As a CFO, your business wants 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 boring stuff 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 the Fast close. Faster insights research by Sage, 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.
In this article, learn how automation can help you take charge of your manual processes and give you and your finance team more freedom to work on more strategic activities.
Here’s what we cover:
- Automation unlocks time savings, precision, and efficiency
- What AP automation looks like in the real world
- View real-time access to vital financial information
- Automation can help you with compliance
- Automated reporting: The backbone of informed decision-making
- Other real-world applications of financial automation
- Beyond reporting—automation’s broader impact
- The human impact of financial automation
- 5 benefits of automation for your finance team
- Final thoughts: The future of finance in the age of automation
Automation unlocks time savings, precision, and efficiency
Manual processes are prone to errors, which can have costly consequences. With automation in place, you can minimise the risk of human error and ensure data integrity.
Automation and artificial intelligence (AI) capabilities can seamlessly streamline your accounts payable (AP) invoice processing workflow.
For example, when an invoice enters the Sage Intacct system, it’s captured and analysed through machine learning algorithms that identify and process the data based on your historical actions.
Technology automatically assigns the appropriate dimensions and sets the workflow approval stages, minimising 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.
What AP automation looks like in the real world
“Sage Intacct AP automation, especially its AI features, has been a game-changer,” says Michelle Pyle, former finance director at Johnny’s Selected Seeds, an Albion, Maine-based company that juggles research and development (R&D), global distribution, and a diverse clientele.
“The AI reads and extracts bill data, allowing for easier review. Once approved, it’s all done.”
Automation has helped the company transition from paper cheques to electronic payments, freeing valuable time and providing real-time data crucial for innovation.
It’s a story of how AP automation isn’t just an efficiency tool; it’s a strategic asset.
Another example where automation has real-world financial applications is with Cambio Community, which revitalises manufactured home communities.
As Cambio expanded from two to 32 communities since 2020, the volume of invoices soared. Sage Intacct AP Automation became an invaluable asset, streamlining the accounts payable process.
AP automation speeds up vendor payments, letting the business acquire supplies and labour quickly, leading to faster community improvements that benefit Cambio residents.
Cambio CFO Sarah Janowicz says: “Our invoice processing doubled from 1,500 to nearly 3,500 bills per month.
“The automation tool analyses data upfront, making it easy to pull specific information later. It facilitates the entire invoicing cycle from start to finish without manual intervention.”
Sarah is certain that as Cambio continues to grow, the AP Automation tool will be crucial for maintaining its level of service.
She adds: “It ensures communities run better, houses are acquired faster, and the living experience is overall better for everyone.”
View 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 organisation’s financial health.
With automated systems, you can access up-to-date dashboard data with just a few clicks, so you can make timely strategic decisions and respond quickly to market changes.
Automation can help you with compliance
CFOs are responsible for maintaining accurate and transparent financial records, and compliance regulations are continually evolving.
Automation lets you streamline compliance processes, ensuring adherence to regulatory requirements and reducing non-compliance risk.
Its faster controls and workflows can increase audit readiness and maintain stakeholder trust.
This won’t replace humans, but it will empower you to be more effective and influential with your time.
CFOs can become strategic partners to CEOs and other business leaders, driving organisational 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.
He adds: “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
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, customer relationship management (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.
You can dedicate more time to analysing the data, identifying trends, and providing strategic insights to drive your business forward.
Michelle Delker is the founder and CEO of the William Stanley CFO Group, and 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 analysing financials for actionable insights rather than merely compiling them.
“Regularly revisiting and analysing 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
Budgeting and forecasting
Instead of relying on manual spreadsheets, you can use finance automation tools to create dynamic budgeting and forecasting models.
These models automatically update with real-time data, allowing you to adjust projections and scenarios quickly.
Streamlining 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 draw financial data from different sources, ensuring you can effortlessly generate accurate and consolidated financial statements.
Automated variance analysis
Analysing the variance between actual and budgeted figures is crucial to financial reporting.
Finance automation tools can automatically calculate and present variance analysis so you can identify key drivers for financial performance.
Customisable reporting templates
Finance automation provides customisable 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 customise 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 the time saved, CFOs can oversee impactful transformative projects, 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.
2. Evaluate automation tools
Various tools are available to automate finance activities, including treasury management systems, financial consolidation software, and finance analytics tools. Evaluate solutions that can address your specific challenges.
3. Engage your team
Introduce your team to the benefits and importance of automation. Encourage your team to embrace it 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 optimised for better performance.
The human impact of financial automation
Automation goes beyond streamlining processes—it can positively impact work-life balance and benefit every member of your organisation.
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 analysing 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.
5 benefits of automation for your finance team
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 the wider business.
Automation minimises 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 data’s integrity.
Automation tools often provide centralised 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.
You can promote professional growth, helping them become more valuable assets to your business.
Automation empowers your team to engage in meaningful and challenging work.
When employees feel fulfilled and supported in their roles, they are more likely to stay with you, 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.
A significant benefit of AI in finance is that it can process and analyse data much faster than humans.
This level of insight provides a competitive advantage, allowing you to make informed decisions quickly and accurately.
You can identify trends and patterns in real time, and take pre-emptive action instead of reacting to issues.
These insights can inform critical decisions such as portfolio management, risk assessment, and financial forecasting.
You could even think about AI-powered chatbots that can handle customer service enquiries, while automated payment systems can process transactions without human intervention.
However, it’s essential to recognise 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
The financial landscape is rapidly transforming, and automation is at the helm.
As a CFO, you stand at a pivotal junction. You can choose to get swept away in the tides of change, or you can seize control and ride the wave to success.
The key takeaway is simple but transformative: Automation isn’t about replacing the human element but amplifying it.
By automating routine tasks, you unlock valuable time—time you can channel into strategic planning, innovation, and driving business growth.
With automation as your ally, you can become a strategic leader, helping to steer the business toward a more prosperous future.
So, the real question isn’t whether you’ll adopt automation—it’s how soon you’ll embrace it to become the future-facing CFO your business needs.
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