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How automation is transforming finance activities

by Mike Jones in Digital Technology, EPM 30/07/2019

Technology is rapidly changing how organizations do business. Finance teams, in particular, are being transformed from focusing on traditional paperwork activities to effectively automating processes such as invoicing, workflow and data analytics. Technology has created an efficient automated strategy, enabling finance teams to harness the true potential of their workforce and strengthen their contribution towards their business.

At first, technology was perceived as a potential threat to employment and job availability. In reality, as technology and the digital era has emerged even further, technology has proven to provide wider opportunities and empowered businesses, accelerating overall company development. Streamlining basic and tedious activities with automated software means the lengthy tasks of data entry and spreadsheet management, which commonly result in errors, are being completed in a matter of minutes.

This is a significant change for finance professionals, allowing CFOs and other financial members to have more influence over their entire businesses. Instead of spending time on paperwork, finance employees are capable of moving into a more strategic position, exploring new opportunities and creating real value for their company. Automation has also provided more control and visibility of data and other records for finance professionals.

The development of innovative analytical models allows finance teams to carefully measure and manage overall performance, as well as identify trends or potential errors that previously would have been overlooked. All of these factors create added value, supporting their business in making complex decisions and generating more accountability within the entire business. According to the Finance 2020 report by Accenture, Finance is now creating things it could never do before due to progression in digital technology. Finance has transformed from a traditional spreadsheet-focused accounting and reporting hub, into a sophisticated predictive analytical system providing real value for a business. It comes as no real surprise that automation technology is expected to expand further within finance over the coming years. A 2016 EY survey of finance professionals suggested that 65% believed automating processes would become a significant factor for future financial organizations.

IT Pro Portal has created several steps they believe finance leaders should be considering to develop an automation strategy and reshape their role within their entire business.

Defining your overall proposition, what you want your team to deliver and how you intend to add value to the business. How do these changes impact your team’s function and existing work?

Defining your team and its capabilities – What can be changed to deliver business value and what can you transform through automation.
Considering your team and overall structure – where should automation technology be applied to reduce certain individual tasks, enabling additional time for people to develop new skills.

Developing your automation plan – work with your team and the business to confirm what processes need to be automated to meet your goal. Identify areas where automation will reduce errors, significantly free up time for employees and add value elsewhere, as well as generate higher levels of data analysis.

Create a testing framework – testing automation plays a crucial part in the success and failure of an automation project. Within the testing stage, all processes, technology, and roles should be considered, as well as determining the best time to deliver the project and who will be responsible for implementing and measuring the results.

Testing your automation environment – working alongside your IT team to test software, manage any potential errors before implementing anything live.

Enabling continuous improvement – finance leaders need to ensure there are a continuous learning and improvement process within the business.

Receiving feedback from business members and another stakeholder within the automation process and refining the strategy as necessary.

Moving towards automation means CFOs can harness the true potential of their position and ensure they provide a lead within business activities and ensure their organization remains active and competitive within this progressive market.