How to Build Trust Between Finance and Other Departments

Finance and financial departments are the core of every business. CFOs are constantly thinking about ways to shape their teams to offer better support to their company. The rapid globalization of business operations and new complexities like the pandemic have created greater awareness of finance's crucial role. For a company to achieve sustainable growth, it needs an effective and reliable finance department that actively supports the business and is trusted by other departments to act with the company’s best interests in mind.

If your finance team is finding it difficult to engage with other teams, particularly in a remote setting, now is the time to evaluate different strategies to boost engagement. Gone are the days when finance staff members were mere number crunchers and paper handlers. Today, it is expected for finance and accounting to be trusted advisors who steer the company toward better decisions and long-term value. 

Creating a trustworthy image for your finance department requires deliberate work. Nevertheless, with the steps below, you can set a standard of excellence and build long-standing trust between finance and the rest of the company.

1. Operational excellence

Accurate financials rely heavily on precision and timeliness of financial operations. Mistakes in data entry, making payments, and processing expenses can translate to extra costs for the business, be it in cash, time, or reputation. An error in finance can have ripple effects with both internal and external business partners as you likely need to pause ongoing processes, which takes time and effort with multiple parties involved.

In a department with virtually no room for errors or delays, finance teams must be at the top of their game. However, many companies struggle to obtain timely and accurate financial data either because policies and procedures were not followed during the month or because there is missing information from the business owner on a component of the financials. 

To help avoid these issues, set up lightweight policies and processes for other departments to easily work with finance. At the core, departments should have a straightforward set of steps which lets them know:

  • What type of deals or expenses need finance approval, and how to obtain that approval
  • When information needs to be explicitly shared related to revenue earned or an expense
  • How to transfer cash into the company (revenue) or out of the company (payments/bills)

Typically, the simplest way to share specific information is via email to a finance or accounting team member responsible for that specific department or set of transactions. It is the responsibility of the finance team to organize the information once it is received from other departments. Having a foundation of operational excellence is a large component in building trust with other departments.

2. Automate manual processes

Most companies highly depend on manual methods with Excel, Google Sheets and email to collect and report financial data. As a result, version control and errors keeping data synchronized are extremely prevalent, especially when data is shared across departments.

If you are relying on manual processes, a mistake is bound to happen sooner or later. As an organizational leader, it is important to understand and make the decision about when to replace tools like Excel and Google Sheets with software that is more powerful for its dedicated purpose. This decision may come at different points for different workflows. For example, for budgeting and planning, Excel may be the prevalent tool for a long time. But for other processes, such as vendor management, it may be more efficient for the team to go with a spend management software built for this purpose.

You can find dedicated software solutions for virtually any financial process. Sudozi is an example of vendor management software that tracks spend requests from different parts of your organization as well as vendor relationship details, such as renewal dates. While you can accomplish some of the same goals with manual processes using Excel and Google Sheets, Sudozi logs all requests to spend company money and automatically ensures the request passes through the right approval channel that you can customize. In addition, you get an auditable record kept in the software. Sudozi is just one of several products that can help you work with other departments more efficiently and keep things automated.

3. Improve interdepartmental communication

Many organizations tolerate mediocre communication among departments as status quo without considering the negative impact it can have on the bottom line. If left to individual employees, they are rarely concerned with work that does not involve them directly, especially in today’s demanding work environments. Nonetheless, financial leaders should foster better communication between departments and draw clear links to improvement in financial data and performance. 

Every employee or contractor at a company plays a part in creating the final product which has a financial impact, even if finances are not these employees’ primary focus. Decisions and changes made by those employees can have a substantial impact on finance. It is the responsibility of finance leaders to facilitate communication cadences that support receiving important information from key decision makers in other departments in a timely manner. Receiving information from other departments is a two way street. The more information you share about finance to others, the more others will likely share with you, which leads us to our fourth step...

4. Increase transparency in finance

Most employees like to know how their company is fairing. However, when long emails with heavy finance jargon come their way or if they don't receive any finance updates at all, they often veer off and make their own assumptions about the finance department. To cultivate trust between finance and other departments, it is critical to ensure finance teams share relevant data in a frequency and format that keeps it exciting. 

For team updates, consider publishing a finance digest summarizing key financial projects and upcoming goals. If your company is going through a financial audit, explain the steps required and milestones to accomplish this important project and why it is relevant. Share with other departments if there are key finance personnel changes. Sharing information about your team will make others more likely to share information about their teams.

For more detailed financial information, you can disseminate the information via company all hands or email updates - whatever fits the company culture. You can also incorporate software solutions that offer shared visual dashboards of the data. Beyond Tableau and Looker for analytics and KPIs, Sudozi can be used as a self-serve portal for employees looking to track vendors or spend requests that are relevant to them.

Most importantly, develop a culture of honest, transparent working in your organization. Championing for a transparent working culture will create a trusted finance team today and sustain it tomorrow. 

Trust is Earned, Not Given

Earning trust is difficult, regardless of the level. Especially in these times, finance teams cannot afford to be mistrusted by the organizations they serve. If your relationships with other departments are not as strong as you would like, start implementing improvements today. With the steps above, your finance team can strengthen the trust of other departments and the business.

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