What does digital transformation mean for finance teams?

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We are entering a golden age for technology. More and more disruptive products and services are emerging and they are making a profound difference in every corner of the business world. Technologies like Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are fast becoming part of organisations’ digital transformation plans, but what about finance? Can advanced technology improve how finance teams do their jobs and, if so, how?

In short, the answer is a resounding ‘yes – in many ways’. In our experience at V1, many businesses are already on a digital transformation journey and those that are reluctant to make the jump into the golden age should look closely at the success stories already out there. Technology is changing how finance teams operate and it’s here to stay – but it needn’t be feared.

The reality is that, with sophisticated technologies, any organisation can improve efficiencies in its finance department. It is possible to move from manual paper driven processes to automated digital ones, and change processes that would often be difficult to achieve without technology. For example, it might be difficult to centralise Accounts Payable (AP) without technology due to geographical distances and potential delays in supplier payments but, with cognitive capture and intelligent workflow, concerns around geography and delays in payments are negated.

Fundamentally, finance departments can benefit from both manned and unmanned RPA – also referred to as automation – for tasks such as AP invoice processing and statement reconciliation. Automation gives teams more time to focus on higher value activities and, in many cases, leads to customers changing their requirements for finance team members to include higher skillset levels.

As with any digital transformation strategy though, businesses should not buy technology just for the sake of it or because of the media hype. The hundreds and thousands of articles advocating the latest products and solutions are all well and good, but one size does not fit all.

Instead, organisations should carefully assess their greatest process challenges across their finance teams and establish whether technology can take that pain away, and if by doing so it will deliver payback on the investment in a sensible time period. In addition, organisations should be aware that the introduction of technology can require process changes and therefore change management to ensure adoption by internal and external customers, suppliers and indeed the finance team themselves. Not doing this properly can result in deploying a solution that does not deliver the anticipated payback. And on a compliance level, which is critical for every business, finance teams need to consider legislation such as SOX, GDPR or HMRC requirements and this needs to be considered before implementing any digital transformation project that could make an impact.

What’s clear is that technology will increasingly make its way into the finance world. The so-called robots won’t steal jobs – rather, the roles of finance professionals will evolve for the better. Technology will automate the less skilled and repetitive tasks such as AP, credit control and accounts receivable, enabling finance teams to look to recruit members with a higher skill set level depending on their company objectives. For people working in more admin type roles today? They have a great opportunity to skill up for the future to ensure their skillsets are relevant to the evolving finance function. After all, it’s evolving anyway. We all just need to keep up – and technology is the driver.

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