How to build a resilient finance function


Finance teams must consider reassessing their processes to maintain core functions and cash flow in states of force majeure. Here is some guidance for CFOs and finance teams on how to strengthen their operations, keep calm, and carry on.

We’ve learned that the shift from business as usual to a state of emergency can come like a bolt from the blue.

The global virus pandemic COVID-19 changed the routines and daily lives of millions of people. It also affected the world economy and most aspects of society. Companies and organizations had to work hard to adapt to the new conditions.

The main priority is keeping employees safe while maintaining operations.

Industries like travel and hospitality have been directly affected. However, the uncertainty surrounding COVID-19 and its implications requires every business to plan and act thoughtfully—sometimes even drastically—from securing the supply chain to implementing new waste disposal routines, from hand sanitizers to remote work policies.

It’s about maintaining business as usual in a state of emergency.

Few business areas are more critical for an organization than the core finance functions; transaction management and control of cash flow and costs.

Solid routines and the right technology are essential, especially during extraordinary events.

By addressing these three steps, you’ll be in a better position to adapt your team and increase your resilience quickly:

  • Secure core finance functions
  • Automate manual tasks
  • Improve accessibility and routines for remote working

1. Secure core finance functions

Maintaining accessibility to finance data and securing the capabilities to process transactions are top priorities.

Assess invoice management routines

Secure your invoice management routines. Incoming purchase invoices on paper and in PDF format will be a significant issue in times of extensive remote working. If you can’t visit your office mailbox, the handling of the most ordinary tasks will be a challenge:

  • How can you access the company’s postal mail in times of quarantine?
  • How dependent on a physical place are your routines for handling sales and purchase invoices?
  • Can or should you provide your accounts payable team with equipment for invoice scanning?

Review third-party dependencies

Many companies and organizations rely on third-party providers for services such as invoice scanning and OCR. By reducing the reliance on these services, you’ll lower your exposure to the risk of not being able to manage core accounts payable functions in-house.

Your processes are highly vulnerable if your service providers can’t live up to the agreement (true story – that is what happened to one large Romania-based scanning center that was quarantined in March 2020).

E-invoicing is a highly effective way to eliminate the need for scanning and analog data management.

Stress-test your sales process

  • How is your sales invoices process set up?
  • How dependent are your customers on physical invoice handling or third-party service providers?
  • Assuming your customer is struggling to maintain their operations (for instance, due to third-party shutdowns), how will you be paid?

Increase e-invoice usage

E-invoice adoption is essential for businesses to secure their transactions. Fully digital formats improve the resilience of the finance team. They will help ensure business momentum, even in extraordinary situations, such as the country-wide quarantines we saw during the COVID pandemic.

You need to assess your ability to increase your use of e-invoices in accounts payable and accounts receivable processes.

2. Automate finance tasks

Your finance team must attend to every manual work task. Most process steps can be improved and automated, but sustainable automation requires solid digital data. You must identify bottlenecks in manual work tasks and analog information in your specific process.

The most common manual work tasks:

  • Paper invoice handling
  • Scanning/OCR of paper/PDF invoices
  • Posting: Manual posting, manual adding of dimensions, cost centers, project numbers
  • Approval: Manual validation of price, discounts
  • Deviation management: Contacting suppliers as a consequence of deviations, identifying duplicates, lack of references or PO numbers, manual credit invoice follow-up, lack of routine for dispute management
  • Supplier ledger management: New supplier validation, adding supplier information, adding bank accounts, VAT check, tax certificate check, manual control of certificates, contracts, price lists, manual entry of reply-to addresses and contact persons
  • Payment: Manual payment management
  • VAT reporting: Registration and VAT compliance

3. Improve accessibility and routines for remote working

Your systems and financial data must be available from anywhere, 24/7. Assess your accessibility and adapt to the needs of distributed teams. Successful remote work is not just about technology but also a matter of routines.

Ensure system access

You need to ensure that all core finance systems, including software for accounting, accounts payable, invoicing, etc., are accessible remotely. Usually, this is not an issue if cloud-based tools are already in use.

If your core systems are hosted locally on a company network, ensure your team can access a virtual private network (VPN). If not, request this from IT.

Issues related to accessibility are related to approval setups and hierarchies. Do you have a fallback for bank account access, tax authorities, and other business-related government services? Identify weaknesses in your setup in case of, for instance, sick leave or force majeure.

Review data security

Don’t neglect data security. For remote VPN access, a strong user authentication method is highly recommended. Passwords must be strong and randomized, and preferably with two-factor authentication.

Establish remote work routines

Teams must be able to communicate seamlessly, apart from being able to access all systems remotely. Learn from the developer community, which has used and fine-tuned remote work routines for years.

Review user-friendly team communication tools like Slack or Teams to maintain a dynamic dialogue wherever your team members are located.

Implement a daily standup routine for your distributed finance team – a short virtual briefing meeting where every team member provides an update on daily tasks in the morning. A common model is based on providing team members with answers to three questions: What did I work on yesterday? What am I working on today? What issues are blocking me?

It’s digitization that secures your processes

The areas and examples above have one thing in common – the importance of increased digitization. Remote work and infrastructure capabilities, together with increased adoption of electronic transactions, will improve your resilience radically.

The use of electronic invoices is one of the fastest and most effective ways to improve your processes, whether it’s in accounts payable, accounts receivable, accounting, or even spend analytics.

How to get started

1. Get e-invoicing access. Peppol is the most flexible and fastest-growing business network. It’s supported by most e-invoice operators and secures the easy exchange of e-invoices between companies and organizations. Sign up for Qvalia for free and get started in minutes. A paid subscription is needed to access all features.

2. Register a Peppol ID, your organization’s unique e-invoice address. This is required to receive e-invoices and other business documents. Qvalia serves as your inbox, and you’ll easily manage incoming and outgoing invoices in one platform.

3. Inform your suppliers about your e-invoice address. To maximize your digital input and future-proof your processes, we strongly recommend that you communicate that only e-invoices will be managed.

4. Integrate with your ERP. Qvalia provides integrations via SFTP and API. Contact us to help you and your IT department with a quick setup.

5. Activate automated invoice validation. Invoice Shield, a built-in accounts payable automation feature on the Qvalia platform, quickly reduces manual work and improves legal compliance. The cost is fully transaction-based. Learn more about Invoice Shield.

6. Monitor your suppliers with Supplier Manager. Keep your supplier ledger automatically up-to-date and reduce the risks of outdated information or doing business with insolvent or blacklisted companies. Supplier Manager monitors and updates your supplier data.