Monthly Archives November 2020

How to Optimize the Structure of Your Finance Department

weConnect Resources

How to Optimize the Structure of Your Finance Department

From our experience, the structure of most finance departments is not optimized. And the main reason is that people with the right skills are not matched to the right tasks. Instead, companies hire individuals to fill generic titles like Office Manager, Accountant, Finance Manager, etc. and assign them a variety of tasks that may not play to their strengths.

When this happens, employees can become overwhelmed by working on tasks that don’t suit their talents. And the company is not maximizing productivity. 

We have experience in optimizing finance department structures. Here is our insight into how you can optimize yours:

In order to run a successful finance department, different tasks require different skills.

Some examples of such skills include: 

  • administrative skills for scanning documents and organizing data,
  • analytical skills for analyzing financial reports, 
  • technical skills for preparing tax filings, 
  • managerial skills for managing the team below and executives above,
  • communication skills for ensuring alignment across the organization, 
  • process management skills for ensuring a streamlined and controlled operation, and
  • technology skills for ensuring the latest applications are being fully leveraged to support the business.

Listed below are some generic titles of a finance department and examples of how tasks are often incorrectly assigned. Especially for subsidiaries in Japan, some combination of these roles actually makes up the entire finance department.

  1. An Office Manager who has high administrative and communication skills hired into a position where 50% of the tasks also require technical, process management, and technology skills that they don’t have.
  2. An Accountant who has administrative and technical skills hired into a position where 90% of the tasks also require communication, process management, and technology skills that they don’t have.
  3. A Finance Manager who has communication, technical, managerial and analytical skills hired into a position where 70% of the tasks also require process management and technology skills that they don’t have. 

Example skills possessed by employees in a typical finance department:

You might have noticed that process and technology skills are missing from the example department despite them being critical to its success. This is because in-house finance talent often don’t have these skills.

Spoiler alert: there’s a better way!

Here’s how to structure an effective finance department: 

1. Identify the skills of each individual in the department

Often you will find there are certain skills that go hand-in-hand, such as administrative and communication skills.

2. Break down all of the finance department’s work into individual tasks and determine the corresponding skill needed to do each task well

In order for you not to miss any tasks, make sure you have every member of the department list up everything they are doing at a very detailed level.

3. Then, group tasks by skill, and assign each group to the appropriate individual with those skills

As mentioned above, you’re going to notice that the tasks that require process management and technology skills will be difficult to assign.

4. Outsource tasks that require skills that are not the strength of your in-house team

In most cases, this would be the tasks that require process and technology skills. 

After you do these 4 steps, your finance department should look something like this:

  • An in-house administration-focused individual or team that handles tasks like scanning invoices and coordinating internally with other departments and externally with vendors and customers. The ideal candidate will have great administrative and communication skills. Technical skills are not necessary for this role.
  • An in-house management-focused individual or team with qualifications in accounting, who in addition to overseeing the department spends the majority of time supporting business executives with financial insights and strategic planning. The ideal candidate will have great managerial, technical, communication, and analytical skills. 
  • An outsourced transaction-focused firm that will handle things like bookkeeping, the monthly close process, financial reporting, and compliance. The ideal firm will have all of the skills, with exemplary strength in technical, process management, technology, communication, and administrative skills.

Example skills distributed in an optimized finance department:

Here’s how to leverage our expertise

Restructuring your finance department can be a daunting and challenging exercise. We can help advise you on how to reallocate the tasks to the right individuals as well as take over the transactional work in an effective way.

Ready to optimize the structure of your finance department? Contact us here, we’re happy to help!

7 Ways We Make Japan Accounting a Breeze with Xero’s Cloud Accounting System

weConnect Resources

7 Ways We Make Japan Accounting a Breeze with Xero’s Cloud Accounting System

One of the toughest obstacles many foreign-run businesses face in Japan is accounting. If you’ve worked with an accountant in Japan, they are probably using Japanese accounting software that you can’t understand, and they’re only providing you with excel-based financial statements on a monthly basis.  

Plus, any time you want to understand any details behind the numbers, you have to email your accountant and wait for their reply.  

It’s inconvenient. It’s clunky.  

Let’s face it: as a business leader, at a minimum, you need real-time access to financial data you can understand. Language barriers, receiving excel files infrequently, and difficult-to-understand reports are not going to cut it.  

Introducing Xero: a cloud-based English accounting system you can use in Japan 

Xero is the leading global accounting software that we use to manage all of our client’s financial information. You might have heard about Xero before and its capabilities, but what you might not know is that you can use it in Japan.  

One of the biggest perks of using Xero is that it’s easy for our clients to access, use and gain insights into the information they need even if they’re not accounting experts. Plus, finance departments love Xero as it has robust capabilities for complex data management.  

Here are the awesome benefits of using Xero accounting software: 

1. Language: Xero operates in English 

You don’t have to use Japanese software (and if your accountant in Japan has insisted that you do, well, they’re wrong). Xero is an English software and when configured correctly, perfectly compliant for the Japanese market. 

2. Accessibility 

If you’re using an excel spreadsheet or getting financial reports in excel, you usually have to wait until the end of the month for your accountant to send you the latest file. Or, if you want to see a transaction mid-month, then you’d have to put out a request and wait for them to update the file and send it to you. 

But with Xero, as many users as you want can access and view the full financial information of your business, all the way up to the most recent input. Even if you are using a firm that does not use excel as an underlying system but still exports reports in excel, you most likely will not get this kind of access to the system.   

3. Usability 

The Xero interface is visually appealing and easy to use, making it a thousand times more user friendly than hard-to-read excel files. 

When you log in to your account, you will see a dashboard which can be customized by showing only the key financial information that matters to you.  

Want to know how many customers haven’t paid their bill yet? Boom. You have access to that information right on your dashboard. When you click on the report, you can actually see the details of not only how many customers owe you but the details of each customer and the history of how many payments they’ve made. 

Whatever info is most important to you, you can put it right on your dashboard. Plus, Xero has a mobile app which also makes it easy to check any info you need while you’re on the go with your phone, tablet device or laptop. 

4. Transparency 

When you use excel – or worse, paper – it’s pretty tedious to find specific transactions or information in your financials. You might even waste time emailing your accountant with questions on where to find additional data.  

One of Xero’s best features is the ability to search for specific transactions within your financials. You can log transactions and attach images of receipts to each payment record and easily use the search function to find anything quickly. Plus, if you had a batch transaction, you can even see the small transactions within that batch.  

5. Streamlining  

Xero is a global software system. That means that you can use 1 system to keep track of your finances across multiple entities around the world.  It’s comforting to know that you can streamline your accounting all into one platform. And, you can avoid using separate excel sheets for each of your business locations.  

6. Multi-Everything 

If you were concerned about needing multiple language capabilities or currencies, Xero has it all. While the Xero navigation buttons are in English language only, you can create invoices in Japanese (or any other language, for that matter) and you can also insert multiple languages for the account and report names. Plus, the platform has multi-currency functions, so it’s very flexible.  

7. Keep track of Quotes 

One of the most helpful functions in Xero is the ability to manage quotes in the form of draft invoices. With this function, you can track potential sales, and once you’ve closed a deal with a customer, you can convert the draft into a sales invoice.  

weConnect is Xero’s Only Gold Partner in Japan 

We’ve worked with clients of all sizes from startups to large entities and they’ve all had a positive experience with managing their accounting in Japan using Xero.  

Want an easier experience with your accounting? We can set you up in no time. You can get in touch with us here to learn more.