The input of the finance team is a critical part of business growth. In a recent survey of 500 finance leaders we commissioned, 91% said the finance team play a vital role in helping achieve the business’s growth objectives and 79% said their financial insights are important for driving growth strategy.
What’s interesting is their sense about how the role of the finance team will develop in the future – 96% said the role will become ever more important in driving the company growth strategy.
But while it’s clear there’s a recognition of the importance of the finance team, there’s also a sense they are being held back.
We found 60% of the finance team’s time is taken up with day-to-day tasks. And the time the finance team spends dealing with the day-to-day isn’t being spent doing the more important task such as analysing the numbers and informing the growth plans of the business. Further, one in five respondents said they’d like more visibility into their finance data than they currently have.
The fact is that without proper maintenance and review, the systems that once served you well will hold you back as you grow. And if your systems are not fit for purpose, your finance team will be spending more time than necessary on day-to-day tasks. It also means they probably don’t have the visibility they need to provide the insights that are so valuable for forward planning.
What Finance Leaders Know They Need
The fact the finance team’s systems are inefficient and unproductive isn’t news to you and it wasn’t news to the finance leaders we surveyed either. The overwhelming majority (98%) said automation would benefit their organisation. The key benefits were seen as:
- Reducing manual errors (53%)
- Getting real-time insight into data (50%)
- Controlling costs (48%)
- Helping with faster payments (46%)
What’s more, 93% of respondents agree that connecting expense, travel and invoice processes is important to achieving their growth objectives.
When asked what an ideal automated expense, travel and invoice system would look like, the top answers were:
- Easy to use (55%)
- Provide real-time access to data (53%)
- Offer quick payments (50%)
What Stops Finance Teams from Automating?
Such systems are not a fantasy because the solutions already exist. By working with specialist providers such as SAP Concur, businesses can have access to expertise and technology tailored to their unique needs so they can:
- Rapidly increase efficiencies
- Reduce errors
- Free finance teams from low-value-add repetitive tasks
- Adhere to best practices
- Comply with relevant local and international regulations
And, ultimately, focus on the company’s strategic goals.
So, given all this, why aren’t more businesses investing in automation?
Looking at the big picture, respondents said a lack of funding for IT / finance infrastructure projects was a big barrier to growth (39%). When asked specifically about the reasons for not investing in automation, the biggest reasons were the investment in staff training (41%), and a lack of capacity in IT (32%).
Seize the Opportunity that Automation Offers
The reasons for not investing in automation may seem sound at first glance. But the fact is, many cloud-based solutions require little IT investment and can be implemented with minimal support. And most offer customisable employee prompts that reduce the need for training on policies and procedures.
Perhaps most importantly, automation has the ability to deliver rapid ROI.
Research shows the average SME sees annual savings of £22,000 after implementing an automated T&E solution and annual savings of £25,000 after implementing an invoice solution. They also save 500 hours a year per finance employee – that’s 500 hours that could be spent on strategy and planning for growth.