We live in a world with self-driving cars, ubiquitous access to mobile banking, and space tourism on the horizon, yet accounting processes are shockingly old-fashioned. According to recent research by Gartner, 50% of B2B invoices will be processed and paid without manual intervention by 2025. As a result, large enterprises spend millions to tens of millions of dollars per year on financial transaction processing and classification.
In addition to costly transaction processing, finance leaders face unique challenges as we enter 2022, and the pandemic continues to affect the global economy. From supply chain disruptions to labor shortages, finance leaders have the opportunity to tackle critical issues in the coming year. With that in mind, we have gathered the top five priorities you, as a finance leader, can take action on to give your organization a competitive advantage in this highly volatile operating environment.
1) Reinvent outdated processes
When looking at which part of your business to focus digitization efforts on, start by identifying your bottlenecks or where there is a lack of control due to manual processes.
A question you should always think about is: how do we automate routine tasks and improve the process? This is where process agility comes into play.
As artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies improve, they can elevate outdated automation workflows that require tedious human tasks to maintain. Artificial Intelligence can perform cost-side accounting autonomously by learning from your data and your accounting team, gradually taking over the wheel and replacing legacy OCR and rules-based methods. This type of software is designed to work across one or multiple ERP systems and can help your finance department strive for process agility. 2) Align technology to deliver complete solutions
Implementing new technology that works for your business as you scale requires critical research and planning. Conducting a “whole product” analysis of your channel and business ecosystem is a great place to start your research phase of implementation. Identify all products and technologies essential to do the job with the desired outcome and predict ROI of the technology. Try to include products and technologies outside of your normal scope such as networking, security, ERP, storage, or cloud services.
In this age where retaining staff can be a nightmare for finance leaders — especially in typically high turnover roles — remember, one of the main benefits of automation technology is that it can work 24/7 with accuracy and consistency, with the support of program or project managers. When paired properly with humans, technology can leave your staff time to think strategically about what’s next for their department or the organization as a whole.
3) Leverage Data
Inaccurate financial data can waste your teams’ precious time - up to 114 days, according to a global survey of C-suite executives and financial professionals. Human error is the leading cause of accounting inaccuracies. While automation is great for streamlining processes, data intelligence is the foundation for making informed, tactical decisions to identify growth opportunities and detect errors in real time. As a finance leader, evaluate the discrepancies in your reporting and leverage that information to improve accuracy or enhance future decisions.
4) Implement intelligence into your business
Business intelligence can help companies make better decisions by showing present and historical data within their business context. Without technology and the people behind the data, having access to real-time data is almost impossible.
By using technology to leverage existing data sources, you will reduce the manual work of extracting, manipulating, and reconciling actual data from source systems. This allows you to make smarter and faster decisions with intel from your data sources. If you are able to detect errors more quickly or even before they happen, your team has no excuses to correct those errors. Additionally, there is more time to fix detected errors, providing timely transparency to investors, leadership, and other necessary parties.
5) What is your AI Strategy?
Despite the sharp increase in enterprise AI adoption, confusion lingers between a true AI and an AI-enabled company. However, while weaving AI heavily into their narrative, only a few companies have provided groundbreaking solutions to real problems.
True artificial intelligence presents a mix of augmentation and complete autonomy. The longer you use high quality AI systems, the more autonomy you get as mutual learning improves performance. This autonomy element of such a platform is all about driving and developing a technology that is able to reason and make decisions on its own.
Before planning your AI strategy, answer these questions:
What are you looking for AI to solve for?
Can it improve current processes without ripping up processes you have worked so hard on?
Can AI free up your employees’ time so they can focus on strategic initiatives?
Will it increase speed and efficiency?
Once focused on the past with transaction management, the most valued finance leaders now help guide businesses into the future by focusing on growth. To play a bigger role in strategy, dive further into the top priorities and actions you as a finance leader can take as you enter 2022. Access the Growth & Profitability Playbook.
Author: Todd Robinson