Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA at Celigo.
Just when businesses thought the tough times were over, even more challenges ensued. While still recovering from the financial effects of the pandemic, companies were hit with an economic downturn that’s now resulted in a recession in the UK.
In this economic context, teams are being forced to do more with less. This means onboarding with reduced manpower, delivering ground-breaking marketing campaigns with less budget and mitigating outlay in the middle of a cost-of-living crisis. Being nimble and streamlining operations has never been more imperative.
That’s where automation comes in. While automating before the recession would’ve been the ideal scenario, it’s never too late to get ahead of competitors. It’s only a matter of when – not if – automation becomes standardised, as businesses insistent on using legacy tech and manual processes will be outpaced by those savvy enough to embrace smarter alternatives. In fact, it’s predicted that in just two short years, 70% of large global enterprises will have over 70 hyperautomation initiatives.
For finance teams and the tech-strapped CFO in particular, automation can be a saving grace. Tech stacks are more complex than ever due to the proliferation of specialised finance SaaS applications for quote to cash, Accounts Receivable & Accounts Payable (AR / AP), cash management, tax, accounting close and corporate performance management. Having the tools to automate these processes enables modern CFOs to adapt to changing tech needs, scale quickly and future-proof their organisations.
Automating today to prepare for tomorrow
Too often, automation is viewed as a job killer. We’ve all heard the apocalyptic narratives about ‘robots taking over,’ but that’s an outdated notion. Instead, automation is a job enhancer. Not only does it minimise errors, speed up processes and help businesses cut down on admin, it liberates employees to dedicate their time to be more creative or perform complex tasks.
Take a company like WeTransfer, for example. Bogged down by manual processes, the team struggled with closing financial books and completing billing cycles on time. After integrating its tech stack, quote-to-cash automation worked immediately and the time to close reduced dramatically, significantly reducing the hours dedicated to manual data entry.
Its revenue accountant was then able to work on core tasks in the finance department and alongside sales operations on the process improvements, no longer worrying about completeness issues associated with the sales and financial systems integrations.
Not only that, it liberated employees physically and unlocked access to more valuable talents. Beneath all the technical and monetary benefits, these are the core principles behind why automation will soon become impossible for firms to ignore.
Hybrid work has been one of the biggest positive developments driven by the pandemic. However, while employees surely won’t miss long commute times or the constraints of office life, a disparate workforce comes with challenges. It’s vital that organisations can trust their data and business processes in order for effective collaboration to be possible.
Automation can enable this, as it allows cloud-based systems to share data across a business through integration, ensuring all workers have access to the resources they need to work together effectively wherever they are.
This makes businesses nimble, able to operate across multiple locations when needed and well equipped to decouple entirely from headquarters if needed. Workers can then be as effective from home as from the office, ensuring they can maintain a better work-life balance without compromising productivity.
It’s no wonder then that 78% of organisations worldwide think remote working will increase the proportion of their workforce using automation, while over two-thirds (71%) that have already implemented automation are beginning to feel the benefits.
Automation also ensures talent is no longer wasted on manual tasks. 3 in 5 (60%) occupations could technically automate more than 30% of their tasks, highlighting the bevy of possibilities and offering a glimpse at the future of work.
When workers spend their time crunching numbers and organising spreadsheets, it’s easy for them to feel like a cog in a machine. With automation, however, they have more room to share their ideas and feel connected to the operations of the business.
With menial tasks taken out of their hands, employees are freed up to perform more complicated and creative jobs, the sorts of work that could never be automated. And by filling workers’ days with more of these engaging responsibilities, they’re able to feel like they have a real stake in the company’s success.
There is also research to suggest that workers can get as many as 100 hours a year back as a result of their manual tasks being automated, meaning everyone could get an extra two weeks of paid leave without productivity taking a hit.
Automating into the future
Already, over 80% of organisations self-report increased or continued investment into hyperautomation initiatives. So the appetite is there, now comes making it a reality.
Automation at scale is the dream, but the transition won’t happen overnight. In a perfect world, organisations will be able to assign all manual and tedious tasks to the machines, with employees only needing to provide oversight when necessary, but there’s a journey to get there.
That’s why it’s critical that CFOs collaborate closely with their CIOs. Only then can we realise a scenario where manual processes are eliminated entirely, and data across systems can be accessed and updated in real-time. But this will require leaders to understand each other’s needs and challenges so they can align their visions.
As organisations become more disparate, this partnership will only grow in importance. CIOs can empower the CFO and their teams to implement the automation initiatives best for them, with IT maintaining oversight to ensure compliance.
With the right structure and mindset, CFOs and the entire C-Suite can be encouraged to pursue digital transformation in a way that’s most effective for them and the entire organization.