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Blog_Why finance professionals shouldn’t fear automation
Finance & Accounting, Purchase order management, Accounts payable | 2 Min Read

Friend not foe - Why finance professionals shouldn’t fear automation

Written by:
Zaynab Bostan on August 9, 2017

   

Automation may feel like a bit of a buzz word these days, but the stark reality is that we’re seeing more industries adopting automation to replace manual processes; and finance is no exception.

A recent analysis by PwC found that up to 30% of existing UK jobs are susceptible to automation from robotics and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in the next 15 years. Of this, they predict that 32% of the financial and insurance industry’s jobs are potentially at high risk of automation. Despite these daunting headlines, automation isn’t something finance professionals should fear. In the same analysis PwC does predict that automation will allow for finance roles to evolve and adapt, rather than disappear altogether.

So, before finance professionals start re-thinking their vocation, it’s important to understand how automation is working its way into finance departments and why it should have been seen as a friend, not a foe.

Earlier this year, McKinsey Global Institute estimated that automation could raise productivity growth globally by 0.8 to 1.4 percent annually. For finance professionals, productivity and efficiency are paramount when managing their organisation’s capital. However, when finance teams are spending considerable amounts of time having to chase, re-do and play detective with orders, invoices and approvals, it’s hard to make efficiency a priority. Any solution that improves this should be seriously considered and this is where finance professionals need to recognise that automation really is their friend.

Some finance professionals may be reading this and thinking, “isn’t this what my ERP/accounting software is doing for me?” The answer is yes… and no. Although ERP and accounting software can collate all the data for a business’s financial activities in one place, finance teams are still having to do a lot of the legwork. The issues of missing or duplicating invoices and approvals are still apparent and other than finance, no one else involved in the purchase to pay process usually has access.

Adopting a fully automated purchase to pay solution can help fill the gaps where ERP and accounting software are leaving much to be desired – and better yet, you can integrate it with your existing solution. Here are some more the advantages of using an automated solution:

  • Going paperless – From printed invoices to purchase orders, hard copies of financial documents may be what most financial professionals are accustomed to but there’s no denying the issues they can cause. Whether it’s an invoice lost by the approving manager or supplier information that’s hidden somewhere in a room of filing cabinets, paper costs time and money.
  • No room for errors – For finance teams, making sure information about orders and approvals is correct is extremely important and any errors can have a hefty cost on an organisation. With automation, there’s no room for error, missing or duplicated information which means finance professionals can rest easy knowing the data they have is correct.
  • Real-time data – Getting a full up to date picture of your business’ cash flow isn’t as hard as you think. With manual processes, there ends up being a variety of different spreadsheets and dashboards managed by different budget holders and by the time all the data has been collated, the information is weeks old and far from the truth. With an automated solution finance teams can access real-time data to get a full view of the truth. 

Although initially daunting, automation in finance teams is becoming more common as they’re starting to see how it can help them, not replace them. The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants (CIMA) published a study that, despite initial fears, found that more finance professionals are embracing the idea of automation in their departments. The study found that 83% of CIMA members who took part in the study were supportive of automation if it could save their department time and money and help them make smarter spending decisions.

At Compleat, we develop our accounts payable solution to do just this. Our AP automation software provides a way for finance teams to eliminate the common, everyday errors of the invoice and purchase order management process, freeing up their time to be spent on more strategic finance projects.

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