A strategic, productive finance department is critical to the success of any modern enterprise. As the bastions of a company's financial health, not only do they manage business revenue, billing and invoice processing, third-party procurement, and company expenditures, but they also oversee financial strategy and planning to capitalize on new business opportunities while mitigating risks and costs.
As any financial professional knows, a crucial part of being able to do this well is about having a firm grasp on the company's data – whether related to the product, customer or general business operations. Yet, all too often, this critical data is buried in silos across the business. This leaves teams to face manual, tedious data entry in multiple systems – requiring endless double-checking for errors and consuming a lot of time.
To try and solve this problem, IT developers have traditionally performed integrations between siloed systems manually – a process that typically takes weeks to months to get up and running, followed by continual maintenance and upkeep. So while the end goal has justified the means, the means has often cost companies too much time, and ultimately leads to a more complicated system. As a result, financial teams are left with limited financial insights, additional manual data entry, and more time spent waiting on IT to maintain and update the workflows.
IT and finance must become better friends to change this. Many IT departments are already undertaking strategic modernization projects to update systems and processes so that the business as a whole is better positioned to move faster, scale-up, and embrace new opportunities. These modernization activities offer a prime opportunity to give finance an extra digital boost. Setting up finance to work faster and smarter through digital modernization means money flows faster, and decisions are made more accurately, which ultimately translates to a corporate competitive edge. The key to doing this? Automation.
Introducing automation to finance
Automation-backed platforms and applications are a central part of the current wave of digital transformation. This technology focuses on using AI and other intelligent technologies to make work more efficient and less costly, as well as accelerating time to market. Introducing automation to back-end finance processes empowers teams to obtain the critical data they need at the right time from the right systems, with less human uplift. This ultimately means they can eliminate manual data entry, garner data-driven insights for more strategic decisions, speed up finance processes and the flow of money through the business, and help the organization become more agile.
The finance processes that are ripe for automation
With so much potential for gains from automation, these are the top five finance processes that would benefit from an automated approach:
● Automate order-to-cash: Arguably the most important business process every finance team undertakes – automating cash flow into the company. For example, when a sales rep closes an opportunity in Salesforce, a signed contract for the work order is sent to Docusign, and once the contract is received and confirmed, an invoice is generated in NetSuite. All that information needs to flow seamlessly and without human intervention. Once this process is automated, the finance manager can minimize their efforts in manually checking orders and cash flows between systems.
● Speed up data automation into ERP: Finance teams manage account receivables and account payables whenever the company works with vendors and consultants. As a result, finance needs to compile, track, and compile billings and invoices, as well as onboarding and off- boarding of consultants and vendors. To minimize redundancy and manual efforts, finance can quickly automate back-end system workflows to connect new and updated data from disparate finance data sources into their ERP system – saving time, reducing manual effort, and improving the experience for all involved.
● Reduce complexity resulting from M-As and consolidations: It's not unusual for enterprises to have dozens of ERP and related finance applications garnered through acquisitions and consolidations, with these systems spread all around the world. These need to connect to the parent company processes and comply with local compliance regulations. By automating disparate data sources, companies can modernize in phases so that as old applications and systems are retired, the process and underlying data is not lost or disrupted. And, with legacy systems integrated into the parent system, it reduces manual data entry and ensures that the system gets the data it needs.
● Tie the supply chain to the finance system: There are occasions when the supply chain systems are not connected to the finance system. But when the warehouse needs to check on the inventory for a specific purchase, finance gets involved to find the revenue per SKU, top-selling SKUs, which SKUs provide the highest or lowest margin, etc. Connecting these systems enables this data to be brought together and readily available to finance when they need it.
● Employ data warehouse automation for financial modelling and planning: Wrangling data from multiple departments like sales, marketing, product, and customer service takes far too much time and energy. By integrating data and enabling data warehouse automation, you can move data from all sources into Snowflake, Amazon Redshift, SAP Data Warehouse Cloud, and other data warehouses so financial analysts can query the information they need to do financial modelling and planning and revenue forecasting.
By bringing together financial data from enterprise apps and systems, and automating core finance workflows and processes, finance teams can quickly and easily get the data they need when they need it in order to speed up and scale their business.