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September 18, 2020 Finance

CFO Series: How to Get your Tech ‘Talking’ with Proper System Integrations

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By Jim Thurston

Smaller and growing businesses frequently have unconnected systems within their IT architecture. Lack of proper system integrations can convolute their processes.

The accountants performing the close process often must download data, scrub and cleanse the data and upload it into their general ledger. They may say, “Oh, it doesn’t take me that long.” Some accountants may even want to “touch data” by seeing it in a form they trust (like Microsoft Excel) before uploading it into the general ledger as it gives them a sense of control. Perhaps that’s true. However, this is time spent every month forever and isn’t the “highest and best use” of people’s time.  

Also, the lack of integration creates a recipe for disaster. Lack of integration can lead to:   

  1. Systems getting out of balance and thus reports between systems not agreeing.  
  2. Time spent reconciling between systems rather than analyzing.  
  3. Reliance upon the “one person” that knows how to do the integrations.  
  4. Organizational frustration. 

Building the System Integrations

System integrations can be challenging. But with the right mindset and help from experts like BrainSell, you can build the necessary integrations between your critical systems. Usually, this is from a revenue system or cost system to the general ledger, but not always.  

One must take the following considerations when evaluating these integrations:  

  1. API Development – Does the source system have an open application programming interface (“API”), or is there an API already built? Sage Business Cloud Marketplace includes a list of all the systems with ready APIs.The source system may need to have a CSV (comma-separated value) report built, but creating that report should involve zero work by the accountants beyond downloading and uploading it. When selecting systems, if an API is already built, this system should be given strong consideration over other systems.   
  2. Data Mapping – At the data field level, how is the data between the systems supposed to flow? This is related to our last blog on revenue coding.  
  3. Process End Points – What process endpoints in the source system need to be picked up to capture the data? By way of a simple example: if someone needs to click “sold” in the source system, instruct the team on why that final “click” is critical to the business. Never allow for exceptions for manual additions either — if it’s not in the system, it didn’t happen. This rule helps to enforce change management.  
  4. New Data Elements – Processes need to be developed to create new data elements and uncover if the data mapping needs to be updated. Ideally, the API development will already anticipate the addition of new data elements.    
  5. Documentation – Ensure that the documentation is reviewed and kept up to date. Evaluating the steps to follow to make the integration happen is essential to ensuring the organization is not reliant on one person. 

Conclusion

By taking the time to make these improvements, your organization will unlock more time and realize the prior level of effort wasted on low “value add” data extraction and compilation. This time can be reallocated into insights and decision making, leading to improved business outcomes.  

Brainsell can help you with your systems integration journey! Reach out if you have any specific questions about your needs. 



This is the third installment in our CFO Series. Check out all the posts in the series here.

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Author Bio

Jim Thurston

Jim Thurston is the VP of Financial Process Management at BrainSell. He has 20 years of finance and accounting experience (CPA) and 14 years of real estate experience with two of the best-in-class, industry-leading S&P 500 companies in the United States.

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