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HR & EDUCATION | Contributed Content, Hong Kong
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Adrian Johnston

How are finance teams closing their books remotely?

BY ADRIAN JOHNSTON

In today’s business environment, many companies are adopting to the ‘new normal’ of remote operations to minimise disruption. In Asia Pacific, finance teams are presented with a new challenge – closing their books remotely for the first time. Here in Hong Kong, working from home was quickly adopted throughout the city from the beginning of the year, leading to many employees and employers to seek out new ways to adapt to home offices.

To address these challenges, companies are given the nudge to try out different methods to make remote working effective and smooth – from regular check in’s with their employees to hearing out and adopting to their needs. This helps ensure companies create a more conducive environment to gain the trust of their employees during these times.

How are companies in Asia Pacific responding to the current times?
Some companies across the region are performing better than others, whilst a few are even taking on new methods to enable their businesses continue to run smoothly as they start working remotely. It’s a similar story in Hong Kong, where half of the respondents of a Mercer Healthy Living Webinar revealed that they were experiencing difficulties with their at home office set-up which led to negative impacts on their work.

With finance being an integral aspect and part to the survival of businesses, having a secure virtual private network (VPN) capacity and access licenses is increasingly important now more than ever. Some companies are also re-evaluating their IT infrastructure to ensure they have the right remote management tools in place to face any challenges that may arise.

The pros and cons of working remotely
Flexibility, transparency and autonomy are three key aspects that employees should adopt as they start reaching out to their fellow colleagues virtually. Moreover, finance teams that use cloud software in managing their processes have the upper hand in this playing field – as their teams have easy access to one set of shared data, integrated workflows, and to up-to-date technology. This guarantees employees face least disruption in order to maintain operational excellence.
One such example is Asia Commercial Bank, one of the largest retail banks in Vietnam, which deployed Oracle Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) Cloud to streamline all its finance, procurement and project expense management processes. This cloud solution has enabled the bank to accelerate its month-end close and reporting cycles by 50 percent. Moving to the cloud also meant it no longer had to manage these applications in its own data centre, which minimised the need for any staff to be on premise. This enabled employees to continue working from the comfort of their home without any operational disruption.

Why are some companies outperforming others at working remotely?
Finance teams that currently depend on cloud-computing technology to automate accruals, adjustments and internal transactions could see a more promising close than those who are still using on-premise technology on virtual private networks or manually enter their data into spreadsheets. A reason for this is because companies with cloud-computing technology dashboards display all the activities at one glance, providing everyone with a real-time view of the status of all vital components such as completion metrics, aged open items, ensuring finance teams are kept up to date with accurate information.

Hindalco Industries Ltd., a flagship aluminium and copper manufacturing company, used to face many challenges when it came to collecting data from various locations and then filing financial reports on a real-time basis. Closing books quickly with accuracy and quality is of prime importance that companies should strive for in these times. Hindalco adopted Oracle Enterprise Performance Management (EPM) Cloud and streamlined their financial management and regulatory reports by utilising the power of data and smart automation in a cost effective manner.
Another case in point is Inland Revenue Authority in New Zealand which adopted Oracle EPM Cloud to run all the projects smoothly and save time. Its budgets were previously managed in spreadsheets that needed employees to manually update, however, with this new cloud solution, all the information is displayed in one place, which is now a single source of truth.

Building business resilience
With companies in Hong Kong adopting different measures to maintain their business processes and close their financial quarters remotely, it’s clear that some are performing better than others. As their technological capabilities are being put to the test, Hong Kong offices that remain dynamic and adaptable may just be able to strengthen their processes, working towards a more resilient future; especially as new generations of tech-savvy workers wish to skip the commute time, and knuckle down in a space of their own.  

The views expressed in this column are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect this publication's view, and this article is not edited by Hongkong Business. The author was not remunerated for this article.

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Adrian Johnston

Adrian Johnston

Adrian Johnston is senior vice president of applications for Oracle in Japan and Asia Pacific. He is responsible for leading the business for Oracle’s cloud offerings in the apps space.

Johnston first joined Oracle in 2002 as vice president of applications and product operations for Asia Pacific. He then went on to hold several other positions, including vice president of the applications midmarket business unit. From 2008 to 2015, Johnston held the position of vice president of the Microsoft Business Solutions Division in Asia, after which he returned to Oracle. Johnston holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of New South Wales.

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