From accountants to CFOs, small business finance teams are the unsung heroes of the global economy.
Still, 82% fail due to cash flow problems. The 18% of small businesses that survive and thrive owe their success to sound strategies for sustainable growth driven by savvy, high-performing finance teams.
But the uncertain state of the economy — with rising inflation, supply chain disruptions, and global conflicts — isn’t making their jobs any easier. Plus, experts predict 2024 will be another turbulent year.
So yes, small business finance teams are heroes, but they’re not wizards — they can’t see into the future or wave a wand to ward off disruption. But they can prepare for it.
Here are five ways finance teams proactively streamline processes and workflows so they can remain agile, adaptable, and resilient, whatever comes their way:
- Harmonize the tools in your tech stack
- Batten down cybersecurity
- Adopt AI-powered analytics
- Embrace AP and AR automation
- Stay on top of economic trends
1. Harmonize the tools in your tech stack
Your tech stack should work like an orchestra — strings, brass, woodwinds, and percussion working together to make music. But when you bolt on more software, hardware, and APIs, every instrument starts playing its own tune.
Forrester says one of the best ways to modernize your tech stack is to get lean: dismantling tools “...that have outlived their purpose and eliminating other redundant efforts that aren’t generating the right business outcomes and experiences.” And when possible, swap on-premises software for cloud-based solutions that are much more agile and scalable.
A bloated tech stack also creates data silos — the last thing proactive finance teams need in turbulent times. That’s why the components you keep must be able to “talk” to each other. APIs make it possible. By enabling different software components to communicate seamlessly (the way Plooto integrates with QuickBooks and Xero), you’ll get insights that empower stakeholders to make decisions based on the big picture, not just their own limited views.
As you work to streamline your stack, keep in mind there are finance platforms that handle receivables, others that manage payables — and some that do both. Seek solutions that combine both workflows to save more time, money, and headaches.
A bloated tech stack also creates data silos — the last thing proactive finance teams need in turbulent times.
2. Batten down cybersecurity
From deepfake fraud to ransomware, cyber threats have become more sophisticated, deceptive, and malicious. With no time for downtime in 2024, make sure your security tools and measures are up for the challenge of today’s increasingly opportunistic and insidious cybercriminals.
Today, big banks don’t have a monopoly on security. Many financial software providers have already sorted out security for you with bank-grade practices and protocols that reduce the risks associated with breaches and unauthorized transactions. Before you pick a platform, do your homework and ask hard questions about cybersecurity claims. You might pay a much higher price later for software that seems like a better deal today.
Remember, every financial transaction leaves a footprint, so the software you use for your customer accounts, information, and payments must prioritize data security. Don’t settle for less than encryption for all data, ISO audits and certification, secure infrastructure with trusted partners, limited data collection, and routine penetration tests.
Don’t settle for less than encryption for all data, ISO audits and certification, secure infrastructure with trusted partners, limited data collection, and routine penetration tests.
3. Adopt AI-powered analytics
For all its promise, some see AI as a threat. But according to Walid Koleilat, Plooto’s VP of Product, “AI will play the role of a co-pilot so employees can increase their productivity and free up employees to focus on the aspects of the business that matter the most. It is going to let employees become more creative and innovative so they can spend more time with their customers."
For many finance teams, generative AI is no longer novel. It’s freed them from mindless tasks and transformed how they analyze data, spot trends, forecast risks, predict churn, optimize pricing, and make decisions by rapidly distilling massive amounts of data into business-building insights. There are countless payables and receivables functions AI can do more efficiently and effectively than humans, including:
- Pinpointing anomalies or fraudulent activities before they result in financial losses, reputational damages, or legal consequences.
- Ingesting and analyzing massive documents, like annual reports, financial statements, and earnings call transcripts.
- Visualizing trends, prices, costs, and economic indicators after first identifying complex patterns and relationships in financial data.
These examples are just scratching the surface. AI has already surpassed human performance at many tasks — handwriting, speech, and image recognition; reading comprehension; and language understanding — and its progress is unlikely to slow.
If you adopt AI-powered analytics today, you’ll remain ahead of the curve — and potentially, your competitors.
For many finance teams, generative AI has already transformed how they analyze data, spot trends, forecast risks, predict churn, optimize pricing, and make decisions.
4. Embrace AP and AR automation
Chances are, your workflows still include some time- and labor-intensive processes. Now’s the time to assess where and how automated accounts receivable (AR) and accounts payable (AP) software can make your finance team more efficient and effective, giving them more time to maintain, monitor, and mind the business.
Take repetitive tasks like data entry, invoice processing, and bank reconciliations. Not only do automated AR and AP software perform these functions faster than people, they eliminate errors, delivering more reliable results. And by centralizing all your invoice data, they expedite payment and streamline approvals.
The time finance teams save through automation adds up, helping them become more proactive and productive.
As covered in the “harmonize your tech stack” section above, choose a solution that integrates seamlessly with your other financial systems.
Finance teams reclaim crucial hours to do impactful work when they automate AR and AP.
5. Stay on top of economic trends
It may seem like a given. But when you’re busy running a business, you may be tempted to trash that newsletter in your inbox, skip that annual conference, or not return a call from a peer at another company. Don’t. Collectively, they can help you see clouds forming before a storm hits.
And keep up with the latest data from National statistical offices (NSOs) like the Federal Reserve Economic Data (FRED), the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA), the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), Statistics Canada, and the World Bank. Use them to keep a close watch on GDP growth, unemployment, inflation, and interest rates, so your team isn’t caught off guard.
When you’re busy running a business, you may be tempted to trash that newsletter, skip that annual conference, or not return a call from a peer at another company. Don’t.
2024: Prepare for an uncertain economy
You can’t plan for an uncertain economy, but you can prepare for it. By following the tips above, finance teams can help their small businesses not just weather economic storms but emerge stronger when they pass.
If you’re ready to explore AP and AR automation, you can try Plooto free for 30 days. It’s trusted by thousands of teams like yours.