Finance Automation – improving efficiency and removing obstacles
Finance Automation is changing the way we work. We’ve moved beyond spreadsheet macros to technology which automates tasks like searching, reconciling, comparing and more. And these new tools, made possible from advances in Robotic Process Automation (RPA), can automate a wide range of activity without the need for complex programming. The result is that the impact of this technology will span the globe and transform all kinds of organisations.
A recent study by Forrester Consulting found that automation is advancing faster than the enterprise knowledge required to support it. And it is now the driver of most organisations digital transformation strategies. Furthermore, their study determined that the RPA services market will reach $12 billion by 2023. This rapid uptake has come about because of the attractive returns to a business and better staff morale by removing repetitive work and upskilling the workforce.
The study questioned which business priorities are likely to be highest over the next 12 months. Cost reduction and revenue growth polled the highest, alongside improving customer experience.
Automation in the finance function
All organisations want to develop their data assets and drive growth and innovation. By automating finance tasks a business can deliver benefits in the form of reduced costs, new efficiencies and lower headcount. In addition, automating repetitive, rule-based tasks lets employees focus on higher-value activities. These new tasks require advanced skills which in turn improves employee engagement. As a result it allows more time to be spent on strategy rather than basic number crunching. Forrester’s research shows that more engaged teams means higher growth: for instance, a 5% improvement in employee engagement leads to a 3% increase in revenue. So, finance teams will fall behind if they do not embrace automation. Its also worth noting that automating certain tasks does not necessarily require a complete overhaul or replacement of existing systems.
Another survey by Dun & Bradstreet commissioned finance and credit leaders in the UK and the US in May 2019. They wanted to understand how their organisations are using automation today, and what the opportunities and barriers are.
The study found that 87% believe automation will improve the function’s efficiency in the next three years. But, most organisations aren’t leveraging automation to the fullest today. While 83% of finance teams are automating at least one part of their processes, most (62%) are automating less than a quarter of their process.
Automation Transformation Report Findings:
Reliable Data & Integration Are Essential to Finance Automation
Reliable data is the top success factor of automation efforts, with over 67% of respondents citing this as a top need. Integration with other systems (58%) and time (47%) were also listed as top success factors.
Furthermore, the biggest barriers to automation are integrating multiple systems and tools (32%), funding and budget (26%) and managing disparate data (15%).
Operational Efficiency Is a Key Driver of Automation Efforts in Finance
Improved speed of processes is the top force driving the need to automate, according to 68% of respondents. Secondly, this is followed by cost savings (55%).
Finance systems need to add more value and they need to be more adaptable, more automated, more controlled more agile. What does automation for finance look like?
- Removing repetitive tasks
- Systemising processes to automate tasks
- Employees doing things at the right time – no waiting or delays
- Getting things right first time
- Getting the system to think and act
Most finance teams are automating but there remains vast potential to increase efforts. A business should determine its priorities for automation based on high value and a timely return on investment. Chose an approach wisely and the most effective efforts for your time and budget. If you would like further information and process steps to help bring automation to your finance department register to join the next AIS consulting webinar.
AIS can help you determine where your finance systems can add more value and be your implementation and support partner.