By Craig Stewart, CTO, SnapLogic
The global pandemic has caused mass disruption for people working in all job functions, in all businesses, across every sector. For the finance team especially, new business-critical decisions on when and where to spend capital to keep a business afloat have become par for the course in the world of COVID-19. Although the focus has been on reacting with agility to the new normal’s challenges, the usual day-to-day tasks of managing daily cash flow, customer transactions, and employee payments still need to be considered.
Technology that enables automation has increasingly been at the heart of many finance teams’ strategies. This was true before the pandemic but even more so now. Automation takes the pressure off finance professionals by taking over many repetitive administrative tasks that take up time but don’t necessarily add meaningful value, aid in business-critical decision making, or require their hard-earned skills.
Automation-powered technology and applications are becoming commonplace, forming an essential part of many digital transformation strategies. Automating back-end finance processes ensures data is moved to where it needs to be, quickly and efficiently, while eliminating the potential for human error and the time delay of human input. As a result, finance teams get more done, faster and with greater confidence.
However, automation is not without its challenges – critical data needed for finance workflows can often be buried deep within company systems, siloed away from easy access. This can cost finance, or IT teams, considerable time locating, identifying, and integrating data, time that could be better spent focussing on business-critical activities.
Traditionally, manually integrating data like this can take IT developers months to complete; however, the initial set up is only the beginning. From here, data pipelines need ongoing maintenance to keep up with the changing demands of the business. Ultimately, as more new data pipelines are brought on board, an organisation’s data infrastructure can become complex, brittle, difficult to manage, and importantly, resource-draining and expensive to maintain. As a result, finance teams are left with limited financial insights, additional manual data entry, and more time spent waiting on IT to maintain and update the workflows.
Where to start?
With so much to potentially gain from automation initiatives, it can be challenging to know where to start. Below are the top five financial processes ripe for automation.
- Order-to-cash: An absolute staple of the finance team – automating this process can streamline the cash flow into a business. Completing a single deal with a prospective new client can mean integrating data between Salesforce, Docusign, and Netsuite in order to complete the sale, manage the signed contract, and generate the invoice. If this process is automated, finance professionals can spend less time manually checking orders and cash flows between systems.
- Loading the ERP: It’s essential for finance to compile and track billings and invoices of clients, as well as manage the use of consultants and third-party vendors. Automation can simplify and accelerate the back-end system workflows which connect data sources into their ERP system, reducing the need for manual input and therefore the chance for human error.
- M&As: Incorporating multiple companies into a single rationalised technology infrastructure is a complicated process, and if completed incorrectly, can lead to the worst features of both systems making their way into the final system. A merger must consider and bring together countless different ERP and finance applications that were in use in the respective In many cases, these can vary between regions and markets. With automation, IT professionals can determine and execute which legacy applications are unnecessary and need to be retired, and what go-forward systems need to be integrated.
- Supply chain: Often, in companies which use a high number of legacy systems, the supply chain can operate in isolation from the finance team. Rationalising information such as warehouse stock within the same system the finance team uses can help determine critical sales data and deliver timely insights that can power future business strategy.
- Financial modelling and planning: Gaining a holistic view of data from the different business lines such as sales, marketing, product, and customer service can be a time-consuming process. By integrating data and enabling data warehouse automation, you can pull data from across the business giving financial analysts the information they need to complete financial modelling and revenue forecasting.
Automation has the power to revolutionise how finance drives the business forward, and in the current climate of day-to-day disruption and changes, it can mean the difference between success and collapse.