5 Must-Have Features for a Finance Process Automation Platform that Does the Job
Updated: Dec 12, 2019
By: Siddharth Wadehra, QuickReach Head of Research
Automation is creeping its way into almost all aspects of businesses today. Understandably, with the maximum accuracy needed for key tasks like accounts reconciliation, journal entries, and preparing financial statements, the finance department is almost always one of the first departments where companies hope to bring the benefits of automation. As a matter of fact, a recent Capgemini report suggests that as early as 2020, the financial sector could add $512 billion to global revenues and could see a 10-25% increase in cost savings which could be a direct result of implementing automation. However, with so many platforms promising to magically drive your financial process blues away, how do you exactly choose the ones that are worth considering or even trying out?
While your IT department might already have a bucket list of the desirable features for a finance automation platform, this article hopes to give you a snapshot of some of the aspects of the system which you should never compromise.
With so much noise around the various platforms and with almost everyone promising you the moon, this article hopes to declutter this crowded space and bring to your notice some of the key features which your finance automation platform should have.
For a large number of companies, a majority of finance processes are still completed using spreadsheets and emails. A survey revealed that more than half of the executives used spreadsheets for financial processes such as budgeting and only about 6% of them were satisfied. While spreadsheets and emails are amazing tools by themselves, it must be noted that they have different purposes. Using them for finance processes could be error-prone, time-consuming, and often complex. Clearly, there is no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to automating finance processes.
We have compiled below five of the basic features which all systems must have and you should never compromise.
Let's carefully examine each must-have feature.
1. Dynamic data processing
One of the areas where a spreadsheet specifically fails is the fact that data is stationary in an Excel file unless there is an effort to manually move it somewhere. Instead of being process dependent, this traditional method relies heavily on human intervention and dropping up follow-ups to either move the data or pursue an approval, whatever the case may be.
Ideally, the system you choose for finance process automation should have features such as robotic process automation or RPA, or integration bots which would allow you to move data seamlessly where required. This would not just help save hours of non-value adding human effort, but also ensure that there are no manual errors in transferring data; guaranteeing complete accuracy and transparency.
A system can only be scalable if it allows room for flexibility. Ideally, the system should allow various stakeholders to collaborate in real-time. With triggers and defined rules, your finance process automation system should process automatic approvals. This would credibly reduce waiting time and dependency on a stakeholder who might be out of the office or perhaps on leave.
The flexibility in the finance process automation platform should allow the users to create and modify criteria such as these with ease. This would credibly reduce turnaround time and help set parts of the system on auto-pilot mode.
3. Easy roll out and versioning
What often ends up happening in case any new system is introduced is the steep learning curve. Stakeholders and members in the IT teams often have a hard time understanding the nuances of implementing the software. There are multiple training put in place which the team has to go through to be able to understand all the features in the system being rolled out. A key aspect of your finance process automation system should be easy to roll out and minimal learning curve.
Executives and managers often have too much on their plates and might not appreciate attending training to get on-board with a new system. Ensuring the tool is intuitive with preferably pre-built templates is a great way to ensure that you are able to seamlessly roll out digital processes and more importantly that all stakeholders in the company will be using it with ease.
4. Analytics and reporting
The ideal finance process automation system provides the executives with a bird’s-eye view of the insights to enable educated decision making. Needless to say, it would also help managers identify bottlenecks and be a catalyst in improving the health of the processes. Specifically, with the case in the finance department, you might want to compare the costs with data from the previous years such that you can avoid any discrepancies.
Hence, it is very important for your finance process automation platform to have a robust analytics and reporting platform which would help you churn out reports and insights that would enable a seamless decision-making process. Not only would this module provide you with actionable insights and remove bottlenecks, but also help build accountability among the associates.
5. Integration with other systems
Another aspect of a finance process automation platform that you might want to consider is its ability to integrate with the company’s existing tools and any other third-party applications which you currently use or intend to use in the near future.
It is extremely important for the automation system to be integration-ready to be able to connect with the company’s existing ERPs or legacy system. More often than not, any new piece of software the company introduces ends up working in isolation and thus has limited impact on enhancing productivity. Ensuring that your finance automation system is flexible to seamlessly integrate with your existing systems is a great way to guarantee that the proposed system is working optimally to bring the benefits it has the potential for.
Moving beyond spreadsheets the QuickReach way
Spreadsheets and emails are not built for finance processes. They often arm the associates with incomplete and inaccurate information and substantial man-hours are lost in performing nonvalue adding tasks. An automation system which has all of the features listed above will not just help eliminate these pitfalls but also speed up processes and direct the department towards growth.
There are innumerable studies that point out the importance of automation in finance processes. An EY study suggests that 65% of surveyed respondents believed that automating finance processes would be a significant priority in the near future.
Intelligent process automation platforms like QuickReach empower you with all that you need, including customer self-service, to navigate not only the complex world of finance processes but the busy realms of sales, finance, HR, and IT as well.