Finance leaders have a heightened awareness to focus on survival within the current market climate. Here’s how they can thrive.
A huge challenge for finance leaders right now is striking the right balance between addressing your immediate needs and preparing for future success. Many companies are putting cost saving initiatives in place to help offset the financial impact of the pandemic, but not properly investing for the future can limit your growth potential.
While it may seem counterintuitive to increase your investment in technology right now, that’s exactly what experts suggest in order to mitigate the specific challenges brought on by the current market climate.
Finance and accounting challenges post-pandemic
While no single department has been immune to the pandemic’s impact, finance leaders have a heightened awareness of the need to focus on survival.
It’s still too soon to understand the full economic impact of the coronavirus on the global economy. What we do know is that all businesses are impacted in some way, and the fallout will continue as it will take some time for pre-pandemic activity to return. Companies are preparing for the worst by cutting costs wherever possible.
Many businesses were forced to furlough or lay off employees over the last six months, leaving them with a short-staffed finance and accounting team responsible for a budget overhaul. And in many parts of the U.S. as well as globally, employees are still working remotely as a protective measure against the coronavirus. For finance teams in particular, remote work is outside of the norm.
The economic environment that exists today makes planning a challenge. For a department that is rewarded for accurate forecasting, this is an issue. Executives rely on finance to set appropriate targets and minimize the financial damage of a downturn, and today that is difficult to deliver.
Future-proofing finance with automation technology
Creating a system of smart workflows with automation technology can help address all three of these challenges by elevating the entire finance function in two significant ways.
First, Deloitte predicts that a shift from operational to strategic will take place within finance. Much of the operational work that takes place in finance is manual and time-consuming, keeping employees from strategic projects that can add more value back to the business. This is especially true given the all-hands-on-deck nature of business in response to COVID.
The second trend, this one expected by both Deloitte and Accenture, is the move to real-time finance and accounting. Access to data at the point of decision-making can give finance teams better insight into how best to move forward.
How can businesses adopt a more strategic, data-infused finance strategy while still addressing today’s challenges keeping finance leaders up at night? The answer is automation technology.
In a survey from PwC, one in five CFOs said their tech investments, like automation, will enable or accelerate cost reduction efforts. One Catalytic customer automated 90% of the manual work associated with its invoice intake process, saving $125,000 during the initial project, with $1.5 million of potential savings once all invoice processes are automated.
But what about now, during a pandemic? Investing in technology is still critical, perhaps even more so during periods of crisis, according to KPMG’s Steve Bates. He shared the following with CIO: “Companies that continue to invest in their digital strategy, while balancing short-term efforts with long-term measures, will emerge from this pandemic more competitive.”
To balance new investments with cost savings initiatives, consider ROI as a top measure of whether or not to implement certain tools. PwC suggests applying an agile methodology for deployments in order to demonstrate value along the way.
Do more, and more strategically, with fewer resources.
Even though many companies have leaner finance teams due to employee cuts, automation technology can ensure that productivity (and output) continue to increase. A main driver of automation efforts is to free up employees for more value-added work, and this benefit is even more important during a crisis.
Finance and accounting processes are particularly well suited for automation. Consider billing, payments, and invoice processes. They are often redundant, data heavy, and cyclical in nature, leading to mundane experiences and greater risk for human error. By automating this work, finance employees can spend more time partnering across the organization to better budget and forecast needs.
Increase business agility.
The companies that come out on top after a crisis are those able to pivot and change course quickly. With these uncertain times expected to continue, agility is top of mind for executives who need to keep their businesses running.
Agility requires data.
Having access to real-time reporting helps eliminate the blind spots that hold teams back. Automation technology can integrate across your finance tech stack, enabling full visibility and operational intelligence, both of which are necessary to navigate through the disruption ahead.
The businesses that embrace automation technology will be the ones to best position themselves to mitigate the impacts of the pandemic and gain a competitive advantage.