your digital kitchen

The good news is the technology and tools are already available to help connect your teams to focus on enterprise-wide goals like working capital management. Your first best bet is to explore a digital solution so that supplier and buyer data is visible to every financial department. These solutions can have robust supplier onboarding programs to make sure you’re getting the most value out of the solution. Key to that is highlighting the equal value for both buyers and suppliers to working with a digital marketplace solution. Your suppliers want to make money. You want to save money. Both are possible with a robust solution. Things like dynamic discounting and e-invoicing work to bring value to everyone.

And the result of that will work to cycle out of the time trap of manual and siloed processes. Just as the old way leads to less time for strategic planning which leads to more manual work, in turn leading to less planning, so too does a digital solution help eliminate manual processes, opening up time for strategic planning and leading to shared data, allowing all your teams working together to bring value capture and return to your enterprise.

You know how they show the final montage of a cleaned-up kitchen, motivated employees, crying owners, a spiffy new menu, and then they interview happy customers who say stuff like, “this is the best chicken piccata I’ve ever had in my life” and the camera cuts to the beefcake walking away with a satisfied smile on his face? Yeah, that’s what you’re department will feel like once you’ve successfully implemented your brand new digital solution. And if you helped implement it, you get to play the role of Robert Irvine.

Check out what best-in-class AP departments are doing to explore the future of finance in Ardent Partners’ The State of ePayables.

About the Author

Matt Vermeulen

Matt Vermeulen writes about B2B commerce for Tradeshift. Whether he's writing about Accounts Payable best practices or debunking AI myths, Matt enjoys making complex topics easy to understand and fun to read.

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