Streamlining finance operations: The power of workflow automation

No organisation can succeed without sound financial management and a payroll operation that runs accurately and on time, but many are still relying on offline systems and manual processes to carry out these business-critical tasks.

Research shows that just 20% of finance professionals are using cloud-based software, suggesting that eight in 10 are not benefiting from the latest financial technology – including workflow automation. 

So it should come as no surprise that almost nine in 10 businesses admitted making payroll errors in 2022, with inaccuracies within their payroll operations the main contributing factor, costing both thousands of pounds and hundreds of hours to remediate.

We wrote recently about some of the reasons why companies don’t keep pace with technological change, especially within critical areas such as finance and payroll. 

But those who don’t adapt and adopt the latest in finance technology are falling behind, and quickly too. Before looking at the specific ways in which workflow automation can be utilised within the finance operation, let’s first establish some of the core benefits of adopting finance automation in the first place. 

What are the benefits of finance automation?

There are a whole host of benefits when it comes to adopting automation within your financial processes, including…

Freeing up critical resources

Finance specialists are (rightly) paid well, so you want to free up as much of their time as possible to focus on adding value, rather than getting bogged down in repetitive daily tasks. Automation, including some of the areas we’ll touch on shortly, can save hundreds of hours in time lost to menial tasks to instead focus on strategy, optimisation and delivery.

Creating processes that work and repeating them

Great processes take time to develop and, when humans are involved, aren’t always stuck to. Automation removes the human variable and, so long as the process was set up correctly in the first place, ensures consistent delivery that aligns with policy, internal expectations and legislation. 

Reducing errors

Mistakes are costly within finance, especially payroll where errors are costing companies an average of £150,000 each year. Automation improves accuracy and removes the chance for errors to occur – so long as the process being automated was correct to begin with. This is an area where some companies can get unstuck if they don’t update automated calculations, such as when statutory payments or tax rates change.

Increasing productivity and speed of delivery

One of the biggest frustrations with more antiquated payroll processes and platforms is how long it takes to deliver an outcome, be that updating a record or settling an invoice, through to pulling forecasts and financial reports. 

Automation within finance improves productivity as employees can do more in less time as the speed of delivery increases. For example, a report can be set up to pull and send each Monday morning without the need for an employee to crunch the latest data and send it on. 

Improving the flow of information 

No business can survive and thrive without sound, up-to-date financials. As noted above, most financial reports used to be compiled by hand and sent to whoever requested them. Automation improves the flow of information around an organisation in a timely manner that doesn’t cause a drag on internal resources. 

And with the most up-to-date financial data available, better strategic decision-making can take place, improving the chances of success and supporting longer-term profitability. 

Finance automation in action

So whilst we know some of the benefits of finance automation, what are the specific areas where you can put it into practice? 

They include: 

  • Expenses management: Manually approving every expense attributed to the business is time-consuming work. Creating automated workflows in this area means that expense claims can be automatically checked, filed and settled within set parameters, including a cost limit before a human check is required. 
  • Approvals: As with expenses, automated workflows within finance are great for speeding up approval processes when departments need to pay for something new without waiting for a busy finance team to check it if it falls within a set of acceptable criteria, such as cost level or type of request. 
  • Reporting: Reports can be created and set to run at a specific time, with the resultant information automatically sent to relevant parties. Automation in this area frees up more time for payroll professionals to be strategic with their report creations and analyse  what they show rather than losing hours compiling them in the first place. 
  • Payroll: We know how error-prone payroll can be, a key reason why many organisations now rely on outsourced payroll providers instead! Automation can support with calculating tax levels, holiday entitlements and benefits before human sign-off, reducing the chance that an error can occur.
  • Budgeting & forecasts: Automation is helping finance professionals to more easily budget and forecast by automatically spotting data trends and pulling data from various sources, such as expenses, hours billed and upcoming costs. Increasing the speed of information delivery also helps ensure business decision-makers are looking at the very latest information when planning. 
  • Tax obligations: Automation is beginning to shoulder some of the burden of filing taxes by automatically calculating what’s owed from all available data points. This is especially useful for large organisations operating across different tax zones. 
  • Invoicing: Automation can help to gather all the pertinent information required to create an invoice and calculate what’s owed, including costs and timesheets. Finance automation is also fantastic for chasing soon-due or past-due payments, as well as alerting if a customer is regularly missing payment deadlines. 

The future of finance automation is already here, with machine learning and artificial intelligence taking FinTech to another level with enhanced reporting, alert systems and forecasting. 

Even if your organisation already uses some form of automation within its finance and payroll processes, you may already be falling behind competitors who are marrying AI and automation to achieve even more in less time and with fewer people. 

That’s where Phase 3 can help…

Maximise your finance efficiency by adopting the latest software 

Most organisations recognise that technology is the way forward in improving their payroll processes, reducing errors and increasing productivity. It’s imperative to remain competitive within any sector so that the finance and payroll operations are accurate, timely and support future planning. 

If you’re like 60% of other CFOs planning to increase investments in automation, then Phase 3 can help ensure the success of those investments. 

We’re true specialists in helping organisations to source and adopt the best in finance and payroll software, without the time outlay and potential downtime that change in this area can bring. 

Our award-winning teams work to understand your existing procedures and suggest where improvements, such as automated workflows and AI adoption, can enhance your financial operation. We then scour the entire marketplace to find the ideal solution that not only fits perfectly in the here and now, but can accommodate your future plans too. 

Learn more about how Phase 3 can help your organisation reap the full benefits of finance automation here

Laura Lee image
Written by : Laura Lee

Laura’s role as Head of Marketing sees her continually looking for new opportunities to tell the world how great Phase 3 is.

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