How to Use RPA to Stay on the Cutting Edge of Finance

As the amount of repetitive, rules-driven labor in financial services roles grows, so does the need for Robotic Process Automation (RPA). This technology has grown by leaps and bounds over the past few years, and is now reaching an inflection point. With more potential applications and use cases than ever before, RPA is shaping up to become the next great innovation reshaping finance.

Jason Lin, Chief Financial Officer at Centage, discussed these novel dynamics in the financial services field during our Spotlight on Finance:  “The Cutting Edge in Finance Automation.” Over 45 minutes, the discussion explored how finance teams deal with a plethora of challenges, which finance automation can alleviate.

Moving towards Innovative Systems

If you’re not already, now is the time to invest in the correct mix of digital technology to ensure that your systems are future-ready. It is far too often the case that finance professionals get tied down by “the way things have always been done.” But, expectations and environments shift, so businesses must innovate or perish. According to Jason Li, “You cannot realistically expect to sustain 20-year-old processes, in the context of the increased expectations associated with current finance teams.”

If your organization has not yet used the newest RPA-based software and workflow automation, it’s time to consider the drawbacks and possible missed opportunities that can result. One example of the potential savings comes from the Finance and Management Institute, who estimate that automation may save a business up to 80% on processing individual invoices.

Uncovering the priorities of Financial Executives

As discussed in Centage’s enlightening webinar on “People, Processes & Technologies: Defining the Tools Required for Best-in-Class FP&A”, there are multiple high-level priorities when it comes to revolutionizing your finance capabilities. These include:

  • Improving forecasting accuracy, especially for use during periods of uncertainty — using data to understand the key drivers of your business will empower you to make forecasts under the most difficult circumstances. Automation may exploit data already stored in the company technology infrastructure when the process is thoroughly mapped from the start (such as TMS systems, ERP systems, bank systems, etc.).
  • Better understanding the source, accuracy, validity, and timeliness of your company’s data — without understanding how your data is generated, it’s difficult to interpret or audit.
  • Increasing confidence in the data — in order for decision makers to feel confident enough to rely on forecasts, your data must be unimpeachable. One wrong move and your credibility may never recover.
  • Future-proofing your finance capabilities — finance teams often become a chokepoint for the rest of the organization. Since they are not directly involved in generating revenue, they are often short-staffed. Reliance on legacy systems like spreadsheets and paper documentation further compounds the issue. In order to generate actionable insights and forecasts, these challenges must first be addressed.

Adjusting to Novel Expectations through Automation

The last few years have seen significant technological advancements for sales and marketing. As leader in finance, your team is expected to keep pace with these advancements, but often lack the tools to do so. Many finance teams are still relying on endless Excel spreadsheets, and passive data analysis as numbers get sent from other departments. The lopsided adoption of technology across departments has led to a proliferation of SaaS applications and SaaS silos that obscure data and lead it to become inconsistent and disorganized.

“You cannot realistically expect to sustain 20-year-old processes, in the context of the increased expectations associated with current finance teams.”

Jason Li, CFO of Centage

Accuracy, responsibility, and timelessness represent the core principles Centage adheres to, enabling finance teams worldwide to achieve their purposes. While approximately 80% of finance executives have deployed or intend to use RPA, implementing innovative digital technologies and cloud computing remains difficult. However, the future leaders in the industry will be those that successfully align people and technology.

One Viable Solution – Automated Financial Forecasting

Automated financial forecasting enables company executives to function efficiently in challenging business contexts by putting data, reporting, and analytics at their fingertips. For CFOs, this implies a shorter time to generate insights and make decisions, resulting  in increased profits, cost savings, and greater control over financial outcomes. Salesforce reveals that 74% of executives report that automation has enabled their staff to save between 11 and 30% of the time they previously spent on manual tasks — RPA can do the same for you.

Final Thoughts

As the old (and very true) adage goes, “time is money.” Usually, this refers to time spent accomplishing a task. However, it’s not the only way that time equals money. Businesses using automated forecasting and RPA technologies save time by eliminating manual processes, and can interpret data faster than ever before. Using these cutting edge tools leads  to more responsive insights and more timely decisions. Being able to act on your data more quickly — and more accurately — than your competition will become a major asset to your company, and ultimately, the bottom line.

If you’re serious about improving our Finance tech stack, check out our On-Demand session to learn more about The Cutting Edge in Finance Automation.

Photo by Scott Graham on Unsplash

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