The Hackett Group defines smart automation as “the optimization of structured work, knowledge work, and interaction work through the adoption of emerging robotic process automation (RPA), smart data capture, conversational interfaces, cognitive automation, and agile orchestration technologies.”
For finance, this means applying new technologies to improve effectiveness, efficiency, and user/customer experience, while providing operational insights. Because digital transformation and innovation are disrupting the way businesses operate and increasing competition, smart automation solutions are an important part of the finance function’s future.
“Not long ago, companies thought cost management was about reducing expenses. The notion then evolved and was viewed as a way to manage costs while also driving growth. Now, cost management is advancing further. Business leaders see it as a strategic initiative that is part of a larger transformation process.”
Modern businesses’ focus on cost management has shifted from cost reduction to cost transformation. The cost-to-transform method is about managing cost structures along with revenue growth and changing product and services offerings, all while focusing on growth. In this “save to transform” mode that many businesses are in, technology is making a huge play.
Many finance leaders see their reporting practices as a monotonous task that requires many charts and spreadsheets that show several different versions of how the business is performing. A Deloitte survey reported that the majority of finance leaders spend almost half of their time creating and updating reports, and only 18% communicating results to the business. While some companies are using standardization to gain efficiency and insights quickly, many are applying point solutions to traditional reporting processes to help improve specific capabilities. A handful of digital technologies are providing modern businesses with a fully-automated end-to-end reporting process that makes real-time insights accessible.
Finance is maturing from a traditionally siloed department of number-crunchers to a strategic and respected adviser to the business. To get there, however, finance needs to leave their manual processes and spreadsheets behind and put modern technology to strategic use. According to recent Adaptive Insights research, 77% of CFOs report that they’ve delayed major business decisions because they lack access to timely data. In today’s fast paced business climate, success could depend on how hard finance leaders work to automate time-consuming manual tasks; move to cloud technologies; and employ better reporting, analytics, and dashboarding technologies. Business speed and agility can now make the difference for a business to be successful or not, and this shift is becoming more prevalent. Innovative finance teams are abandoning spreadsheets in favor of automated, modern solutions that are attainable and accessible.