Purchasing technology is tricky at the best of times. Systems have to be compared and tested. Once decisions are made, existing software has to be replaced and new applications integrated. Then, after all that, you have to hope for a return on investment.

Decisions on financial management systems (FMS) can be the trickiest of all. First, there’s a great deal of choice – there are literally hundreds of potential supplies out there. Second, which options will best suit your business?

You need to recognise that financial clarity across all businesses is becoming a business necessity, especially in the post-recession age. The ‘more for less’ mantra that has pushed business operations during the two years of the downturn will become the new business norm.

Senior executives are looking, and will carry on searching, for technologies that can help measure, analyse and drive continuous improvements in the financial performance of operations. FMS can help executives – but only if you purchase the right technology.

Your search for a finance system should be guided by three key watchwords: functionality, integration and reputation. The functionality of your selected FMS will vary with the size of your business and the demands of your operation.

High levels of automation are now available, allowing employees to ‘self serve’ in relation to their own finance information. The right reporting and business intelligence tools will also allow you to analyse data and produce decision-making reports quickly without the pain of manual extraction.

Other time-saving functions are likely to be important such as electronic procurement, which allows the electronic procurement of goods, and workflow for the easy distribution of information. Care organisations may also require intelligent income management to more easily manage varied invoicing requirements.

Always think about the finance applications you require both now and into the future and ensure the supplier you identify has the breadth of functionality to meet your needs as well as the capabilities to deliver a single, integrated solution. Finance applications that aren’t integrated will result in a lack of both organisation-wide automation and financial visibility.

When sourcing a supplier, think carefully about your requirements and pick a reliable and reputable partner that understands UK regulations and business requirements and that has a strong track record of successful FMS implementations.