Time is always at a premium for the finance team. You’re always dashing from one thing to the next. There’s never enough time to take a proper step back to look at what’s happening, what’s working well and what isn’t.
In practice, what this means is that many finance teams continue using paper-based processes that are no longer fit-for-purpose. Often, there’s an awareness that the process is problematic and that automation would help – 68% of firms consider using technology to improve efficiency and productivity to be an important strategic objective. However, there are always bigger problems elsewhere that need to addressed first. It’s also likely that the scale of the problem has never been quantified, so no one is quite sure how productivity, agility or responsiveness are being affected.
Popular Tipping Points for Automation
In normal times, the tipping point that galvanises you into switching to automation is often something small.
- It might be the sales team expanding by a couple of people. For the finance team, the extra two sets of expenses each month are the ones that reveal that a paper-based expense process takes up too much time, especially as there isn’t the budget to expand the finance team at the same time.
- Maybe you have a new member of staff joining. They’d previously been at a bigger company and are shocked by what they see as the archaic invoice system that’s in place.
- Perhaps you need to get better visibility of costs to prepare the business for expansion or consolidation.
- It might be a member of staff wanting to work flexibly from home. This is, of course, the situation that many businesses are finding themselves in at the moment, only on a much larger scale.
All these points trigger the realisation that paper-based processes are past their sell-by date.
But automation doesn’t just address the crisis that caused the initial tipping point. It also adds value in three areas that all businesses focus on no matter what: creating efficient and productive teams, getting visibility into spending and gaining control of costs.
Creating Efficient and Productive Teams
Sixty percent of financial decision makers agree that the time taken away from strategic work was a key challenge prior to automation. It’s certainly true that automation creates more time – the average small to medium-sized business saves 530 hours a year per finance employee. This is a significant amount of time freed up to spend on more important things. It’s also worth noting that this, in turn, boosts employee satisfaction, which in itself strengthens the business.
Getting Visibility into Spending
Visibility is a critical area for finance. Yet 81% of finance leaders say they don’t have complete visibility over travel, expense and invoice spend. And 86% of finance leaders agree that their travel, expense and invoice systems could be better connected for a single view of spend.
This visibility is what automation gives you – 59% of UK SMBs highlighted that better visibility was a top benefit after automating. Emma Cowan is Management Accountant at Sabio, which recently implemented Concur solutions. She commented: “The systems are giving us much better day-to-day visibility, which has helped us monitor our costs and what we bill to clients.”
Gaining Control of Costs
Nearly 70% of businesses say being able to analyse spend trends and spot opportunities for cost reduction is a critical goal. That’s exactly what automation delivers.
Luke Braham is Head of Technology Operations at RED, which uses the SAP Concur platform. He recalled: “I was able to pull up a report that told me we spent £67,000 on taxis in 2017. I was therefore able to suggest that if we moved to Uber Business we’d have predicted yearly savings of £20,000.”
On average, businesses using Concur Travel and Concur Expense save £31,000 a year. Businesses using Concur Invoice save £33,000 a year.
Three Benefits That Never Go Out of Fashion
Creating efficient and productive teams, getting visibility into spending and gaining control of costs help you build a business that’s agile, flexible and responsive. It’s why automation is an important shift, no matter what the economic climate.