Doing More with Less: Increasing Productivity for Finance Departments By Anna King, CFO, Mesh Payments CFOs know that time is money, so it follows that finance teams should not only be concerned with cash flow but also team productivity. But with so many responsibilities and the need to adapt to ever-changing economic conditions, it can be challenging to carve out the time and resources to shift an entire team’s mentality. That’s where automation comes in. Technological advances have made it easy and painless for finance teams to refocus their attention from time-consuming manual tasks to being a valuable decision-making partner. So, here’s what you need to know about getting more done with less spending and fewer resources. Top Productivity Killers First, let’s go over the processes that are limiting productivity and preventing your team from focusing on high-value work. 1. Manual Tasks Using your finance team to perform manual tasks is time-consuming and increases the risk of errors. Plus, it uses up time that could be spent on more important tasks like analysis and forecasting. 2. Data Silos When information is stored across multiple platforms, it doesn’t provide visibility into your business as a whole. it requires additional time to collect and compare data, and transferring data between platforms manually increases the risk of human error. 3. Unstructured Workflow Without a structured and automated workflow, time is often mismanaged and communication is poor. For instance, team members waiting to be notified before they can start a task may lead to confusion and discord amongst the team. 4. Chasing Receipts and Reports Chasing down employees for missing receipts and expense reports doesn’t have to be the bane of your finance team’s existence anymore. It’s frustrating for both the finance team and employees to have multiple back-and-forth emails or calls about a simple expense, and it’s another huge time waster. Automation Helps Finance Teams Focus on High-Value Work Source: Andreessen Horowitz This pyramid shows how finance teams typically divide their time. However, notice that the most time is spent on the least valuable tasks. Ideally, this pyramid should be inverted — and automation is the key to making that happen. By automating time-consuming tasks like transacting, record keeping and reporting, finance teams have more time, energy and resources to devote to tasks that are far more valuable to the organization, like financial planning and strategic finance. So, where should you start implementing automation? Here are some suggestions that are good starting points. Accounting tasks like complex journal entries, reconciliations, and allocations can be automated, often right within your ERP. Financial planning and analysis tasks like building standard management reports and gathering and cleaning data can be automated. Accounts payable and receivable processes like expense approvals or invoice verification can be automated. And finally, payroll tasks like auditing logged hours against the schedule and calculating deductions can be easily automated with the right software. Once these tasks and others are automated, your finance team will have significantly more time to devote to high-value work. Overcoming Finance Automation Hesitancy Despite the obvious benefits of automation on productivity, it can take time to implement change and new technology within your organization. Here are some of the most common roadblocks to financial automation and tips to overcome them. Time Many organizations are understandably concerned about the time investment required to introduce automation. The length of time it takes to implement new software and processes should be considered, as should the time it will take to onboard and train employees with a new system. SaaS applications with automation features are generally quick to install, and selecting an option with an intuitive user interface can go a long way in reducing the amount of time it takes to train employees. While there is time spent on the change upfront, the time that will be saved by reducing manual tasks will add up and become worth it quickly. Fear of Change Decision-makers often fear change and may be intimidated by the prospect of introducing new technology. Opt for software that is user friendly and provide a demo to decision-makers early on, so they can see how easy it is to learn and start using the new platforms. Of course, demonstrating the ROI with real-life examples and data (i.e. money saved over time) is another good way to assuage fears of change. Too Many Options Before implementing any new processes or solutions, conduct a needs analysis for your team. Highlight specific problems you want to automate and then demo a few software options to see which best meet your needs. Once you’ve decided on software, start small so as to not overwhelm your team. You can always scale up to a more robust plan from a free trial or a starter plan, but there’s no sense in overloading your team with features they don’t need right off the bat. Integrations A modern tech stack should connect all of your business tools so that you are getting the most accurate and up-to-date information about your company. For example, when selecting automation software for tasks like expense management, look into how it integrates with your accounting software and your HRIS. Security and Compliance Ensure that any software provider that you provide company information to is SOC1 and SOC2 compliant. It’s also important to look for additional security features like SSO to ensure that your employees are not susceptible to data breaches. Be sure to notify employees of any potential security threats and train them on how to properly report suspicious activity whenever you implement new software. Cost Finally, consider the cost of introducing automation. Although this is often top-of-mind for executives, it shouldn’t be the most heavily-weighted factor in the decision-making process. Consider how much better the integrations and security features are for a subscription that charges more versus free software that might lack the same level of sophistication. Final Thoughts There’s no one-size-fits-all solution when it comes to increasing productivity with automation. Conduct a needs analysis for your business to ensure that you are eliminating the most time-consuming manual tasks and freeing up time for the tasks most important to your organization. Weigh factors like time and cost against product performance to ensure you get the best return on your investment. To learn more about modernizing your tech stack to increase finance team productivity, check out the recent webinar Doing More with Less: Increasing Productivity for Finance Teams. Get the latest blogs from Mesh by subscribing to our newsletter Manage Your Payments With Full Control & Visibility Get Started Anna King, CFO, Mesh Payments Anna King is the CFO of Mesh Payments. She has over a dozen years of experience utilizing data and analytics to achieve greater financial control and implement strategic initiatives. At Mesh Payments she puts that experience to use helping finance teams take control and gain key insights into their spend in real-time. Prior to Mesh, Anna was the long-time CFO for Transactis, a billing and payments processing company acquired by Mastercard.