Automation can support business and the success of the finance function. In terms of the responsibility of CFOs, there is further recognition of the need to integrate digital measures within finance. Many finance leaders, however, focus on strategic challenges while remaining predominantly reliant on traditional systems incapable of delivering the desired results.
Any progress and evolution of the CFO is dependent on innovative tools and is capable of automating selected financial functions. Progress appears when finance shifts from silos to increased integration across the internal value chain. Automation in finance must focus on processes which eradicate the separation of silos within financial activities. Manual, repetitive tasks require automation, optimisation processes and elimination of the possibility of errors, so human intervention is limited and focused on more strategic tasks.
Through automation, financial services can adopt a more performance, value-based approach rather than being the traditional cash manager or gatekeeper. New technologies make it possible for financial processes to deliver results in near real-time to CFOs. Eliminating silos and automating manual tasks means CFOs can reshape the finance industry and their financial skills. Transforming activities means finance professionals can focus on critical business areas.
Simple automation measures for finance can include introducing onboarding performed by suppliers i.e. accessing a portal to input accurate information (which suppliers will likely do to receive prompt payments) will reduce errors significantly. AI/RPA technology can deliver faster, less human-focused invoice and purchase matching, accelerating payment approvals. Automation processes can enhance the overall AP team morale by limiting time spent focused on purchasing supplier enquiries, performing reconciliations and other compliance duties.
CFOs also have a duty to control the risk of fraud. Automation, particularly automating payments can reduce that risk. Manual activities can unintentionally create opportunities for fraud. Deploying automation can validate selected payment processes and ensure incorrect payments do not occur.
Integrating automation offers several operational benefits. Enhancing accuracy and reducing manual data entry is just one aspect. Focusing on improving workflow and process automation is another area. The benefits of automation are diverse, ranging from improved staff morale and retention to transforming finance into a value-centric business.
Failing to consider finance automation can leave CFOs exposed and limited by traditional services. Attempting to meet the strategic challenges of a business when dependent on conventional systems and manual activities can be very challenging. The future of the finance function isn’t focused just on technology, but it is a significant factor to consider. Success will depend on determining how the finance function operates and supports a business.