SharePoint & Financial Departments

11 October 2013
By Igor Kuzivanov, Project Manager

This article discusses the ways SharePoint can help companies to improve collaboration between employees and make business processes more transparent to stakeholder.

Does your organization really need any collaboration tools? Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you have a possibility to run one ECM system for multiple processes?
  • Is process transparency essential for your organization?
  • Can you improve the period end closing process?
  • Is compliance the key, like IAS, IFRS, USGAAP, ISO?
  • Do you spend a lot of time and efforts to structure the information you work with?
  • Does your organization still use file servers and file shares?
  • How many departments in your organization exchange information with the finance department?
  • Does your organization use Excel reports a lot?

If you can give an affirmative answer to any of them, then this article may be useful for you, as we will describe the ways SharePoint can help with automating financial department duties such as environment providing, accounting, finance management, budgeting, forecasting, and reporting.

IT infrastructure

Organizations have many application built on different platforms and even many legacy business applications that they need to use. It causes typical problems such as: no integration with each other, connection between applications requires custom data connectors, different storage places lead to data duplication, and searching through all data storages becomes almost impossible. Different UIs for each application makes it difficult to switch between the apps. The difference in logic leads to various mistakes and it takes a lot of efforts to train new employees. Administration and support of all those applications requires a big IT department team with different skills and, hence, big IT expenses.

It’s not a secret that nowadays budgets are tight, and IT is being asked to deliver more, but by means of the same or fewer resources. SharePoint provides a way to bring different applications together on a common platform and offers out-of-the-box features such as:

  • Common platform for Business-Critical Applications
  • Interaction with data stored in different lines of business applications
  • Leverage workflows to control and track business processes
  • Present business intelligence information in interactive dashboards
  • Secure data in a centrally managed repository
  • Allow searching of information

The world has become “mobile” with more and more employees using tablets and smartphones. SharePoint was initially designed for use with Internet browsers, both on desktop and on mobile platforms. Thus, employees always have access to the necessary data and can better manage their time, which increases the efficiency and competitive ability of the company.

Accounting

Internally, everyday routine operations were based (and relied) on traditional e-mail for communications. A huge amount of e-mail comes in during the day and chances are high that you’ll miss something really important. Moreover, the discussion often grows or takes another direction, and to understand how it all began you should look through an entire thread, which can take a lot of time.

SharePoint offers a user-targeted dashboard at a single entry point: announcements, current tasks, tasks on daily bases, events and meetings calendar, etc.

All planning and control processes such as budget, forecast and report completion can be brought together and structured. You may choose to view only your own tasks with all the timesheets and deadlines. No more Excel sheets.

Budget Planning

Generally speaking, budget planning is a workflow that consists of number of tasks be performed by the team consequently or in parallel with budget completion: sales, purchase, manufacturing, HR, asset management, lead times, project management.

The budget website offers the best practice for budget processes. Ad-hoc website provides collaboration, single point upload, document storage and versioning, search facilities, compliance, access control, etc. Team work is organized using a generic SharePoint tasks list. The list contains of set of tasks issued for the preparation of an annual budget that is catered for assigning tasks through the team. The list automatically sends reminders when a task is created, completed or assigned to the next person in the workflow.

Forecast

Forecasting is an action that is based on knowledge built up over the years and its quality depends on the fullness and correctness of information. That’s why it is extremely important to have full, well-structured information in one place and it should absorb all knowledge and intelligence from the organization.

SharePoint has an effective enterprise search engine. It offers not only search through the whole portal including content of documents, tags and keywords, but also file shares, exchange folders, office web apps, lotus notes etc. The search results are displayed in a well-structured order with preview so you can make sure that you will find all necessary, actual, relevant and full information and forecast will be based on real data.

Period closure

This operation is performed 12-13 times per year and should be automated as much as it possible. This is also a formal operation consisting of number of tasks that should be done very carefully. All process steps should be clear to all participants and this seems to be a good idea to visualize this process.

SharePoint offers a Visio-based period closure dashboard. It visualizes the process workflow, responsibilities and state of the tasks.

SharePoint also delivers on important tasks such as tracing, audit trail, milestones, alarms and alerts and much more.

Reporting

SharePoint delivers a rich set of services for reporting. Reports built on MS Excel Services with data obtained not only from Excel spreadsheets located on the portal but also from multiple data sources via built in external data connectors. SharePoint offers comprehensive instrumentation for plain, 3D-graphs and power pivot reports visualization. Reports are built on-the-fly and always show the real-time picture.

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