We aim to have the most streamlined finance department in our industry
Premium is the hallmark of the original Norwegian clothing giant Norrøna. This emphasis on quality is reflected in the ambitions of the company’s CFO, who will use artificial intelligence to create better work days and make better use of at least 1.5 FTEs.
Birgitte Gran Fjellstad has worked her way through the ranks of the Norrøna finance department. In 2013, she started as a controller, and today she manages what is to become the best finance department within their segment.
- There have been several years of strong growth and a lot of innovation that have increased the complexity of the company considerably. At the same time, this has led us to lag somewhat behind in the economy department. We still have traditional financial systems that aren’t cloud-based, as well as many manual processes, all of which allow for human error, she says.
At the threshold of a digital revolution
Fjellstad can’t wait to bring the finance department out of what she describes as the Stone Age.
- We’re on the threshold of a digital revolution.
- For a long time, our product development, our production, and our customer-facing departments have been very innovative. Now, it’s the finance department’s turn. We’re done with being annoyed by slow processes.
The department has set the bar low for testing and adopting new technology such as artificial intelligence.
Along with the choice of technology from Norwegian company Semine, a new cloud-based ERP system is also being introduced, which has an easy integration to SEMINE’s through open APIs.
- There's a lot of exciting technology on the market. When we choose solutions, we have the same philosophy that we use in our products: Loaded Minimalism. We must have functions that provide real value, not a lot of other stuff that’s costly and makes things more complicated,” she says.
More exciting work tasks for everyone
There are currently eight people working in the finance department. The goal is for everyone to have more inspiring tasks. The feeling of quality that customers expect from Norrøna must also permeate all work tools.
- We aim to lead the way, and it would be great if others came to us for inspiration.
New solutions are also important for supporting growth in other markets.
- Norway is our largest market, and there is a limit to how much it is possible to grow here here in the domestic market.
Market shares must therefore be won abroad, she points out, and emphasizes that this places new demands on financial management.
- Furthermore, business model is also undergoing continuous improvement. Our internally-developed loyalty program is a result of our increased innovation and focus on the end consumer. All of this contributes to increased complexity, which affects our financial systems.
Saves 1.5 FTEs on handling invoices
Invoice handling has been a particularly big headache for Fjellstad.
- We’re still using PDFs 100 percent of the time. We're way behind where we should be.
That’s why Norrøna is replacing its outdated invoicing system with SEMINE, which will automate the entire accounts payable process.
Onboarding is done over a six-week period. The gradual transition to automation will start in Q1 2022. Things will be fully flowing from Q2 onwards, and the goal is to move to 100 percent automation.
- SEMINE will move us into the future, and we’re looking forward to having more automated processes. We currently have one person who spends the majority of his time just handling incoming invoices.
With SEMINE and the automation of the accounts payable process, the expectation is that we can use at least 1.5 FTEs to focus more on value creation within the organization.
- We need this to support growth, and remove pressure in a department that has been working very hard for a long time. We can now work on building the overall expertise we will need in the future.
Small investment, large return
Fjellstad calculates that it shouldn’t take much longer than one quarter to recoup the investment in SEMINE. She has high expectations regarding the insights they will gain from analysis of each invoice.
- We gain insights from the entire invoice, including the line levels, that we can distribute throughout the organization. This ensures that all colleagues are empowered to make more informed decisions.
The value this brings can drastically change what's expected of the finance department.
- By getting information from each invoice line, we can extract insights at a level that was not previously possible and operate in a much more agile way. This in turn can result in large monetary savings, while at the same time allowing us to work smarter, with more exciting work days, she concludes.