7-Step Roadmap to Piloting Finance Automation
A growing number of businesses are piloting finance automation for a wide range of reasons, from better cost controls to more streamlined accounting processes. With so many benefits to be gained, it’s no surprise that more and more CFOs are taking on the challenge of automating finance processes to make their jobs more efficient and strategic.
In this blog post, we’ll explore the criteria for evaluating which finance processes to automate, considerations when selecting a technology solution, as well as tips and tools for a successful pilot program when it comes to travel and expense management automation.
Table of Contents
What is finance automation, and why is it important for CFOs to consider?
Finance automation refers to the use of digital tools and software to automate routine financial tasks and processes, reducing the need for manual input and thus freeing up valuable time and resources. It encompasses a broad range of activities, including invoice processing, budget management, and expense tracking, to name a few.
This technology is particularly vital for CFOs as it not only boosts operational efficiency but also enhances accuracy, compliance, and real-time visibility into financial data. The automation of these tasks allows CFOs to shift their focus from mundane transactional activities to high-value strategic planning, thereby playing a pivotal role in driving business growth and innovation.
Setting Business Goals for Piloting Finance Automation
The first stop on your road to piloting finance automation is identifying the business goals that are motivating your finance team to automate. The most common motivation CFOs report when pursuing automation is gaining better efficiency. Other common goals include better data and visibility, cost savings, and risk mitigation.
Setting clear and measurable business goals for automation can significantly streamline the implementation process and provide a benchmark for evaluating the success and efficiency of the automated system.
Criteria for Evaluating Which Finance Processes to Automate
Your next stop is evaluating which finance processes are good candidates to automate. Some of the key criteria that should be used to evaluate finance processes include:
- The frequency at which they occur: Is your team reviewing and approving dozens of expense reports each month?
- The manual effort required to complete them: Is it extremely manual for your team to import monthly expenses into your general ledger or ERP?
- The benefits that could be gained from automating them: How much time could be saved if expense reports were automatically routed for approval and then automatically synced with your GL or ERP upon approval? And how much could that improve your data visibility?
- The costs associated with automation: How complex is this process to automate? Is there expense management software (like TravelBank) that could get you started out of the box? Will the cost savings of automating this task outweigh the costs associated with automation?
For your first pilot, you can simplify the automation process considerably by focusing on a small, manageable project to build confidence and momentum. Some of the most popular processes to trial automation include payroll, expense reporting and reimbursement, and accounts payable.
Considerations When Selecting a Technology Solution for Finance Automation
Once you’ve identified a finance process you’d like to automate in your pilot, it’s time to select a technology solution that will best meet your needs. There are many options on the market, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Some of the key considerations to keep in mind when selecting a technology solution for finance automation include:
- The type of system that best suits your needs: Are you looking to automate processes associated with expense management and reimbursement? It might be good to look for a solution that could grow with your automation needs and be able to help automate business travel management down the road, since travel is typically one of the largest expenses incurred by businesses.
- The integration capabilities of the system: Look for software that can integrate with the finance and accounting tools your team already knows and loves. This could include your general ledger, ERP, card-issuing bank, payroll system, and more.
- The cost and complexity of implementation: Weigh the cost of automation against potential cost savings, and remember that starting small can simplify implementation.
- The level of customization and support available: Look at what sort of support and documentation the technology solution could provide to help you complete your finance automation project.
As it turns out, CFOs report facing similar challenges with piloting finance automation. The most common ones? Connecting organizational systems and phasing out legacy systems. This may be because many automation projects involve using technology to connect multiple point solutions. If you’re hitting this wall, consider consolidating your FinTech stack to fewer, more comprehensive solutions.
Setting the Stage for a Successful Finance Automation Pilot Program
After you’ve selected a finance process to automate and the technology to get it done, it’s important to set aside time for some planning. This will set your pilot program up for success and ensure you have the results to justify further expansion of your finance automation down the road. Here are some tips for planning a successful pilot of finance automation:
- Identify key stakeholders and get their buy-in: This may include managers, HR, IT, accounting. Limiting your pilot program to a finance process that involves fewer stakeholders can simplify things considerably.
- Define clear goals and objectives for the pilot program: At this stage, your business goals should start translating into specific, measurable goals such as reducing invoice processing time or minimizing expense report errors. The more clear you can be now, the easier it will be to measure success later.
- Identify potential roadblocks and develop strategies to overcome them: The most common challenges reported by CFOs implementing automation include connecting organizational systems and phasing out legacy systems.
Launch Your Finance Automation Pilot Program
After you’ve done the planning, it’s time to implement your pilot finance automation program. If you’ve selected a technology solution that provides support, they may be able to execute most of this work for you or provide documentation to guide your team.
Some of the added values of implementing automation with a support specialist include:
- Proactive guidance in building the best program for your business needs
- Custom setup executed and tested by our team to minimize the lift on your end
- Thorough training to build confidence and expertise of the product
- Change management support for a successful rollout and increased product adoption
- Consistent follow up to ensure your implementation project is completed on schedule
For example, if you were launching a program to automate expense and travel management with TravelBank, our implementation team would walk you through the TravelBank product, help you set everything up including expense policies, travel policies, approval flows, and more, and then perform an end to end test of the selected configurations to ensure they meet the requirements of your program.
After setting everything up, our team would help you educate your employees on TravelBank through user training and product office hours to ensure a successful rollout and great product adoption.
How to Measure Success in Automating Finance Processes
To determine the success of your finance automation initiative, it is important to measure your return on investment (ROI). This involves calculating the cost savings and other benefits gained from automation and comparing them to the costs associated with implementing the technology solution. Some key metrics to consider when measuring ROI include:
- Increased productivity
- Reduced errors and improved accuracy
- Faster processing times
- Cost savings
Moving Forward with a Successful Pilot Program
Once you have completed a successful pilot program for automated finance processes, it is important to continue to fine-tune and improve the process for future success. The goal is to identify areas that are working well and areas that need improvement.
Here are some key tips to help you move forward:
- Solicit feedback from employees and stakeholders
- Leverage insights from data to identify opportunities where automation can be further optimized
- Continuously monitor and refine your automated processes to ensure ongoing success and efficiency
- Expand upon your successful automation programs to automate more adjacent finance processes
In summary, finance automation is a game-changer when it comes to streamlining financial processes and improving cost control. By carefully evaluating finance processes, selecting the right technology solution, and implementing effective pilot programs, CFOs can ensure that their finance automation initiatives are successful and ROI-positive.
We took notes for you! Get an overview of the The 7-Step Roadmap to Piloting Finance Automation.