For finance teams, the last couple of years have felt like the old saying, “out of the frying pan, and into the fire.” First, the pandemic hit, and that brought a crisis of its own. Then, businesses and finance teams had to deal with the revolution of remote work that the pandemic ushered in.
And now, just as we might have hoped things were getting back to some kind of new normal, we have an inflation-fueled downturn to worry about. In this environment, CFOs and finance teams need to constantly streamline expenses to help their companies thrive.
There are multiple ways to approach this: slashing budgets, slashing headcount and making other cuts—those are the low hanging fruit. But those kinds of cuts have a price of their own. If you cut too deeply, your business will be left lacking in resources when new opportunities appear and the economic picture turns back to black.
Technology advancements are not a magic salve, but finance automation is one strategic way to fight back against the downturn. This approach, which leverages digital platforms to significantly streamline finance operations can present significant advantages. I’d like to highlight just three of them:
Automation saves time
Across industries, the primary benefit of automation is the time savings it can provide. For finance teams, this is most acutely felt during the monthly close process. Spend management software and other digital tools can help eliminate much of the manual entry and repetitive tasks monthly close demands.
Obviously, time savings = cost savings, but it goes deeper than that. Time saved through automation can be reinvested into other strategic tasks. This means your team can spend more resources on big picture issues such as driving efficiency, eliminating unnecessary expenses and looking for new opportunities.
Automation provides insight and visibility
Freeing up time to work on strategic tasks is great, but it’s not effective without understanding where there is room for improvement. Finance automation entails putting all of your spend into digital platforms that bring with them greater visibility and access. This means you can see your spend at a glance, and more easily search for areas to cut costs.
This transformation also enables new kinds of insights that weren’t easily available before. For example, it becomes much easier to see where there are duplicate or redundant expenses. This could entail identifying that you’re paying for too many licenses for a SaaS platform or that two separate departments are paying for different tools that could be streamlined into one account.
Automation allows for flexibility
One additional advantage of finance automation is the way it can unlock new ways to accomplish tasks that simply weren’t possible with analogue or more simplistic tools. Think about the way search changed the way people use email, or the power that formulas brought to spreadsheets over their physical counterparts.
This applies to finance teams as well. One example is enforcing expense policies. Previously, this was strictly a matter of communication and documentation. Policies could only be written down and it was incumbent on employees to follow those policies.
However, finance automation allows spending policies to be built into the means of making the payment itself. Whether this is a virtual card intended for a SaaS platform, or a solution for business travel, digital solutions can give finance teams the flexibility to control spending and keep it in line with company policy as it’s happening. Other solutions can bring the versatility of virtual cards into payments made in physical stores.
This is just a quick overview of some of the ways finance automation can help companies control spending and costs while maintaining or even improving their competitiveness. What’s more, making your business more efficient will not only help you navigate difficult economic times, it can also help you accelerate growth when things start to pick back up again.
But beyond those advantages for the business is the benefit to finance professionals as professionals. Finance automation can help us be more effective and deal with the larger issues companies face rather than be bogged down in minutiae and data entry.