How To Automate Processes for Finance Teams: We Heard From Two Corporate Controllers On Their Best Practices

We got the chance to hear from two corporate controllers, on how they help their companies achieve their missions and how they address the challenges of financial operations. They explain what they look for when automating cumbersome processes and how they save time and money for their finance teams.

As the right-hand person to the CFO, the role of the controller is crucial. Their interpretation of financial data is what the rest of the organization relies on and they are the overseer of the organization’s financial health and is a key finance business partner to the company.

Laura Wensley is a CPA and the corporate controller at Fandom, a global entertainment media brand powered by fan passion. Laura previously led accounting functions at Pricewaterhouse Coopers for over seven years before joining Fandom.

Julia Farquharson is a CPA and the corporate controller at TuneIn, one of the world’s most widely used streaming audio platforms with millions of monthly active users. Julia’s previous experience includes leading accounting functions at Deloitte and Pricewaterhouse Coopers.

How does a controller contribute to the mission of an organization?

“I see finance, primarily as providing the underlying data for the organization when it comes to making financial decisions.” – Wensley

Wensley goes on to tell us about the three functions that maintain the financial health of an organization.

  1. Treasury
  2. Accounting
  3. Financial Planning and Analysis

“For us, what’s important in our kind of accounting and treasury role is making sure we are producing reliable financial information quickly, getting that information into the fingertips of the people making business decisions, and helping to point out trends.” – Wensley

For Farquharson, she talks about the importance of being the gatekeeper and protector of the profitability and sustainability of the business.

“We’re really tasked with providing the business and particularly the people, that don’t ordinarily work in finance, with a sense of financial transparency. We need to be able to forecast accurately and then we need to be able to optimize our tools, processes, and people to make sure that we’re hitting those forecasts.” – Farquharson

What are the challenges you’ve seen regarding financial operations?

“At Fandom, at the time, we had a great system that worked for the company, but it was all manual. It relied heavily on people, as opposed to relying on systems to be efficient and automated.” – Wensley

At Fandom, their use of automated tools shows massive advantages revolving around tracking approvals and ensuring information is coded properly in order to move quickly. Visibility into making sure they are accruing at month-end properly is a main priority for Wensley.

For Farquharson, she explains that TuneIn fell into the trap that many organizations do; which, is adopting a series of different systems and combining them with manual processes, “none of the systems were speaking to each other, unfortunately.” – Farquharson

 

What are the benefits of automation?

Farquharson and Wensley agree that there are many benefits to automating processes and trusting in tools.

  1. Happy users increase trust in finance and accounting
  2. Fewer questions back from within the organization, from partners, and vendors
  3. Consistency
  4. Increased financial transparency
  5. Real-time reporting
  6. Confidence that every transaction is picked up
  7. Getting time back

“There’s a lot of technology out there. Every piece of technology does things slightly differently. My preference is understanding what the technology’s core competency is and then looking at configuration rather than customization.” And then asking “What are we doing in our business that we could change to ensure we’re operating under best practice, and you hope that you were finding the technology that encourages you to consider best practices around finance.” – Wensley

Click here for Farquharson and Wensley’s full conversation, check out our partners’ at Tipalti’s Elevate Finance Summit, where Procurify was the proud sponsor.

 

 

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