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FSN’s 3 characteristics of an automation leader

May. 7 2021 by Leslie Cant, Product Marketing Director - CCH Tagetik

Performance Management

It wasn’t so long ago that we, along with analysts and finance experts, were trying to sell you on the automation dream. Would it be correct to say that 2020 forced most of us into some automation changes? 

As our home became our safe haven, our office, and our boardroom last year, the digital transformation of finance was quite literally the only way to keep our businesses afloat. And automation was the only way out of disruption 

And so, many of us were pushed into the significant transformations we’d pegged projects for future-us. We moved our businesses online. We turned to the cloud. And we automated the mission-critical processes needed to get us through the pandemic’s uncertainty.  

Today, as we look to a future of hybrid working, anywhere processes, and ever-evolving tech, the question on many minds is, how do we maintain our shiny, new digital transformation efforts?  

Yes, dear reader, there is more work to be done! (It’s ok — we’ve got you.) 

Luckily, benchmarks for maintaining transformation efforts have already been set. In recent report, FSN described the three characteristics of automation leaders and what they do to continue to lead the digital transformation pack.

1. Review automation annually 

[Automation leaders] were more likely to review automation opportunities annually, rather than let them languish for years or ignore them altogether.

FSN, The Future of Automation in the Finance Function, Global Survey 2020 

It’s essential to recognize that the automation journey is just that: a journey. It’s ongoing. It’s evolutionary. It is a road with no end.  

Just as Apple releases new iPhones and software upgrades, your financial management software will continue to add new features and new processes. As new versions will become the norm, older versions become outdated and unable to perform to the evolving standard.  

For these reasons, keeping on top of the technology is important to your finance function’s … function. We recommend that you review your technology on an annual basis in to:  

First, learn how technology has evolved. 

Second, to observe any process gaps in your current software. 

Third, to assess new opportunities for automation in your processes.

2. A holistic approach 

[Automation leaders] also took a holistic approach to investment in automation, ensuring the benefits were evenly distributed across the enterprise. This compares to the investment of companies that had not managed to transform through automation, which was largely focused on front-office systems, while the finance function muddled along with manual processes and inefficiencies. 

 Not all business processes are created equal — and performance management should be a top priority for organizations hoping to gain process efficiency and strategic insights. The pandemic has shown us that back-office automation is critically vital to surviving disruption.  

FSN found that finance automation leaders were less impacted across core processes, including budgeting, planning, and forecasting, which was a process hard hit in companies that didn’t have automation in place. 

3. An evolving three-step process  

Finally, automation leaders had their priorities straight. Standardization, the key precursor to automation, was a primary objective for all of them. And they didn’t shy away from artificial intelligence and machine learning, including them in the basket of automation technologies that can significantly improve process efficiencies and assist with the automation of manually intensive processes.

Standardization is step one, automation step two, artificial intelligence step three — but these steps shouldn’t require a new provider or even new software. To avoid data issues, multiple implementations, and costly systems patches, we recommend taking a platform approach and choosing a provider with a roadmap to facilitate your progress through all three steps.  

A platform approach inherently reduces data conflicts because performance data is kept in a central repository that inherently connects to all processes. Platforms also have a better propensity to update capabilities with new technology since it’s the command center that underpins all financial processes. Going from one step to the next requires a simple enhancement or upgrade — not a new implementation.  

Want to learn more about the state of automation? Read FSN’s The Future of Automation in the Finance Function, Global Survey 2020.

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