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A survey from BlackLine, a leading global provider of Finance Controls and Automation software, has found that only 27% of financial decision makers trust the accuracy of their financial data “completely”. In the wake of major accounting scandals, the UK poll found that many companies continue to rely on manual accounting processes, leaving them vulnerable to error. However, on a more positive note, finance teams are starting to see the business benefits of investing in new automation technology.

Many of the 250 UK financial decision makers questioned worry that their current financial reporting exposes their organisations to a high level of risk. Asked which areas create most risk, 42% said operations, followed by over a third (38%) who said financial reporting.

Less spreadsheets, more strategy

The survey found companies are not yet taking full advantage of the automation and cloud-based tools that can increase data accuracy and free up accountants’ time for more strategic activities (only 28% of financial decision makers said their company is using a cloud-based financial application).  However, they are increasingly aware of the benefits:  80% of those surveyed agreed that the less that their teams used manual processes, the more they could increase the flow of actionable information to the lines of business.

Mario Spanicciati, BlackLine’s EVP and Executive Director for EMEA, says: “Automation software provides finance teams with the opportunity to take a more strategic role in business. Investing resources in automation streamlines back-office processes and gives accountants more time to impact front-office decision-making. This has multiple benefits; not only does it increase data security and provide more actionable information to a company’s lines of business, it also improves life at the accountancy coalface, with the potential to impact staff retention”.

The future of finance: automation is key for 2015

While the finance department isn’t historically seen as an innovative part of business, this is beginning to change as CFOs wake up to applications which can streamline back-office processes and give them more time to work strategically and ensure data security.

Automation will be a key focus for 2015, according to over a third (38%) of those surveyed. 89% of financial decision makers said that their finance team specifically is using or considering using cloud-based applications in 2015. 78% agreed that cloud-based apps could help their organisation to reduce the costs and time needed to deploy tools to facilitate quicker analysis and planning.

Almost three quarters (73%) are considering the use of tablets for some strategic tasks.

If they could make their teams more efficient, financial decision makers would like the time saved to be spent on data checks (31%), training (24%) and reporting to senior management (22%).

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