Where your team used to focus on balancing the books, you are now expected to help your organization make decisions in support of its strategy. Advances in new technology are sure to help you in that shift, as they create opportunities to enhance the user experience, increase efficiency, improve effectiveness and create added value. Need some examples of how Microsoft Dynamics 365 can help? We asked our Microsoft finance expert Laurens Verhofstadt.
“Over the past few years, Microsoft has made a big move to advance its enterprise applications, shifting from traditional ERP to the new standard in modern finance and operations,” says Laurens. “Just recently, they announced a major update to Dynamics 365 for finance, which focuses on the growing amount of data available today. More than ever, the platform includes intelligence to help organizations collect and understand data. So more than boosting efficiency and effectiveness, Microsoft Dynamics 365 for Finance (D365FO) will increasingly help finance professionals provide the management with the data and insights they need to take actions.”
The business value of new technology like D365FO differs greatly from organization to organization. Yet these examples include clear benefits for any finance office:
There are multiple examples of how D365FO helps optimize finance processes. The built-in analytics features, for example, not only optimize reporting, but even include predictive intelligence, which relies on AI to accurately predict, e.g., when customers will pay their invoices. This helps the finance team to proactively accelerate cash flow and reduce days sales outstanding.
“A smaller but very handy feature helps finance configure formats for incoming and outgoing electronic documents in accordance with the legal requirements of the countries where they do business,” Laurens continues. “For Belgium, for example, the tool integrates features for CODA document exchange, INTERVAT tax regulation or even PEPPOL. While in the past, IT teams had to customize software to integrate the localization features, every business user can now simply configure the platform themselves. And when regulations change, Microsoft will automatically push these changes in their periodic software updates.”
Microsoft Dynamics 365 largely automates a wide range of fairly simple, recurrent finance tasks that are error prone and time-consuming to complete. The platform, for example, automates the cash collection process, not only by sending automatic reminders if an invoice is overdue, but also by integrating follow-up reminders within Outlook.
“D365FO also helps process incoming invoices, a task often seen as one of the more tedious in a finance department,” Laurens explains “D365FO helps automate this using a third-party OCR (optical character recognition) solution. When you receive an invoice in PDF format from your vendor, the OCR service will generate an electronic document and a standard interface will accept invoice metadata for the invoice header and invoice lines. The software will then match the invoice with a purchase order and, if no anomalies are found, automatically process the invoice. Invoices that cannot be processed automatically will appear in the ‘exception’ workspace, allowing the finance team to focus on cases where action is required.”
“A third example is the financial period close process, which still is very labor intensive within many organizations” Laurens continues. “D365FO centralizes and manages financial closing in a structured way, allowing users to focus and act on exceptions only. Moreover, recurring tasks can be completely automated by using the integrated Power Automate RPA (robotic process automation) functionalities, allowing finance organizations to not only boost efficiency and effectiveness but also to create true business value.”
Microsoft has also invested big in improving cost accounting capabilities by creating a cost accounting ledger. As this ledger is not entity bound, the cost accounting module allows companies to look at data on a truly global scale. Focusing on cross-company profit centers rather than legal entities is essential in the current complex, international context.
Moreover, D365FO now also includes price allocation functionality, which automatically splits revenue across divisions. The suite also lets users process invoices or payments, perform reconciliations, analyze data and draw up financial reports, etc., for more than one entity or business. As a result, organizations with multiple entities or businesses can close the books much faster, deliver consolidated reporting, increase profitability and ensure global compliance.”
Last but not least, MS Dynamics 365 is easy to understand and use. “From the user interface to the built-in analytics tool: every single feature in MS Dynamics 365 was developed to provide an effortless user experience,” says Laurens. “Particularly handy, for example, is the workspace: when opening the platform, users get one clear, role-based workspace that contains all processes, data, reports and links that they need in their jobs. In that workspace – e.g. general journal processing, customer credit and collections, vendor invoice entry, vendor payments, etc. – they can perform all their tasks without having to switch between applications.”
“Moreover, Microsoft has added mobile features to ensure a unified experience across apps and devices. So, you can, for example, manage your invoice approval process or enter your expenses anytime, anywhere, across all devices.”
Before making investments in new software, it is key to build a clear understanding of which features will be most beneficial to your finance function – and then start adopting new features step by step. Laurens explains how delaware can help: “Finance leaders need to make pragmatic decisions about what technology to choose and what processes to transform. Familiarity with the finance function or knowledge of Microsoft technology alone is not enough to make these decisions. It takes an expert that combines business and technology expertise to help you identify the benefits that MS Dynamics 365 for Finance could bring and decide how to kick off the implementation.”
Our experts have developed a three-step methodology to assess the value-add of MS Dynamics 365 for your finance team.