Industry News

Financial Automation: Bridging the Gap

If you’re a financial leader, there are many things that are keeping you up at night: preventing fraud; staying on top of new audit and compliance requirements (hello GDPR!); keeping pace with new technologies, like RPA and Blockchain. But I bet I can guess
the number one priority on your list right now: automating your financial function.

Why do I feel so confident about this guess? Because,
according to a recent survey
of financial leaders around the globe, there is an alarming gap between how automated a financial department should be – and the reality of how automated it is.

According to the data
, 98% of respondents identify “increasing automation” as a priority in their organization, but only 9% say processes are fully automated.

The survey, which examined whether global finance leaders have the right process, tools and talent in place to meet the needs of their organization today and in the future, highlighted the uphill battle leaders are facing as they push to drive adoption of
automated solutions in their financial functions. Improving productivity and lowering costs are tied as the primary driving forces behind automating financial functions, but a whopping 71% of respondents say their financial processes are only somewhat automated
– leaving a huge amount of efficiency (and savings) yet to be realized.

Automated solutions are also in high demand across the organization: while 26% of leaders recognized order-to-cash processes as the most critical, every process was recognized as having a significant need for automation – including cash management (19%),
procure-to-pay (16%), record-to-report (16%), treasury (12%) and payments (11%). 

However, despite a hunger for automation and modernization, tech adoption is surprisingly slow. When asked which technologies financial teams are adopting to speed up modernization, the results are underwhelming: the vast majority of companies are either
considering or testing technologies like cloud, RPA, blockchain, mobile and AI – and very few have moved into full deployment (17% have full cloud deployments, and 12% have full mobile deployments – the other technologies don’t surpass 4%). Most surprising
is the high rate of companies not even considering adopting these technologies: a significant majority don’t have RPA (31%), Blockchain (53%) or AI (44%) on their radar.

This survey highlights what so many of us already know: the financial industry needs to speed up adoption of automated solutions to improve productivity and lower costs. Of course, this is easier said than done – modernizing processes is an incredibly intensive
undertaking, involving buy-in (and funding) from groups across the company – but, in order to evolve and become more efficient, financial organizations must recognize the necessity of advanced technologies and integrated solutions to drive their processes

Why is this question of automation so critical? Because financial leaders know that things are changing – and fast. When asked about the ways in which the financial department will be different in five years, 77% of respondents agree it will be more fully
digitized. This is compounded by the rising importance of the financial group, in the eyes of leadership: 87% of global financial leaders agree that their C-Suite sees the finance group as more important than they did five years ago…and 28% say drastically
more important.

This is a perfect storm for financial leaders…and a great opportunity. Financial leaders around the globe must ask themselves: how automated is my financial function? The answer, most likely, is not as automated as it should be.

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