As businesses embark on digital transformation journeys, the CFO role increasingly intertwines with technology.
Automation is changing business and reshaping responsibilities, allowing you to become more strategic in your decision-making. But as you take on more strategic responsibilities, your time becomes invaluable.
Imagine having an assistant who handles the mundane and repetitive tasks and empowers you to focus on high-value strategic initiatives. That’s what automation can do.
Automation allows CFOs to offload time-consuming and repetitive tasks, such as data entry, financial reporting, and invoice processing, to intelligent systems.
According to our Fast Close Faster Insights research, you can save 24 working days each year by automating the financial close, freeing up 3x more time to focus on higher-value activities that require critical thinking and decision-making.
Automation unlocks time savings, precision and efficiency
Manual processes are prone to errors, which can have costly consequences. With automation in place, you can minimize the risk of human error and ensure data integrity.
You can drive faster and more accurate financial analysis, forecasting, and planning, translating into better-informed decisions that drive business growth.
With Sage Intacct, for example, automation and AI capabilities streamline the invoice processing workflow seamlessly.
When an invoice enters the Sage Intacct system, it is captured and analyzed through machine learning algorithms that identify and process the data based on your historical actions.
Sage technology automatically assigns the appropriate dimensions and sets the workflow approval stages, minimizing manual intervention.
The system proficiently captures many details from a classic invoice, including vendor data, line-item specifics, and billing information.
By doing so, it smartly attributes fields and dimensions, enabling a highly efficient, error-free, and swift approval process.
This AI-powered functionality saves time and enhances accuracy, allowing you to focus on more strategic financial decisions.
Automation supports real-time access to vital financial information
Gone are the days of waiting for manual reports or sifting through spreadsheets for a holistic view of the organization’s financial health.
With automated systems, you can access up-to-date data with just a few clicks, so you can make timely strategic decisions and respond quickly to market changes.
Automation can help you remain compliant
CFOs are responsible for maintaining accurate and transparent financial records, and compliance regulations are continually evolving.
Automation allows you to streamline compliance processes, ensuring adherence to regulatory requirements and reducing non-compliance risk.
By automating controls and workflows, CFOs can increase audit readiness and maintain stakeholder trust.
Automation is not about replacing humans. It’s about empowering you to be more effective and influential.
With automation, CFOs can become strategic partners to CEOs and other business leaders, driving organizational success through data-driven insights and actionable recommendations.
Colin Cunningham, CFO at SaaS firm OnBoard, says you should avoid manual processes as much as possible and use systems to streamline your processes: “It’s no secret, but you must use new tools and processes to automate rather than do manual work.
“Use new technology and systems where those opportunities make sense. We have over 3,000 customers, so we automate as much of the billing process as possible to shorten that window at the end of the month.”
Automated reporting: The backbone of informed decision-making
Reporting is a vital aspect of a CFO’s success. It is a foundation for strategic decision-making, financial analysis, and overall business performance.
Manually compiling reports can be a time-consuming and error-prone process. With finance automation tools, you can streamline the reporting process and save valuable time for other critical duties.
Financial reporting automation eliminates manual data entry, reduces the risk of errors, and enhances the accuracy and efficiency of your reporting activities.
It allows you to automatically collect and consolidate data from various sources, such as your accounting software, CRM, and other business systems.
This integration ensures that your reports are based on real-time, reliable data, eliminating the need for tedious data manipulation and reconciliation.
By embracing automation in financial reporting, you can shift your focus from manual data entry and manipulation to higher-value activities.
You can dedicate more time to analyzing the data, identifying trends, and providing strategic insights to drive the organization forward.
Michelle Delker is the founder and CEO of the William Stanley CFO Group, and is also an experienced CFO and CPA. On the topic of managing your month-end books or a profit and loss (P&L), she says: “I’ve seen the power of implementing comprehensive and automated reporting systems.
“When done right, this can speed up the close process significantly, allowing more time in analyzing financials for actionable insights rather than merely compiling them.
“Regularly revisiting and analyzing these elements ensures a real-time snapshot of your financials and provides insights needed to take proactive steps toward enhancing profitability.”
Other real-world applications of financial automation
Automated budgeting and forecasting
Instead of relying on manual spreadsheets, finance automation tools enable you to create dynamic budgeting and forecasting models.
These models automatically update with real-time data, allowing you to adjust projections and scenarios quickly.
Automated financial consolidation
Automating the consolidation process can save you significant time and effort if you manage multiple entities or have complex financial structures.
Finance automation tools can seamlessly consolidate financial data from different sources, ensuring you can effortlessly generate accurate and consolidated financial statements.
Automated variance analysis
Analyzing the variance between actual and budgeted figures is crucial to financial reporting.
Finance automation tools can automatically calculate and present variance analysis, enabling you to identify key drivers for financial performance and make data-driven decisions.
Customizable reporting templates
Finance automation provides customizable reporting templates that empower you to create consistent, professional-looking reports with minimal effort.
You can generate comprehensive financial statements, performance dashboards, and other key reports with just a few clicks.
You not only save time—you have the flexibility to customize reports based on the specific needs of your audience.
Beyond reporting—automation’s broader impact
Financial reporting is just the tip of the iceberg for automation’s impact.
By automating processes, your business can increase accuracy, consistency, and speed, ultimately enhancing performance.
With time saved from reporting, CFOs can oversee transformative projects that positively impact the organization, such as implementing new technology, adopting new business models, or expanding into new markets.
Use automation to free up time and resources to pursue your wider strategic initiatives—today, and in the future, it’s an essential partner in driving business growth and success.
Consider the following practical steps:
1. Identify key areas for automation
Begin by evaluating your current processes and identifying areas you can automate. Look for repetitive tasks that consume significant time and resources and can benefit from automation.
2. Evaluate automation tools
Research finance automation tools suited to your needs. Various tools are available to automate finance activities, including treasury management systems, financial consolidation software, and finance analytics tools. Evaluate which solution can address your specific challenges.
3. Engage your team
Introduce your team to the benefits and importance of automation. Explain how automation can streamline repetitive tasks and save valuable time for more strategic activities. Encourage your team to embrace automation and adopt a continuous improvement mindset.
4. Continuously assess and improve processes
Finally, regularly assess your automated processes and identify areas for improvement. Ensure that your automation tools are continually updated and optimized for better performance.
The human impact of financial automation
Automation goes beyond streamlining processes—it can also positively impact work-life balance and bring benefits to every member of your organization.
Shifting from mundane tasks to more fulfilling work allows employees to experience satisfaction and professional growth, leading to increased motivation and engagement.
Imagine if your team members no longer had to spend hours manually inputting data or reconciling accounts.
Instead, with automation taking care of these tasks, they could concentrate on analyzing financial trends, making data-driven recommendations, and collaborating with other departments on strategic initiatives.
Moreover, automation reduces the chances of burnout caused by repetitive tasks and long working hours.
With automated processes, your people can complete their work more efficiently and effectively, leaving them with more time for personal activities, hobbies, and spending quality time with loved ones.
Achieving a healthy work-life balance empowers employees and contributes to their overall well-being.
Beyond work-life balance, automation brings broader benefits to the entire team.
By automating tasks, your team can accomplish more in less time. This efficiency boost allows them to handle larger workloads and contribute to the growth and success of your organization.
Automation minimizes the risk of human error, ensuring tasks are performed with a high level of accuracy. You reduce the need for time-consuming manual corrections, safeguarding your financial data’s integrity.
Automation tools often provide centralized access to data and streamlined communication channels, enabling seamless collaboration among team members. You foster better teamwork, knowledge sharing, and cross-functional problem-solving.
Automation handles mundane tasks, allowing your team members to develop new skills and explore additional areas of interest within the finance department.
You can promote professional growth, helping your team members become more valuable assets to your organization.
Automation empowers your team members to engage in meaningful and challenging work.
When employees feel fulfilled and supported in their roles, they are more likely to stay with the organization, reducing turnover costs and maintaining continuity.
Is AI the final frontier of financial automation?
AI can transform finance by automating more complex and data-driven processes.
By harnessing the insights from large data sets, machine learning algorithms can identify trends, predict outcomes, and provide valuable insights that human analysts may miss.
This level of analysis and decision-making provides a competitive advantage to organizations, allowing them to make informed decisions quickly and accurately.
One of the significant benefits of AI in finance is that it can process and analyze data much faster than humans.
This speed of analysis allows finance teams to identify trends and patterns in real time, enabling pre-emptive action instead of reacting to issues.
These insights can inform critical decisions such as portfolio management, risk assessment, and financial forecasting.
Furthermore, AI applications can be integrated with existing systems to automate mundane tasks, freeing finance teams to focus on more strategic work.
For instance, AI-powered chatbots can handle customer service inquiries, while automated payment systems can process transactions without human intervention.
However, it’s essential to recognize that AI should not replace human intelligence but augment it.
Successfully adopting AI technology requires a balance between human insight and machine intelligence.
Final thoughts: The future of finance in the age of automation
With the fusion of finance and technology, automation is a non-negotiable imperative.
The implications are not just numerical but human. Automation liberates finance professionals from mundane tasks, allowing them to focus on more nuanced, value-added work.
You can’t overstate the importance of humans. Empowered by automation, you can evolve into a strategic leader, effectively marrying data-driven insights with emotional intelligence and business acumen.
The impact of automation isn’t a given—it’s a choice.
For CFOs, it is crucial to critically evaluate and strategically implement automation technologies tailored to the unique needs of your business.
The automation wave is here, and it is transformative. The question now is, how will you make the most of this tide to elevate you and your people?
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