Why you should be automating your financial close processes

Would you like to increase staff productivity by 96%? It’s time to drag the often archaic financial close process into the 21st Century. The quicker your financial books can be closed, the more time staff have to analyse KPIs and conduct critical audits. With the IT climate changing at a rapid pace, it is essential to stay ahead of the pack. Be a unicorn, not a dinosaur.

Persisting with the platitude “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”, could be obstructing your company’s ability to evolve. Often we do not realize the extent to which we tailor our workload around flawed systems. Perhaps because ‘that’s just the way it is’ and we mistrust change. Just because it hasn’t gone wrong, that doesn’t mean its speed and accuracy can’t be improved significantly.

In their recent study, Innovate or Perish, global research house Vanson Bourne outlined the critical need for keeping up with technological advances to stay competitive in today’s global marketplace. The study reveals 86% of UK business decision makers anticipate a decline in customers if they fail to adopt technological advances, while 84% forecast a reduction in revenue and 73% expect international operations to decline.

Automate to evolve

Financial close is an ideal starting point at which to begin the adoption of automation. The strategic application of enterprise automation has been proven to accelerate the financial close process. This is achieved by making the close itself more efficient, but also by cleaning up the whole accounting process leading up to close. Automation improves simplicity, transparency and uniformity.

To automate any process you must unravel it before putting it back together in the most efficient manner. Automation allows you to dispose of obstructive legacy processes to build a more coherent, streamlined system.

Automation gives the ability to orchestrate a variety of interdependent manual and automated processes in a single transparent workflow. It can translate data from various sources into universal script format. This makes things easier not only internally, but when reporting in compliance with financial controls. Automation ensures all accounting rules are obeyed and validations performed throughout the close process.

Error detection and data entry can be automated to eradicate human error and free up staff to use judgement where needed. The interaction of manual steps and IT can be temperamental and create bottlenecks that hold up the whole process.

Automating Genworth

Insurance provider Genworth used an automation solution that would eliminate manual intervention from a month-end close process consisting of over 1300 tasks. “As a result of [automation] we’ve achieved a 74% reduction in our monthly financial close process and a projected savings of 100 man-days per year,” said IT Production Operations Manager at Genworth, Paul Ryan.

Automation provided Genworth with intuitive design tools and reusable objects as well as the ability to manage complex dependencies. IT Ops no longer waits for the production run to discover system failures. Automated alerting ensures problems are rapidly identified and resolved, while auditing ensures the tracking and reporting of all processing activity.

Automating simple processes can be a vital first step, and can unlock a whole world of possibilities. “It was central that we changed everyone’s thinking about how we operated,” said Ryan. “Historically we thought manually but we had to begin relying more on automation.

A new era at ESB

Irish electricity giant ESB experienced an automation revolution across the board after initially introducing the software for simple workflow tasks. Their use of automation increased by 400% after they initially automated simple workload processes.

The process of “leavers, movers and joiners” within their own workforce involved around 40 separate tasks before it was converted into one reusable workflow with automation. An internal initiative produced another 270 ideas from the workforce as to how automation could be employed in their daily routines.

Rather than adding complication to a manual process that has stood the test of time, automation delineates a previously convoluted process. Adopt to adapt – the example you set could trigger your company’s own technological revolution to survive digital Darwinism.

Image source: Shutterstock

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