Having "control" over your data is always a top concern anytime you invest in a software application. The term "control" includes such concepts such as data security, data access, and visibility. These points are especially true in the finance industry, where data in finance applications is extremely sensitive and personal. Allowing unauthorized access to people's social security numbers, credit card numbers, or salaries can be disastrous not only for the company, but the people associated with the sensitive information itself.
The importance of data security in the finance industry is reflected in this year's "Top Technology Initiatives" survey conducted by The American Institute of Certified Public Accountants (AICPA). The top five initiatives in the 2009 survey are:
- Information Security Management
- Privacy Management
- Secure Data File Storage, Transmission and Exchange
- Business Process Improvement, Work Flow and Process Exception Alerts
- Mobile and Remote Computing
As you can see, #4 on the 2009 list is "Business Process Improvement, Work Flow and Process Exception Alerts". The AICPA describes this item as:
Business Process Improvement, Work Flow and Process Exception Alerts: Business Process Improvement initiatives assist with controlling and documenting processes across the organization, most commonly in accounting or content management (paperless) applications. Transaction processing and audit trails are being replaced with automated processes, workflow, exception alerts, and electronic authorizations.
Looking back on the last three years of the AICPA survey, one can see that Business Process Management (BPM) and Business Process Improvement (BPI) have risen in priority each year.
You can see that while data security remains extremely important to financial data, accessing and sharing the financial data in systematic and controlled ways is nearly as important. This makes sense, as financial data needs to be shared in business processes across multiple users who are involved in activities such as reviewing financial data for completeness, comparing collected data across multiple systems, and approving financial transactions. Examples of business processes in the finance sector can include Expense Reporting, Employee Performance Review, and Purchase Requests (just to name a few).
Last evening, I was invited to speak at the Raleigh chapter of the Institute of Management Accountants (IMA), where I spoke on BPM in the Finance industry. It was interesting to note that the questions raised by the members in the Q&A session aligned with the top initiatives as noted by the AICPA. The IMA members were very eager to understand how sensitive financial data can be securely shared across business process participants. Moreover, there were numerous questions about how business processes can help ensure the completeness of submitted data such as ensuring recipients were part of submitted expense reports and ensuring credit card applications were properly reviewed before being submitted. It is exactly these types of concerns where BPM systems make perfect sense in improving the efficiency and effectiveness of a company's day-to-day operations.
VP of Product Marketing and Management