How Tech is changing the role of the Finance Department
Technology is changing all industries and organisations. Finance teams have multiple options when looking to adapt to technological change.
Finance Departments are always reflecting on how to be more efficient and how they might cut costs influenced by whatever their current priorities and business drivers are. Harnessing the latest technology is a key method to improve efficiencies and drive costs down.
According to a Gartner survey, 27% of enterprises asked are already planning to embrace the latest technology in the coming years with Cloud solutions, ERP projects, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) being the most popular areas for adoption.
What areas can technology improve and what is the benefit?
Regardless of the type of business which is looking to change, there will be processes within every Finance Department which are similar and where IT solutions can help.
One of the main areas for improvement within a Finance Department is transactional processing which often takes many man hours of resources.
Technology can help reduce data entry, the time it takes to process and lessen duplication of effort. Examples of where technology can help are:
- Integrations between systems to reduce double entry.
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to read data from electronic documents and input the data directly into a transactional system.
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate manual digital processes reducing the human error.
Reporting is another labor-intensive task for a Finance team. Deploying reporting solutions which have self-service options for end users can help reduce this workload.
Providing training to staff on the latest solutions, like Power BI, can empower the Finance team to produce business reports quicker.
Reporting tools like Power BI are becoming more AI-capable by providing analysis on reports. This analysis can highlight trends and anomalies for the business to act upon.
Workflow and approval systems can reduce paper, cut down the time and simplify the process involved in getting the required authorisation. Approval workflow solutions are often already part of current digital accounting systems in place but are frequently not properly utilised.
Leveraging technology can reduce the time people have to devote to mundane tasks leaving them free time to focus on providing better analysis of figures, reviewing strategy, exploring ideas and innovation, maximising profit and planning long-term financial goals.
What does it take to adopt these new technologies?
Within the Finance Department, a technical and analytical skill set will be required to map processes, implement and maintain new technology. In the initial phases, the skills required may come from other departments via collaborative approaches or alternatively via external partners.
Processes should be mapped to understand which are geared up for AI, ML or Automation. Process maps need to have enough detail to understand where manual intervention is required, or where non-digital activities are used which might need to be re-designed to be successfully automated.
Knowledge of all the report requests will help determine the best steps. If reports are being produced manually each month then there will be time savings to be made using more modern reporting tools. If reports are being requested from across the business, then self-serve reporting tools will be useful.
In the long term, once technologies have successfully been implemented, an analytical mindset will be needed across the Finance Department. There will be more time allotted to report analysis and planning.
It could be argued that the traditional entry-level tasks and jobs will no longer be required to the same extent, therefore leaders should further consider not only the technological changes but the aspirations, development and the journey of the individuals within their team.