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Why finance teams are dreading going back to the office

By: Annabel Sim at Compleat Software 

by uma

Are you waiting to go back to the office to chase that purchase order request?

If your employees are wanting and waiting for the return to office life just so they can chase down that purchase order request, there’s something seriously wrong.

Finance teams have had a hard time working remotely, as it’s easier to ignore constant emails when you’re not in the same room or even the same county as the colleague wondering what’s happened to their request for a new laptop.

And you can certainly understand their pain. Remote working means staff are even more demanding and less patient when it comes to ordering new equipment, including where they order it from.

Staff are frustrated as the days go by with no answer, with many looking forward to the return of office life purely so they can chase up their request.

As the ones who typically take the blame when orders are later or rejected, finance teams must be dreading a return to office life. But it doesn’t have to be like this.

How have finance teams coped?

Organisations have certainly been thrust into the spotlight with many standing by to see if they were able to make the transition seamlessly without detrimental impact on both their culture and their business.

One of the key things remote working has exposed is the vulnerability in manual invoice processing. Whilst the office may have closed their doors, invoices didn’t stop and continued to stream in through the letterboxes of closed premises – but were then left laying untouched and unprocessed. 

To try to rectify this, some procurement teams took turns visiting the office to collect invoices and despite their best efforts, this strategy is flawed.

It almost sounds like something from the dark ages… Staff physically having to wade in to collect paper invoices, open them, review and scan them. Not only is this process time consuming, it is incredibly drawn out and ineffective.

No wonder more than half (53%) of those working in the financial services industry say they are ‘dreading going back to the workplace.’

From surviving to thriving

Pre-pandemic teams may have relied upon ‘offline’ access to the information – printed reports and requests fluttered around desks, key figures scribbled on a whiteboard and the ability to openly holla queries across the room – in a remote world, such isn’t quite as simple.

But it can be.

Of all the areas that businesses automate, finance continues to lag far behind. The widespread use of spreadsheets or other outdated systems to perform accounting duties has put millions of businesses behind when it comes to automation. 

Many businesses often struggle when it comes to making the switch to automated solutions in their business. Almost one quarter of businesses (24%) admit they are not using electronic tools to manage what are largely repetitive, low-value processes within their finance teams.

Why is this? Because change is hard.

Because of that, many business leaders and CFOs alike continue to rely on manual processes for their finance departments rather than making the switch to automation. With the “we’ve always done it that way” mindset playing a role in this inability to move to automation.

All of these manual tasks can be significant drains on time and labour, and businesses that have woken up and smelt the automated coffee, have realised that it is the way to gain a competitive edge moving forward.

Benefits of Automation

Capturing early payment discounts and speeding up processes can be achieved whilst accounts payable work remotely. Accounts Payable Automation eliminates the need to physically go into the office, saving staff precious time.

While there is immediate gains to efficiency and productivity on their own, when leveraged as part of your digital procurement solution, automation can enhance your entire procurement function in a variety of ways, here are our top three:

  • Streamlined Workflows

Procurement automation takes human labour, and errors, out of your most common procurement processes. Automated approval workflows with built-in contingencies and reminders eliminate bottlenecks and expensive delays resulting in much more streamlined workflows.

  • Visibility

Automated procurement processes allow for total spend visibility as it tracks every transaction, removing maverick spend and reducing risk from fraud and theft while ensuring accurate cash flow calculations. Stakeholders can access information in real-time, from both desktop and mobile devices, and use advanced dashboards to transform raw data into actionable insights on demand for better financial reporting and planning.

  • Cost savings 

Simply by eliminating paper, manual processes, workflow redundancies, and the need for most or all human intervention, procurement automation generates substantial savings on day one. AI-assisted approval workflows add further savings by removing the need for human touch on spend within established parameters, and centralised data management shaves hours off of cycle times for invoices, purchase orders, contract management, and audits.

The Future of Finance

The finance industry is the perfect candidate to expand the usage of digital transformation.

Automating repetitive tasks such as manual data gathering and data entry, document authentication, and reporting can help businesses reduce errors while also freeing up employees for more strategic activities that focus more on growing the business.

Embracing automation technology can also increase revenue by eliminating unnecessary staff while helping to streamline production. 

Though adopting this new technology has been slower than expected, the pandemic has accelerated that process across multiple industries, as more business owners realise that using finance automation is essential for normal business operations.

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