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Why it’s time for your business to reap a productivity dividend from financial automation

In the wake of COVID-19, Australian enterprises that aren’t heading down the automated accounting route are missing an opportunity to boost efficiency and cut costs.

Is your organisation turning to automation to drive productivity and growth, in the wake of last year’s COVID crisis?

You’re far from alone. Even before the pandemic struck, analysts were hailing automation – the introduction of automatic equipment to a manufacturing plant or process – as the means by which Australia could reignite innovation and productivity.

McKinsey and Company’s 2019 Australia’s Automation Opportunity report highlighted the benefits wholesale embrace of automation technology could deliver.

 ‘If we can embrace automation in the national interest, businesses can develop new services and products, boost productivity and create new and better-paying jobs, keeping employment levels high and creating the national wealth that can promote social inclusion’, the report noted.

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The unprecedented disruption and economic upheaval of last year has spurred many leaders to progress their plans. As a result, automation has latterly become one of the hottest software categories. So much so that the global market for Robotic Process Automation tools is expected to be worth around $A3.09 billion a year by 2024.

Weighing the benefits

Nowhere are the benefits of automation more tangible than in the finance and accounting department. Here, it can be used to eliminate or streamline many high volume, repetitive manual tasks and processes, such as transaction processing and accounts reconciliation.

Robotic process automation technology can pay for itself in less than a year, according to a study by Deloitte. That’s in line with other recent research which found organisations could halve the cost of running their finance departments by embracing automation and digitisation. Whether your enterprise is large or small, that represents a serious saving.

Automation has the added benefit of allowing businesses to maximise the value they obtain from their finance teams. Relieved of the monotonous work that formerly absorbed the best part of their working week, finance and accounting professionals can focus instead on supporting business leaders who are engaged in strategic activities, such as planning and analysis.

ALSO READ – Let’s Talk: Automation – To be or not to be for your business?

One of the ways they can do so is by furnishing those leaders with detailed, contemporaneous financial data. Automated ‘continuous’ accounting enables businesses to process transactions in real time and obtain an accurate picture of where the enterprise is at – now, rather than how it was travelling three months earlier. Having those up-to-the-minute insights can provide businesses with a critical competitive advantage, and in volatile and uncertain times, never more so.

Getting started

Successful adoption of finance automation starts with determining whether to focus on robotic process automation alone or end-to-end investment in financial close automation.

The former refers to the replication and automation of any repetitive manual process and is best suited to simple, discrete tasks which require limited human supervision.

The latter involves the wholesale implementation of purpose-built cloud accounting software platforms which replace rather than augment existing solutions and processes. Adopting financial close automation enables an organisation to create a single, centralised system of record which provides a window into the financial status quo.

It’s an option ideally suited to finance departments seeking a solution that can be implemented and managed with minimal assistance from ICT personnel. That makes it attractive to medium sized enterprises that can’t justify the expense of a sizeable, inhouse ICT division and want a solution that can be ‘owned and operated’ by the finance team.

Embracing a smarter, stronger future

The events of the past year have unleashed a wave of digital activity around the world and many Australian businesses have been prompted to accelerate their transformation plans. Embracing automation in the finance department can help your enterprise cut costs and make data-driven decisions, based on current information. In post-COVID Australia, businesses that lack this vital edge may struggle to keep pace with more forward focused competitors.

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Claudia Pirko

Claudia Pirko

Claudia Pirko is the Regional Vice President – Asia Pacific at BlackLine, a leading provider of cloud software that automates and controls financial close and accounting processes.

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