How automation is transforming the finance function

By Adam Zoucha, MD EMEA, FloQast

There has been widespread coverage that suggests AI and automation will threaten the role of finance professionals moving into the future. The fact is, technology is not here to replace humans, but instead, it’s here to support them. Automation can actually benefit accountants by helping them to offload the mundane, tactical, and repetitive aspects of their roles. This in turn can help them to develop a broader and more fulfilling role with room to make a bigger impact and grow as professionals. To this point, it’s also valid to suggest that automation contributes towards both recruitment and talent retention.

We know that accountants have had a more strategic remit expected of them during the pandemic. Controllers are faced with a greater balancing act than ever before, delivering accurate insights faster than ever with teams decamped to their homes. Similarly, Brexit has seen huge changes in regulation, with major supply chain bottlenecks and unplanned costs. Finance teams have had to move swiftly, have greater agility and respond to urgent requests from senior leadership. Having accurate information, readily available and accessible to all therefore, has become critical to company performance.

What is clear is that without automation, there is greater room for error, a lack of transparency and potential for missed deadlines. The inefficiency of the close without automation means that            accountants are required to take time to focus on the more tedious parts of the job that could otherwise be levelled up with more interesting and tactical tasks. If accountants don’t have access to the systems, tools, and support they need to perform their jobs well, they are unable to achieve their goals. This also means they’re failing to meet the goals of their organisations. 

Likewise, the crisis of The Great Resignation has caused a major shortage of talent and skills and charged the competition for existing talent,greatly impacting the chances of staff retention. Given these current challenges, it is critical that leaders do their utmost to maintain a positive employee experience. As a former accountant myself, I don’t think I would be stepping out of line when I say there is a pervasive ‘there must be more than this’ mindset that has contributed to the swathes of job vacancies in the finance sector in the era of The Great Resignation.

We know from research that stress has a huge impact on staff churn in the accountancy world. A recent joint research paper from the Institute of Management Accountants and Deloitte found that 70% of controllers report that their accounting processes are either largely manual or still require a great degree of manual effort. Simply put, controllers don’t have the bandwidth to continue to operate this way, and neither do their teams. Accounting automation allows teams to execute repetitive tasks with little to no effort, which is something controllers have dreamt about for ages. These tools make it easy to organise and coordinate the close while streamlining reconciliations and allowing housekeeping tasks to be finished sooner.

Day-to-day operations can be improved by automating recurring tasks, checklists, notifications and the capture of documentation and evidence, giving teams greater control over and trust in the figures at month and year end. Automation can also help streamline upstream operations like accounts payable, receivables, and tax, and thus improve the efficiency of downstream operations like compliance, financial planning, and reporting. When these basic facets of the job are taken care of to a high degree of accuracy, accountants get time back –time which they can invest in more strategic work.

Automation has and is proving its worth. When accountants are backed up by accurate, efficient and user-friendly systems, they can gain the confidence and time to provide truly valuable financial information that empowers business teams to respond with agility, no matter what the world throws at them.               

Accounting software capable of automating tactical responsibilities is now fundamental in the      new working world. Instead of replacing humans, it will instead help finance teams shine and perform better. With greater accuracy, transparency, and huge time savings, great automation will give time back to finance professionals, helping them to achieve a more satisfying role and a better work life balance. Companies that adopt automation will support a more innovative culture which will help to retain and attract talent and drive excellence across the whole organisation.

By Adam Zoucha, MD EMEA, FloQast

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