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Advice and Information for Finance Professionals

Why Finance Needs to Be More Social

Guest Post by David Haimes, Sr. Director, Oracle ERP Cloud Development

Picture this: You’re a controller in a finance group that prides itself on following modern best practices and not being just a bunch of bean counters. On Friday, your boss sent you an email with a spreadsheet listing amounts that potentially need to be written off as bad debt. You forward it to your team, asking for updates and supporting documentation.

First thing Monday, you pull up your email and there are 35 emails in response to your Friday email—‘Fwd: Fwd: Re: Re:’.  It’s a complex thread and many of the responses have multi MB attachments for documentation. It’s a mess, especially maintaining version control for that spreadsheet, but you sort it out by the end of the day. The good news is that homeward bound traffic is light at 7 pm. On your drive home, you replay the day and think there’s got to be a better way.

There is.

The better way would have been to log into your finance system, pull up the bad debt transactions, and then securely share each as a social object—an attachment—directly to your company’s private social network. There, you would tag a list of the right reviewers, provide guidance, and ask them to review the transaction as necessary. Conversely, if you’ve participated in a conversation on our social network, you can preserve that as documentation by attaching it to the appropriate record in the finance system.  

On Monday, you would have logged into that social conversation and seen that everybody had provided their input using that one object as a single version of the truth and provided documentation as attachments to the conversation. No version control required. No emails clogging your inbox. You would have made it home long before the Monday Night Football kickoff.

It really can be that simple.

Shedding the ‘No Social for Finance’ Stigma

Deservedly or not, finance departments often gain reputations for being set in their ways—skeptical of newfangled methods of doing their business. But at Oracle we believe that finance should be free to exploit enabling technologies—cloud, social, mobile—just like the folks down the hall in sales, marketing, HR, and the like.

A good social network complements the most stringent finance practices and regulations and is just as secure—maybe even more secure—than your email system.

Social Supports the Way Finance Works Today

Everyone knows that teenagers and Millennials won’t use email unless they’re forced kicking and screaming to do so. If I need to contact one of my kids, I don’t call or email. I text or send a message on Facebook Messenger. (No SnapChat for me yet).

Well, I hate email too. Most likely you do too, irrespective of your generation. Many working groups within Oracle have adopted a no-email policy. All collaboration is conducted through our  Oracle Social Network (OSN). Users love its capabilities and can’t imagine going back to the old ways of emails and workspaces.

When adopted and embraced, with leadership buy-in, an internal social network can:

  • Enable finance departments to collaborate within a secure business environment  
  • Accelerate decision making with real-time information access via web and mobile
  • Involve the right people in the right decisions at the right time, and
  • Make conversations available for review and audit from the business object.

For example, in the scenario I presented above, let’s say it’s a year later and the auditor says, “Where’s your documentation for your bad debt journal entries?”  With the old way, you’d stand on a chair, reach up on a shelf, pull down a big fat report binder, rifle through it, and eventually find the right stuff. All the time, you’re hoping that you remembered to print out the email chain generated during the review process and put it in the report. Yes, problem solved but it makes me tired just thinking about it.

Wouldn’t you rather simply click on the social conversation from within the finance system and show it side by side with the corresponding record? And, by the way, you could click on that object and drill down into the finance application if additional context is required.

Feel free to imagine all the scenarios, keeping in mind that Oracle Social Network:

  • Extends contextual collaboration within finance to any employee(s) across all job roles and functions
  • Is fully integrated to our Financials Cloud user experience
  • Is (of course) fully mobile across a full range of devices

When you add someone to a conversation, they have instantaneous access to the entire history of what’s been going on. Everything that’s been said; every document in its latest iteration. They can pick and choose what they need to review to get up to speed based on their unique, individual background, skills, and familiarity with the topic.

Social (Network) Security

Email security varies based on what you use, so I don’t know how secure or not your system is.  But if you’re sending sensitive information via email, what’s to keep someone from sharing it—maybe even accidentally—with others outside your company? As with all Oracle Cloud applications, Oracle Social Network is designed to meet corporate demands for security, privacy, and information protection by providing each customer and their users with an independent and private instance for collaboration with configurable retention and audit policies for traceability. I know this sounds like technical jargon but what it means to you is that your information is kept separate from other customers’, protected with embassy-grade security, and you’ll always have the audit trail you need.

Within Oracle Social Network, you define and control who shares and collaborates on available information, but within the restrictions placed upon them by your company’s uniquely-defined enterprise security policies.  No company is better than Oracle at providing enterprise application security to their customers.  

How to Make Social for Finance Happen

Whereas the majority of your finance team may yearn for social, it’s not going to happen until the person at the top says so.

A couple of years ago, I posted our Oracle OpenWorld Demo Grounds finance booth schedule to OSN. I flagged everyone by announcing, “The schedule is posted here. Please review it and let me know if you have any conflicts. If I don’t hear from you, I’ll assume we’re good.” I had 100% success rate in having my team review the schedule. No excuses like, “I missed your email. My daughter has a piano recital that day. Is it too late to change?”

I guess what I’m saying is that this is stuff people want and have been waiting for. They just want the endorsement and guidance of leadership.

Summarizing the Beauty of Social for Finance

Oracle Social Network is fully available and free to all Oracle Financials Cloud users (Release 7 and beyond). The value proposition for social in the finance function is clear. It supports the way people want to work. It eliminates roadblocks and errors associated with the email flood. It simplifies life in finance.

When it comes to internal collaboration, I can’t imagine a scenario where email is better. Whether it’s for status updates, project management, meeting notes, or you name it. It just works better. And, the game changing benefit with Oracle is the ability to drag and drop a social conversation directly to business objects in your Oracle Finance Cloud and our other ERP Cloud applications.

Finance professionals seeking to adopt Modern Best Practice don’t try and figure out how to make 20th century email work better. They stifle the flood at the source. They exploit enabling technologies, not so much to make life easier, but more so to increase efficiency and reinforce the strategic value of the finance organization.  

Read more about social in the finance function: Download our eBook on Modern Best Practice.

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