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With an estimated 224 use cases for robotic process automation in finance by 2020, it is clear why executives, especially financial leaders, are rapidly adopting automated solutions — automating critical processes in finance aids in streamlining operations and making a business more efficient. 

Right now, it’s likely the case that your team is operating with disparate spreadsheets and less than optimal communication. By incorporating an automation solution, you can guarantee a seamless flow of information and store essential data in a centralised, secure location. 

Let’s take a look at what financial processes are, the importance of ensuring their accuracy, and how automation can better serve your team’s business processes. 

What are Financial Processes?

As you are aware, financial processes are those completed by the finance department within a business. 

They include processes like:

  • Financial close
  • Consolidation
  • Reporting
  • Budgeting
  • Data collection 
  • Strategic planning
  • Project planning
  • Operations planning

The above is an abbreviated list of financial processes, but it is clear that these processes require accurate information to be useful and inform good decision-making practices. They also are highly governed by internal and external stakeholders and regulators since they concern the overall financial health of a business’ workings. 

What Makes Process in Finance Important? 

Financial processes don’t just help to inform your business decisions, and they also impact your employees and customers. 

Firstly, financial processes give you an overview based on numbers. This means that you can choose your next actions based on financial feasibility and potential outcomes. Thereby, you reduce risk and can make more informed decisions when you have an accurate view of how your business is currently operating. 

Furthermore, when financial processes are being managed properly and effectively, then your employees can focus their time on what they were initially hired to do. Rather than being bogged down by data entry and transformation, they can spend time performing analysis and serving as strategic decision-makers. 

Financial processes offer your organisation the following:

  • Clearer insight
  • An overview of your financial reality 
  • The ability to effectively use your human resources
  • Confidence based on numbers 

How to Improve Processes in Finance?

You want to have a sturdy handle on your financial processes and be able to trust that those in charge of each are managing them properly. However, if you have multiple financial environments and they are not connected through a streamlined technology, it can cost your business both financially and to your reputation.

That’s because it is difficult to manage teams, both large or small when information is spread out between team members and departments. Luckily, automated solutions solve this by offering a centralised location to collect, manage and maintain financial data used for financial processes. 

Rather than running multiple software solutions and placing different people in charge of each, you can simplify financial processes by unifying and streamlining. Here’s a bird’s eye view of how you can get a handle on all the financial operations within your business so that you can improve their efficiency:

1. Assess Your Environment: Take a look at your current state of affairs. Outline the various processes and frequency with which your team performs financial processes. Ask them about their pain points and challenges. 

2. Improve Internal Processes: One of the quickest ways to implement improvement is to unify your system with one software tool that can pull all data in a centralised location. Just by doing this, you can help to reduce human data entry errors and fill in missing holes in data that you currently use for processes. 

3. Use Reporting: These tools will also provide you with the ability to produce reports automatically. As such, you can keep a consistent eye on financial processes to see changes in real-time. If something is heading downhill, you can address the issue early on. 

4. Focus on Organisational Structure: Financial process automation will allow you to focus more time on your people and the organisational structure, rather than being stuck in the numbers and manual work. You can then entrust your team to take control and help to make critical decisions. 

5. Build, Maintain and Improve Controls: Simplifying your processes and unifying data within a single software solution will help you to manage processes. As compliance regulations continuously change within the world of finance, you can improve your controls and continuously optimise your solutions. 

Finance Business Processes to Automate 

There are a wide array of business processes that automation can assist in completing. Some of the most commonly used finance business processes include:

  • Taxation
  • Accounts payable
  • Strategic planning
  • Preparing financial statements
  • Treasury management
  • Expense management
  • Employee reimbursements
  • Inventory management
  • Asset management
  • Payroll 

Steps to Streamline a Finance Business Process 

When you’re ready to optimise your processes in finance, follow these steps:

1. Create Process Maps: Outline the business processes you use and who is responsible for each. 

2. Implement Automation: Introduce an automation tool into your workflow so that it can do the repetitive tasks for your team. 

3. Monitor Processes: One of the best benefits of an automation tool is constant management. You can watch processes in real-time.  

4. Measure and Improve: By pulling reports and assessing how the process is running, you can always analyse what parts of the process are inefficient. Then, you can use business process improvement to make them better. 

Use Cases: Finance Processes to Automate

Let’s take a look at some use cases for how automation can assist in your critical processes in finance. 

  • Account Reconciliation/ Financial Close: Robotic process automation (RPA) can check orders and transaction data across different sources to reconcile what has been paid and what is owed. Without RPA, your employees waste time manually comparing data and also may make mistakes because they can’t locate certain information quickly. 
  • Travel Reimbursement: If your employees use their credit card when travelling, someone on your team is probably manually checking charges and comparing receipts to their reimbursement request. This takes time, and sometimes, your employees can’t wait for reimbursements because they have to pay off their credit card. Automation can expedite the process and ensure that employees are reimbursed promptly. 
  • Cheque Requests: Paying vendors is made simple with automation. Never miss an invoice or pay a late fee because something slips through the cracks. RPA will recognise patterns from previous payments and offer you with a seamless system in which to approve payments. 

Downsides of Manual Processes

Manual processes, especially with the vast amounts of data that finance teams possess, lack efficiency for apparent reasons. Manual processes are: 

  • Tedious and repetitive 
  • Slow to complete
  • Error-prone
  • Rife with bottlenecks 

Benefits of Finance Process Automation

Using data automation tools can alleviate your team from having to deal with repetitive and tedious tasks. Importantly, it also provides CFOs and business leaders with easy-to-read and use reports and dashboards to be able to see how a business is operating at any point in time. 

The benefits of financial process automation are numerous and include: 

  • The use of pre-populated information pulled from databases
  • Supporting process improvement
  • Boosting productivity and lowering costs 
  • Increasing control and transparency 
  • Automatically ensuring the transfer of data and information 
  • Freeing up time for your employees to focus on high-level work like analysis and decision making 

The Bottom Line 

Automating critical processes in finance will help your business run efficiently, provide essential insights to those who need it in real-time, and allow your team to focus their time on high-level tasks. 

Incorporating automation technology is imperative to continue achieving a competitive advantage in a highly competitive marketplace. As a CFO, your most valuable asset is time. With automation, you save time, increase efficiency, and decrease costs, all by implementing a single technological solution. 

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