3 minute read 18 May 2021

Why process optimization is a must for the CFO

By Ludovic Deprez

EY Belgium Financial Accounting Advisory Services Partner

Someone who enjoys/lives 8 days in a week in order to get a perfect balance between work, family, sport & party.

3 minute read 18 May 2021

People, tools and processes are essential in finance. EY's new CFO Barometer analyzes why it is so important for CFOs to map out processes and to know which methods to use.

Three questions to ask

  • Why is it so important to have a clear view on the financial processes?
  • What can process mining do for you?
  • What are the main obstacles in the financial processes?

The CFO Barometer shows that finance is not an isolated department in a company. 54% of respondents indicated that, in addition to finance processes, they also map out other business processes. Properly mapping out and optimizing processes requires a good interaction between finance and business. When finance is involved with other business processes, it creates a transparent framework that can serve as a useful tool to critically examine and properly assess the financial impact of these processes. 

  • CFO Barometer

    The CFO Barometer is an independent research initiative of the editors of CFO Magazine in cooperation with EY Belgium. A questionnaire concerning a relevant CFO topic was answered by a representative sample of around two hundred Belgian CFOs from medium-sized to large multinational companies.

    The focus of the CFO Barometer is local, so the results are very representative of the Belgian market and as such the CFO Barometer becomes a benchmark tool for the CFO active in Belgium.

A clear view of processes is essential

A worrying insight is that almost one in three respondents does not have a complete overview of the finance processes. Moreover, in many companies, there seems to be a discrepancy between how CFOs or company leaders estimate processes and how they really develop. The results of the CFO Barometer speak volumes here: during the COVID-19 crisis, more than 93% of respondents noted that certain processes were being carried out in a way that differed from what had been expected. The fact that employees had to work differently meant that formally written procedures were often no longer followed. Why? Because of the use of new technologies in the workplace, the scrapping of certain functions or roles, a faster way of working, etc.

This discrepancy between theory and practice is not good. Because if compliance with written processes is inadequate, or completely absent, you risk that certain checks are skipped, or that decisions are taken based on incomplete or incorrect information.

Graph: Do you have a clear view of all finance processes (both in theory and in practice)?

The benefits of process mapping

In any case, it remains crucial to regularly review processes. This lets them evolve in line with daily reality. In large companies, this role is reserved for the internal audit function. A clear view of processes is not only a question of efficiency, but also of risk management and compliance. The results of the CFO Barometer support this idea, as respondents cite efficiency gains (73%), transparency (53%), end-to-end clarity (46%), risk management (46%), compliance (40%), no bottlenecks or delays (20%) and higher productivity (20%) as the biggest advantages gained from process mapping.

Graph: What are the biggest advantages of business process mapping?

Process mining: unknown = unloved?

In the CFO Barometer, 60% of the respondents confirmed that they were not familiar or only somewhat familiar with the technique of process mining. Only 7% of the interviewed CFOs are already using this technique to map business processes. Which is a shame, because this technique shows a lot of potential for both multinationals and SMEs.

Process mining does not lie: the data that is analyzed is derived directly from the systems. Unfortunately, the high cost is off-putting to potential users. That is why EY developed its own modular tool, which customers can use on a project basis. This clears the way for further automation of internal finance processes, which can be profitable.

Process mining is completely objective and sheds a lot of light on performance.
Ludovic Deprez
EY Belgium Financial Accounting Advisory Services Partner

Improving process optimization

When questioned, the respondents unanimously agreed on one thing: processes must be continuously optimized. How? By making processes more efficient (60%), automating or robotizing processes (60%), mapping processes (46%), standardizing them (40%) and appointing process owners (33%). Possible obstacles to such optimization include a lack of time, insufficient employee buy-in, laborious interaction with IT, and insufficient tools and technology. However, companies should do everything they can to overcome these obstacles. After all, employees who deal with a process on a daily basis can often suggest interesting improvement initiatives.

Graph: What major challenges hinder process optimization?

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All too often, the finance department acts as an isolated area within the company that rarely, if ever, engages with other business processes. Yet a good overview of all the processes is essential for decision making. Moreover, there is a great deal of hidden potential in optimizing these processes with the aid of process mining.

About this article

By Ludovic Deprez

EY Belgium Financial Accounting Advisory Services Partner

Someone who enjoys/lives 8 days in a week in order to get a perfect balance between work, family, sport & party.