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Trends 2021: Finance, Accounting & Payroll, and HR

Trends 2021: Finance, Accounting & Payroll, and HR


Throughout 2020 we’ve seen companies across the world being forced to quickly adjust entire offices to remote workforces. This, of course, came with its own set of human and administrative challenges.

Digital transformation moved from being a slow moving process in organisations to a matter of survival. With such fast digitisation in 2020, we’re looking ahead towards 2021, both excited and nervous of what’s around the corner.

To calm our nerves, we turned to 8 industry experts to learn about their trend predictions for 2021. What will be the factors that determine success in the new year? Which trends will be vital for finance departments to keep up with? And what must companies do to improve their administrative processes?

Here are their trend predictions for 2021:

"The biggest success factors in 2021 will be how well the company can adapt to the new conditions Covid-19 has entailed. Everything from reducing the company’s costs, increased digitalisation and taking advantage of new opportunities to actually be able to grow the business. In many cases, it is about taking advantage of your company’s strengths from a slightly new perspective and within new conditions. Those who can do this will succeed!

For the finance department, it will be important to keep track of the company’s KPIs. Covid-19 has created a tougher climate and it is important to review you operations, understand which drivers you have and how you can influence them in the right direction. It will be important for the finance department to create an understanding of the company’s economic reality in dialogue with the business. The finance department must also contribute to more efficient operations, so driving increased digitalisation will be an obvious element.

To improve the efficiency of the administration, you need to digitalise everything that it is possible to digitalise. Make sure you have modern and user-friendly systems for your employees (and customers). Outsource services that are not “core business” that allows you as a business owner to focus more on developing the company and the business instead of engaging in administration. In this way, you also usually get easy access to modern technology and efficient processes.”

Magnus Högvall, CEO at Accountor Ekonomi och Rådgivning

“The support measures introduced by the Swedish government concerning the corona pandemic will have repercussions for many areas in 2021, and they may increase depending on how the situation develops. With the pandemic, we also saw a rapid increase in unemployment. The situation demands HR to sharpen processes that haven’t been prioritised in the years leading up to the pandemic.

The Swedish labour market is not only affected by the corona pandemic but is also changing with the new LAS inquiry, new collective agreements, globalisation and digitalisation. We need to adapt quickly and find the right tools and cloud-based services that simplify our tasks.

Remote working will be normal in the future, and we won’t need to travel as we did before. Digitisation has gained a real boost, and we see that digital processes and tools work very well. The HR and payroll area, as well as other areas, must put the work in to seamlessly integrate remote working as a part of businesses’ everyday lives, and adapt the corporate culture and processes accordingly. We also need to find new paths to stay connected and strengthen teams when we cannot meet physically in the same way.”

Erik Douglasson, Payroll- and HR-expert at Hogia

“We believe the use of technology and cloud solutions will be incredibly important in the future. The focus on efficiency in finance departments will only increase, and acquiring knowledge of how to use technology will be a success factor.

In the future, finance departments must invest in technology and efficient solutions, rather than hiring more people to solve more tasks. We believe that finance departments that succeed are the ones that dare to think new and are willing to challenge existing processes and solutions. The result will be improved quality, faster and cheaper. We believe that finance, combined with technology gives the best results.”

Stian Brandvold, Sales and Marketing Director, VIEW Ledger

“The most significant success factor in 2021 is companies embracing digitisation – especially the rapid development we’ve seen when Corona forced everyone to think new. The digitisation will continue to move fast in 2021, and those who manage to adjust their way of working successfully have a significant advantage in the new year.

The biggest trend is apparent – people are getting used to fewer physical meetings in favour of digital ones. The time when we travel long distances for short meetings is over.

This new way of working continues to drive digital services forward. In order to improve efficiency and increase the flexibility of administrative tasks, we must eliminate paper and physical documents that need to be sent and signed. Signing documents and agreements digitally will no longer be an alternative way, but instead the only way to sign. In theory, there is no longer a need for physical documents to exist.”

Per Willstedt, Service Management Leader Accounting at Aspia

“Regardless if your company is struggling to survive or is experiencing economic growth, the need for leadership is greater than ever before. After a turbulent year, where a pandemic has driven large parts of the world population and business sector several steps forward in digital development, the prerequisites for effective leadership have never been greater.

The success factors for finance departments to efficiently support their organisations in the times of the “new normal” are:

  1. Cost-effective and modern digital solutions without manual handling of documentation is a necessity today for most companies. To make full use of automation and the potential of digital processes must be the focus for 2021.
  2. To lead and manage a finance department based on data is a well-known fact. Previous focus on historical data has now shifted towards real-time data to quickly predict and act on different scenarios.
  3. Having an agile and adaptive organisation has proven to be essential success factors in 2020. Courage and innovation will be the success factors for leading your company into the future.

It is difficult, not to say impossible, to be the best at everything. Especially with the uncertainty of the complex and volatile world we now live in. Courage to accept help from others is a success factor, regardless whether it’s a matter of acquiring specialist competence, broadening your skills or discussing business challenges. Together we are strong in 2021!”

Ulrika Strömberg, Business area manager Outsourcing, BDO Sweden

”Administrative systems in the future must be built as Business-to-Consumer applications – easy-to-use and intuitive. Smart companies will adapt their old administrative routines in favour of easy-to-understand applications and standardised working methods. With the right application, you will still be able to configure yourself to your industry standards and working methods, which is best practice.”

Torbjörn Arffman, CEO at Medius Ascendo

“Our habits and working methods are changing rapidly and have increased furthermore in recent times. The big difference since the pandemic started is that companies have no choice, automation is in many cases a must for daily work.

To have a more efficient workday, companies need to digitise and automate more. They need to leave their safety zone “work as we have always done” faster than they might have thought, however, it’s good for them.

Visma’s Digitisation Index (Swedish only) shows that businesses with a high degree of digitisation also have higher profitability per employee. The earlier you start the digitisation journey, the faster the measures affect the entire business.

Where do you start? Many companies choose to start with incoming and outgoing invoices that are relatively easy to get in place and quickly have an effect. When invoice management “takes care of itself”, the payment flow becomes faster, costs are significantly lower and valuable time will be released from manual work.

We also hear about trends towards new costs and ways of traveling in the future. How will it affect how we handle travel invoices and expenses? How do we follow up and have the best possible consensus in projects when virtual working groups are becoming more common, or maybe even the norm?”

Annci Hermansson, Product Manager Visma PX

”The finance department of the future must shift its focus from backward-looking activities to more forward-looking ones. That the companies’ finance department spends time posting, reconciling, reporting and analysing what has been in the past is something we are used to. For example, making a financial statement that reaches the viewer 6-8 months after it has really happened is the exact opposite of proactivity. A decision maker wants real-time information along with forecasts for the future to be able to make the right decision. The finance department of the future must be able to offer this, and then a restructuring of both system fleet and competence is required. Economies of scale in this transition are achieved by outsourcing parts or the entire finance department to a partner who can offer efficient processes in the EConomics and IT area. ”

Magnus Hedlund, Senior Advisor at ECIT


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