4 Ways to Embrace Automation: the Future of Finance

Published  3 MIN READ

Treasurers will need to upskill and be open to new ways of working as digitisation takes hold within their organisation. Matt Weston, Managing Director, Robert Half UK, offers his top tips for staying ahead of the curve.

The speed of service and one-click mentality that digitisation offers is transforming traditional industries. We are seeing robotic process automation support staff in the service centres of finance functions to take on more value-added roles in customer service, for example. IT teams are also introducing new tools so that business intelligence can be delivered as a service to different lines of the business.

As organisations undergo digital transformation, how will the finance department advance?

Prepare for the future

Technological advancements and the positive influence of automation are already evolving accounting and finance departments, enabling teams to adopt more valuable and fulfilling business roles.

However, this has not come without its challenges. The Finance 2020: closer than you think report highlights that accounting and finance professionals need to retrain and learn new approaches. In addition, our latest report, Digital transformation and the future of hiring has revealed that data analytics (42%), communication (40%), problem-solving (37%), strategic vision (34%), commercial/business acumen (33%) and IT skills (32%) will all become more important for the finance function going forward.

But what can organisations do to be ready for this change?

1. Lead by example

The annual Robert Half FTSE 100 CEO Tracker shows that in 2014, only three CEOs had a background in technology: today there are 11. Leaders at the top need to assume responsibility for the digitisation agenda. Likewise, treasury leaders should take the time to learn about new technologies and demonstrate to their teams the value of staying well informed around technology developments and digital opportunities.

2. Foster a culture of change

Increasingly organisations need leaders who foster a culture of change in response to automation so that employees are alert to how technology is impacting their industry and use it to competitive advantage. Like all other professionals, the finance team needs to be alert to how technology is changing traditional roles and the wider business. As we all know, treasury no longer operates in a silo. Adding strategic value means understanding how digitisation is impacting all flows across the business – financial and non-financial.

3. Embrace automation

Automation is changing traditional roles in finance and giving financial professionals an opportunity to expand their remit. Eventually, automation will work to complement innovation and bolster creativity, reducing the need for labour-intensive manual processing. Finance professionals who can use their commercial acumen to support operational decision-making will be well placed to push the digital agenda and help to improve productivity beyond the boundaries of finance. This will allow the use of technological developments, such as data analytics, to gain commercial insight and make evidence-based decisions, feeding back in to treasury’s growing role as a strategic business partner.

4. Invest in soft skills

Digital transformation means that insights will not just come from financial analysis but a combination of financial analysis and collaborative conversations. Increasingly, organisations will need finance professionals who engage people, ask the right questions and communicate change clearly. If companies focus on implementing training programmes tailored to these soft skills, they will be able to plug potential skill gaps and provide employees with the tools needed to succeed and flourish in the long term.

Smart employers recognise the opportunity to re-skill their workforce. Fifty-six percent of CFOs agree that automation in the finance department will drive more efficiencies and productivity, 47% believe it will support employees in more value-add work and 43% say it will support better decision-making.

Automation is a fundamental step towards creating a progressive workforce and bosses aren’t taking this lightly. Treasury leaders therefore need to open their minds to the possibilities of digitisation – and understand that digital transformation projects are no longer as cumbersome or expensive as they once were. In fact, the potential benefits far outweigh the average costs.