CFO: Why investment in automation technology is a priority
CFOs today are approached by various department heads seeking investment in new technologies that they say will take their operations to the next level. The CFO is the person responsible for the operational costs, expenditure, and finance in the multinational, so they will have a very big say in the allocation of funds for investments across the various operational divisions of the company.
In this article, we are going to look at some of the reasons why they may choose to focus their attention on automation technology. The benefits of this technology are wide-ranging and crucially, they can be applied to various different departments. There is also an opportunity for integrations and connections between interrelated departments which could see the benefits of automation taken to a whole new level.
The power to transform
This is quite simply one of the key reasons to invest in automation as it has the power to radically transform previous operational processes. This is especially the case if those processes were manual or focused on data entry.
Obvious candidates include payroll, human resources, invoicing, sales and more. Anywhere really that there is manual or duplicative work is ripe for digitization and automation technology. Automation has the power to hugely speed up the previously manual process. This can result in massive increases in productivity as well as freeing up staff to focus on other business priorities. This could also result in the employee experience and employee engagement levels being enhanced if the tedious manual tasks that they once worked on are now handled with automation technology.
Traditional working patterns can be disrupted for the better and the introduction of speed and productivity levels can have major positive business impacts. It is therefore clear that a chief financial officer would be interested in this technology as long as it was aligned to the overall strategic goals of the business and cost levels of incorporating it remain competitive.
Error reduction and elimination is another reason to be interested in automation. The CFO and surrounding finance team would then be considering automation for their own department- the financial operations business unit. There are inevitable data flows into and out of this department, some of which could be automated to save huge amounts of time in the future but also to boost accuracy levels. Machines don’t get tired or make errors so if there are manual data flow duplications that happen on a periodic basis, automation technology could be deployed to take over this process, enabling finance executives to focus on priority work like analysis and reporting.
Where to apply it?
The evolution of automation technology has happened at such a fast rate that it is rapidly becoming a question of where not to apply it! Data entry and manual processes are the obvious candidates, but it is now going beyond that.
In the area of sales, for example, automation can be used in lead generation and lead management, so a CFO should not be surprised if their head of sales approaches them with a story about the value of automation technology in sales and how this can ultimately lead to increased opportunities for sales and revenue. This is something of a built-in business case that a CFO would find difficult to ignore. Information about a sales prospect or lead could be automatically sent to a CRM system and then have a suitable sales individual assigned to follow up on it. Automatic entry and automated system notifications here can help streamline and speed up the process, the ultimate result of this could be a shorter sales lead time and a larger sales pipeline. There isn’t a sales manager on the planet who wouldn’t be interested in this.
Global payroll is another area ripe for automation. Automated data feeds could flow directly into the global payroll software from multiple source inputs, then over to the local country payroll providers who pay people on the ground and then back into human resource tech stacks such as HCMs or financial applications that produce general ledger accounting data and real-time reporting.
Customer support is another area that can benefit from automation. We have already seen huge activity and advancement in the area of chat bots, to help automate the way customers get quick answers to their queries. Customer support automation could take the form of automated responses and progress tracking of ticket queries created by customers needing assistance or service.
These are just three, but the list goes on. Automation technology is evolving all the time and we are seeing major advances in robotic process automation (RPA) and machine learning. It will not be long before almost every operational department within a company is capable of being enhanced by automation.
Focus on Finance
As mentioned, the CFO and finance leaders when learning about the power and benefits of automation, may be very keen to see how this might play out in practice in their own department and finance processes. Financial services involves a lot of documents, financial data entry, analysis, reporting and compliance. This is a lot of work usually carried out by a lot of highly skilled people, these professionals would no doubt value automation taking some of this work away from them so they could focus on priority or value add tasks.
In the finance department automation could be deployed in areas like data entry and document allocation. Finance, like every other department, will have an inevitable number of repeatable tasks. Workflow automation could be introduced to take over these tasks, completing multiple tasks or high-volume numbers very quickly to improve efficiency and create time. Automation could also be used to enter expenses, track spending and report on anomalies or trends.
Intelligent Document Processing (IDP) is a relatively recent development and form of automation that can be very useful in departments that have large data feeds to analyze and interpret. It can be especially useful when it comes to today’s analysis of non-standard or unconventional document layouts, such as printed forms.
Anything that speeds up data management while also boosting accuracy levels will have a positive effect on compliance as a natural consequence. Getting things done quickly and accurately naturally lend themselves to positive compliance outcomes.
Every CFO today should be considering an investment in automation technology. Automation can transform any department that it is implemented in, by increasing productivity and decreasing any errors that are being caused by manual processing. There are a number of departments that can benefit from this technology, sales, payroll, and customer support are just a few examples of areas that can be dramatically improved with automation. When it comes to finance, automation can enhance workflows, increase efficiency and create valuable time for employees to focus on priority tasks.
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