Financial executives today are increasingly turning their attention from day to day business and maintaining a proper accounting of the past to stewarding their organizations into the future. One of the many tools at their disposal are technical innovations like intelligent process automation. But the big challenge, according to a recent survey of financial executives conducted by KPMG, is what to do with those tools and how to develop of recruit talent to maximize its impact.
KPMG’s Q3 2018 survey of North American finance executives dug into the top priorities and challenges faces by financial leadership as they are asked increasingly to focus on leading the transformation of their organizations into engines of insight and efficiency. Based on the results of the survey, gone are the days when CFOs are seen primarily as the leaders of back-office department whose primary goals are transactional processing and historical reporting. Instead of managing the day-to-day and providing an accurate account of the past, they are being asked to lean forward and focus on the future.
While this represents an evolution in the role of CFOs and other finance executives, the good news is that the other functions under their purview, including accounts payable and accounts receivable, are great early candidates for intelligent process automation.
One big takeaway from KPMG's 3Q 2018 Global Insights Pulse survey (which included 1,000 finance and accounting leaders) is that the majority of their firms are struggling to understand and capitalize on new technologies that can help to digitize and automate their operations. Whether it’s intelligent process automation, data analytics, block chain or anything else related to digital transformation, they understand that there are new innovations at their disposal, but they have a hard time getting traction and identifying the kind of use cases and opportunities that can put all that new technology to work.
As the survey results show, most financial leaders and their executive teams recognize the potential that technologies like intelligent process automation have to offer. They see a potential fit between these innovations and the kinds of challenges that they have been tasked with overcoming: fixing process inefficiencies, elevating talent and boosting skill sets, while reducing costs and increasing profits.
The challenge has been getting the rubber to meet the road. And for most companies surveyed, the pace and breadth of execution when it comes to process automation and improved data analysis is lagging. And all too often, overly ambitious expectations have worked against innovators, who are best served by setting achievable goals that can create a foundation for future innovation.
KPMG’s financial executive survey participants ranked their top priorities as follows:
When it comes to process automation, it is typically high volume, high velocity tasks where is generally a lot of common, well-defined steps that make the best candidates for transformation—especially if the tasks already involve lots of manual labor.
Nowhere is that more true than accounts payable vendor invoice processing. The process is usually well understood and well documented. The data involved (related to inbound invoices) can usually be validated against existing accounting system records to automatically identify and resolve errors and exceptions. And most (if not all) the manual data entry that takes place today can easily be automated, without the need for custom development or lots of heavy lifting from IT.
The result is that companies can go down a path towards process transformation without taking on huge costs or high risks. For a financial executive, it means leveraging the existing knowledge and skillsets of current employees to streamline a process that they know well.
Accounts payables invoice processing is just one example of a back office process that’s ripe for innovation.
In part two of this blog series, we’ll explore three common finance-related tasks that are great candidates for intelligent process automation—and explore how automating the back office leads to more timely data, more agile decision-making and better compliance and risk mitigation.
If you’re ready to learn more about how intelligent process automation can transform your finance organization into a driver for innovation, visit the Artsyl Web site and contact your Artsyl solution representative.