Use automation to move businesses forward
The shift to remote working has prompted finance and accounting teams to take a closer look at the tools they use and how their systems, processes and controls are configured. While some companies are further along this path than others, all have had to review their processes and assess their technology stacks.
“The past 18+ months have been a very difficult change for businesses,” Kelly Hicks, Global Controller at Air-base, said PYMNTS. “I think the companies that were able to adapt the fastest already had a lot of great technology and tools to help them do it, or they were able to move in that direction quickly.”
Before the pandemic, some companies had been able to manage with manual processes that were time consuming and less than ideal, but the shift to a remote world forced them to revisit those processes – because, for example, they could no longer obtain check. or invoice sent to an office to be scanned and processed.
“I’ve always told my teams that what we do today is not what we have to do a year from now,” Hicks said. “We are always questioning the status quo and rethinking these processes. Often these changes are motivated by the adoption of new technologies. “
Use new technologies to generate insight
The field of expense management, for example, has changed a lot in recent years. Previously, teams had to use stand-alone platforms to manage non-salary expenses, including a bill payment processor, expense reimbursement tool, and a corporate card platform. It was for a single American entity; additional platforms were needed at the international level.
Such a setup was difficult for the finance and accounting team as they had to manage all the processes, maintenance, and integrations into their enterprise resource planning (ERP) systems. This is especially true for teams in small and medium-sized businesses, which are often understaffed.
“Over the past five to ten years, we’ve seen technology change many financial and accounting processes at all levels,” Hicks said. “There are new stock-based composition tools, or commission calculators, or sales tax solutions, or budgeting and planning. There really is a whole new toolkit that teams can use to not only help us calculate the numbers and close the books, but to really understand and help better understand those numbers.
Add more value to the organization
That’s a key benefit of the new technology, Hicks said: It can allow controllers to spend more time working in areas that move the business forward. Data shows that controllers spend 70% of their time closing the books and managing compliance. When automation and efficiency are built into the process, this percentage can be reduced.
“You spend less time calculating the numbers and then you can spend more time analyzing what those numbers really mean,” Hicks said. “This allows finance and accounting teams to add more value to the organization and have more exciting careers.”
Going forward, Hicks expects this trend to continue, with new tools reducing the need for manual effort and leaving more time for analysis and review of the numbers. For controllers, having a continuous close and getting numbers throughout a period, rather than just at the end, will be increasingly important. On the financial side too, there will be a shift towards planning, forecasting and analysis.
“Companies are no longer just making annual plans and reviewing them once a year,” Hicks said. “They look at agile plans and planning processes to scale at the same rate as the business evolves and adapt to this changing environment. “