6 Practical Tips to Help You Pilot Finance Automation Projects

The finance function wants to transform itself with automation. The most recent U.S. Bank CFO Insights Report found that deploying automation within the finance function has become a top priority for CFOs. But despite their value, these projects are hampered by their sweeping scale and complexity.

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So how to get started and gain at least some efficiency on the finance team?  Successful automation of finance processes doesn’t have to be complex, but it should be strategic. Here are six practical tips and considerations on how to pilot finance automation:

Identify Opportunities for “Only Finance” Automation

On your finance automation pilot, focus on what you can control.  Automating tasks or processes that are wholly owned by the finance team are a much easier lift.

Are there tasks that your team dreads doing on a monthly basis? What tedious processes are taking hours of time? If approving expense reports or processing reimbursements turns into a fire drill every month as your team races to reconcile, that’s a perfect opportunity for automation.

Get Started With a Basic Model

The implementation phase can launch your initiative forward or really drag it down. Keep initial implementations simple. For example, if you are adopting a travel and expense platform to automate spend management, ask if they have policy recommendations or a pre-populated reporting dashboard that you can roll out with.

Layer on Customizations

As tempting as it is to plan for every “what if” scenario in the beginning, it’s a lot easier to identify gaps and layer on customizations after your initial implementation is complete. Get feedback from your team, and start to address the nuances that will take your automated task from basic to bespoke.

Measure Improvements

Look at cost savings and time saved. Is your team freed up to spend 10 more hours a month on more strategic initiatives? If you adopt software to help you automate your first few tasks and it can measure improvements for you, even better.

Find New Stakeholders

Ultimately finance is a cross-functional responsibility. Consider how ROI of your automation could be increased by pulling in additional stakeholders.

For example, managers field expense reports before they land with accounting and then finance. Automation that could flag overspend earlier in the process (or even prevent it!) would provide incredible fallback benefits to the finance team. The success of finance automation depends on enterprise-wide digital transformation.

Expand Your Finance Automation Pilot

After successfully launching small automations with your finance automation pilot, and tracking/achieving ROI, there will be more appetite for larger projects.  Automated expense management approval flows may lead you to automate reimbursement processing, or dynamic budgeting may reveal that it’s time to adopt an intelligent reporting tool.