Take any department of a modern organization—be it marketing, human resources or purchasing—and you’ll see how important processes are to the smooth running of the everyday tasks and activities that make up the team’s operations. This is certainly the case for the finance function, where there are many sequences of events that are performed over and over again. These finance processes form the backbone of the whole organization’s business operations and contribute massively toward the company’s effectiveness and efficiency.
Working with Finance Processes on a Small Scale
The finance function is home to a number of processes. For instance, there are employee expense payments, budget approvals, and capital expenditures. And these are only a few. Companies still trying to coordinate and manage these processes manually inevitably fall into the same difficulties.
First, manual workarounds such as spreadsheets, basic databases, or even paper files aren’t sufficient to the tasks at hand. They don’t have the capacity to harness the unpredictability of the steps in the process, for one thing. What’s more, they cannot automate them to minimize or even eliminate human involvement. This means that employees have to input data, oversee it, analyze it, and even make manual calculations. And this is just so they can carry out a basic task that is performed numerous times a day.
Needless to say, this is not an effective use of trained, skilled finance team members’ time, time that could be put to much more value-adding use.
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Moving Toward Automated Finance Processes
Utilizing some form of automation within the finance function can be an effective way to streamline and simplify existing processes. Moreover, automation can have the following benefits:
Improved Efficiency and Visibility
Automation helps the finance team to spot blockages or bottlenecks in the process. Then they can take proactive action to address these issues. This reduces delays. What’s more, since the steps in the process are clearly defined, everybody knows what to expect and where each task is. This naturally improves overall efficiency and productivity.
It is so much simpler to track error rates or potentially fraudulent activity using automation. This usually goes hand-in-hand with in-built permissions and access rights. Additionally, back up processes can be called upon if issues arise. From an employee perspective, the clearer guidelines and policies that result from automated processes often lead to a better understanding of each process. Therefore, all employees spend less time on approvals.
Finance Processes That Benefit from Automation
Practically any multi-stage activity carried out in the finance function can be moved from a manual to an automated process. Here are some of the most common ones:
- Purchase orders
- Employee expense reimbursement
- Employee timesheet approval
- Budget approvals
- Capital expenditure
Financial automation tools can work in partnership with your organization to identify the most value-adding processes in your organization. Then it can help you create personalized automated workflows that match your company’s procedures perfectly.
The Process of Automation
Implementing automated workflows into your finance team is usually a straightforward task. However, it is one that benefits greatly from being planned out in advance. In this way, you’ll be better assured of getting the best results. Moreover, you will minimize disruptions to ongoing business. Here are the key steps in the planning process:
Lay Out Your Objectives
Before embarking on automation, consider key issues. For example, what do you want to achieve from automation? What is your potential budget? Also, estimate the costs and anticipate any possible issues that might arise as a result of automating your company’s processes.
Plan the Process
It’s a good idea to draw up a road map of each process flow that you want to automate. Among other items, this can include the individuals involved at each stage, as well as the documents or software that will be needed throughout the process. Additionally, involve your team as much as possible during this step. In this way, you will ensure it is as accurate and realistic as possible.
Test the Process
Before going live with a new automated process, run some trials within a test environment to check its performance with no risk. This is a great opportunity to make any adjustments you deem necessary.
Implement Your New Automated Processes
Make sure your team is trained. Moreover, be sure to inform the rest of the business and other stakeholders such as clients about what to expect. Then, put your new processes into action in real-life situations.
Review and Improve
Finally, analyze the performance of your new automated processes regularly, especially immediately after going live. You need to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the business. Thereafter, make tweaks where necessary based on feedback and performance.
Take the Next Step Toward the Benefits of Finance Process Automation
If your organization is still struggling to coordinate and manage the range of essential processes within its finance function, give automation a try. See for yourself how it can help your business to grow and thrive. At the very least, it will improve productivity and efficiency. Financial process automation is the perfect way to streamline and tighten up your existing finance processes. It will reduce your error rates, improve efficiency, and save you money along the way.
About the Author
Dinesh Varadharajan is Vice President at Kissflow. He leads the product management team that looks after the company’s flagship workflow automation product. Dinesh is a hands-on executive with a wide range of experience working with leading-edge technologies, developing great products, and mentoring highly productive teams. He has profound knowledge in design and technical implementation of BPM solutions.