[IMGCAP(1)]Can you do analysis on business results in real-time during the monthly close process, or from smartphone? How about helping clients identify fraud while they are sleeping or whipping through approving invoices while stuck in traffic? Technology can now offer a myriad of tools to automate accounting activities such as these. 

But the game changing evolution is about using the data created by daily business transactions. By using this data correctly, finance professionals will increase their efficiency when analyzing it, spot more accurate trends, and ultimately make better decisions based on predictive modeling of business results.

This combination of rapidly evolving technology and an emerging generation of users who embrace innovation are combining to create powerful change. The Millennial Generation, commonly known as digital natives, was born with an insatiable thirst for new and powerful technology. The native knowledge of technology that the younger generation possesses signifies a generational shift in business execution and places an emphasis on upgrading financial systems with innovative technologies. As these Millennials have entered the workforce, many have found themselves at the helm of leadership positions at small and large enterprises. Small businesses in particular see this younger generation using technological innovations in order to keep pace with larger companies that boast greater resources.

Engrained in technology usage out of the gates, this generation of leaders would prefer to tackle accounting challenges right from the start. Therefore, businesses see greater numbers of Millennials who make a stronger push for early investment and adoption of unified accounting systems. These solutions and interest in technology can be combined with the know-how and best practices of today’s accountants to create a faster, more proactive company that truly takes advantage of the data at its fingertips.

In the next decade, the volume of available financial data for any size customer will continue to grow very quickly. Financial experts need to ask themselves how they will appropriately organize the data, sift through it all and use it effectively. With the power of analytics, businesses can streamline this process. Business analytics can help an organization understand its sources of revenue and cost drives for better resource allocation and prudent investment decisions. Small businesses that need to maximize every penny in their business and large enterprises that must answer to investors can use analytics to proactively plan against changing business variables through “what-if” analysis.

We’re all familiar with the idea that implementing an integrated accounting solution enables business to accelerate financial closes, increase the accuracy of financial reporting, and maintain superior cash management. Businesses will no longer expect their finance team to simply provide an accurate balance sheet; instead, they will look to them to act as leaders and proactively tackle challenges to spur growth.  So how do we make this a reality?  What technologies exist to accomplish this and how can they help these financial experts adopt a seamless IT system to reduce accounting backlog?

No longer will financial experts have to carry around hard copies of reports and financial statements.  Cloud technology has enabled the accounting department to access its records from anywhere and with the sophistication of previously unaffordable solutions, particularly for those small businesses that so carefully need to effectively monitor their finances. For large enterprises, the cloud is impacting how the access to financial data and analytics tools can be rolled out across the enterprise. Data can now be made available at a low per-seat cost via the cloud. What was once seen by only 15 expert users can now be made available to 150 in real time. This helps ensure that all the appropriate people in the business can work off the same data at the same time.

Mobile accounting solutions allow businesses to achieve valuable financial insights anytime and anywhere. This is particularly important for small businesses that may be on the move more frequently and need access to their finances on short notice. For all companies, however, the infusion of mobile applications in the financial realm helps increase operational efficiency and financial productivity by accelerating key process cycle times and eliminating approval bottlenecks. The accounting department can help their business step on the gas simply by freeing up cash more quickly where it is needed most. Companies now have better control of key performance indicators, including revenue and margins, while reducing financial risk by allowing teams to respond in real time.

It is no surprise that as more Millennials enter the financial workforce in both small and large enterprises, there is an uptick in the interest of technology solutions that benefit the accounting profession as a whole. Today, more than ever, there is a real opportunity for the finance and accounting teams to supercharge their companies. This generational shift that we see on a day-to-day basis has helped companies move away from more antiquated methods of managing finances and move towards solutions such as the cloud, mobility and analytics. The know-how and best practices of today’s accountants combined with this surge in technology by Millennials places the teams controlling the books in the driver’s seat of deep and insightful conversations. Whether it’s a multi-billion dollar company or a start-up with five employees, those who recognize the need for early adoption of a comprehensive financial system will thrive.

Kevin Gilroy is the senior vice president, global indirect channels at SAP AG. He came to SAP in 2010 after a role as president, worldwide enterprise computing solutions at Arrow Electronics, and held senior sales roles at Hewlett Packard.

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