Tuesday Feb 11, 2014

How to Chat Up an Accountant Safely: Social Networking in the Finance Department

Seems that baby boomers are now Instagram-ing, WhatsApp-ing and SnapChat-ing just like younger Digital Natives do. How widespread those apps are in the enterprise is another matter, but it’s a reminder never to make assumptions about apps users. Yet, certain job titles do sometimes conjure up a mental picture of how we think some people actually work.

Mention “accountant”, and you might visualize a gray picture of quiet, introspective types, heads down in books and spreadsheets, papers flying, calculators working overtime, phones to their ears begging cash from customers and wiring funds to suppliers, while accounting for all the money. Not terribly social, then? The polar opposite of those freewheeling “Mad Men” sales rep CRM types, out meeting and greeting, getting their message across to make that sale, perhaps? In fact, the finance department is a hive of social activity.

Accountants: Does the image we have reflect the reality?

Accountants. “Life in the fast lane” is contextual. But social activity in the finance department happens at a pace few other jobs experience. And they use applications too… 

I spoke with David Haimes, Senior Director in Oracle Financials Applications, about the social side of the finance department. David understands the reality of his applications users. “Their most critical time is the 5-10 days after period close when everything has to be closed out and reported”, David told me. “There’s a huge amount of effort and social interaction going on”.

During the close process, David said teams need to exchange information and make decisions as quickly as possible and still satisfy business and legal requirements. Accounting teams were early adopters and heavy users of instant messaging, email distribution lists (with Microsoft Excel spreadsheet attachments), wikis, file sharing workspaces, and of course, the old fashioned telephone. But these tools were external to the financial application and data. The user experience was disjointed. Who works well in a silo? And, there was no audit trail. David has seen accounting teams copying and pasting emails into documents and attaching them to meet that audit requirement.

“The finance department has to make sure everything is correct and legal,” David said. “They’re reporting not just to internal management, but to Wall Street, to tax authorities, and to other legislative bodies. And, since the Sarbanes-Oxley act, CEOs are legally responsible for the correctness of the accounts,” David reminded me. That’s pressure.

Things are even more hectic when you consider the nature of the enterprise financial department today, with its distributed team members with shared service centers offshore and everyone working in different countries and time zones. Everyone needs to communicate and collaborate efficiently, yet securely and transparently.

That’s where Oracle Social Network is a financial department win.  

  • Oracle Social Network conversations are tied to business objects and transactions, enabling finance teams to easily share and collaborate in a role-based way.  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are auditable (which is “usually the first question I’m asked,” says David).  
  • Oracle Social Network conversations are searchable
  • Oracle Social Network is secure, with users with the right permissions working together on information stored in an Oracle database.  
  • Oracle Social Network is integrated with Oracle Financials applications, so the user experience is  streamlined.

“[Oracle Social Network] is a game changer in the finance department,” says David, not just for the closing period but also for daily financial activity. And, Oracle Social Network is available as a cloud service, with iOS and Android mobile apps versions too.

Financials close process using Oracle Social Network

A close process conversation using Oracle Social Network integrated with Oracle Fusion Financials—an enterprise social user experience for the finance department that’s secure and efficient.

With the Oracle Social Network user experience in the finance department, Oracle also satisfies today’s workforce that expects social networking tools to be as much a part of their work lives as their personal lives. Said David: “Younger users are already familiar with how social networking sites work and how they’re easy to use, and that’s the sort of user experience we need to reflect. It’s demanded.”

Having a social networking application as part of the job makes hiring and onboarding easier too, offering benefits right across the enterprise. And it’s not only Digital Natives or Millennials who easily take to integrated social networking in work. Even senior users now see the benefits.

Socializing the finance department with Oracle technology is an example of how a great user experience can engage workers, accelerate performance and efficiency, deliver productivity for business while meeting the consumer technology demands of end users, and satisfy the requirements of stakeholder user groups such as other departments, auditing and security teams, tax authorities, reporting agencies, shareholders, and so on.

Read more about socializing the finance department on the Oracle Applications blog and David’s blog (a bookmark must) too. And, check out what the Oracle Social Network Cloud Service now offers and how it benefits your users and business.

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