CFOs and finance teams have traditionally been big Microsoft fans: for decades, Excel has been the favorite tool for financial planning, analysis and reporting. The spreadsheet champion, however, wasn’t designed to do the analysis and reporting that finance units are expected to deliver in 2019. Yet Microsoft does have a solution to drive the efficiency and value of finance operations and management: Microsoft (MS) Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations.
“CFOs and their teams do everyday accounting tasks, but at the same time, the management team expects them to help with long-term business growth by providing insight. To be able to do that, they need a comprehensive view of finance details in relation to logistics, purchasing, sales, etc.,” says Tim Vermeersch, solution lead for Dynamics finance.
He continues: “MS Dynamics 365 was built to break down the silos that business applications traditionally created. It is integrated to the max: more than handling traditional back office processes, it includes CRM and applications like HR, talent management, customer services, marketing and more. In addition, it is coupled to the ‘Power Platform’, which bundles Microsoft’s business analytics solution (Power BI), workflow automation engine (Flow) and low-code application development platform (Power Apps). Last but not least, it works together with Office 365. So, this really is a one-stop-solution that bundles all the tools and insights a company needs to work efficiently and fuel business growth.”
“MS Dynamics 365 is process driven: it takes ‘processes’ or ‘jobs to be done’ as a starting point, rather than features or applications,” Tim explains. “In practice, the suite comes with a series of out-of-the-box, role-based workspaces that contain the processes, data, reports and links that users need in their jobs. A CFO, for example, will see KPIs, charts and financial metrics, while an accounts payable clerk will get an overview of all the processes related to A/P, including details like the status, the upcoming workload and the performance of the process. They can then perform their tasks directly in the workspace.”
The benefits? Users no longer have to switch between applications and the workspaces urge them to follow the same steps. As a result, this approach drives consistency, decreases human error and boosts workforce productivity.
In line with its dedication to integration, MS Dynamics 365 invested big in improving finance transactions and controls across company entities or company borders. “The suite lets users process invoices or payments, do reconciliations, analyze data, draw up financial reports, etc. for more than one entity or business,” Tim explains.
The benefits? Organizations with multiple entities or businesses can close the books much faster, deliver consolidated reporting, increase profitability and ensure global compliance.
MS Dynamics 365 also comes standard with a built-in analytics tool that is powered by Microsoft Power BI. Tim: “Users can view analytics information in every workspace. In the cash collections workspace, for example, they will see an overview of open invoices, aged balances and details like promises to pay and disputed amounts. They can filter the information to a company or customer level and drill down to see additional details. Moreover, the application itself can largely automate the cash collection process, sending reminders, for example, if an invoice is overdue.”
The benefits? In the case of cash collection, the embedded analytics help finance teams monitor and improve cashflow and reduce days sales outstanding. More in general, however, the embedded analytics provide actionable insights for the management to base decisions on.
Last but not least, Tim praises Microsoft’s ‘One Version’ approach: “In April 2019, Microsoft changed the way they deliver Dynamics 365 updates: they will push monthly performance and reliability improvement updates and release new features frequently.
The benefits? Continuous updates ensure a more consistent experience for all companies and users and give access to the newest and latest features without the need for big, costly upgrades. For financial managers, they also reassure that the organization is compliant with the latest regulatory requirements.”
Needless to say, all the above features come with an intuitive user interface and are available on mobile devices too. “Microsoft Dynamics 365 offers unlimited possibilities to drive efficiency, effectiveness and value,” Tim concludes. “To companies that want to embark upon a Dynamics project, we advise thinking big but starting small. The suite was built to be scalable, so it’s really easy to start with only the applications you need and grow at your own pace. In this way, they can move from optimizing transactional processes to introducing processes that add real business value and help the company grow.”