By Daniel Oh

The roles of CFOs and controllers have been greatly transformed in recent years with the increased demand for accounting automation and the need to adapt to change. Today, their responsibilities could include corporate planning, strategy, and connecting the dots between financial and operational data to drive business growth.

With the power of analytics and process automation, CFOs and controllers can create better collaboration, enable data-driven decision making and real-time access to financial data, and gain deeper visibility into transactions, cost, and revenue on demand. In fact, according to our recent The Redefined CFO study, CFOs recognize that artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning (ML), and automation will be crucial technologies for organizations to integrate into the finance function going forward.

Among the vast range of capabilities that can be achieved through accounting automation, there are three main areas that are ripe for improvement in this field of technology — let’s take a closer look at those here.

Collaboration is key
Fostering better collaboration can be key to the role of more effective CFOs and controllers.

With automation powering cloud-based accounting software, finance leaders can bring vital information from any device at any time right into the meeting room with them, while facilitating collaboration through digital communication channels with context-specific chat and dialog capabilities.

By leveraging these cloud-based tools, they can also bring those same conversations into a dashboard or reporting screen and give greater context to the data and information being discussed.

These capabilities can enable CFOs to do anything from viewing and reconciling journal entries to reviewing invoices, planning, and rolling out projects with their teams in real-time.

This creates a foundation to build internal relationships which strengthen the level of trust in the organization through a single source of data truth and asynchronous communication, which is even more important with remote work dividing workforces and assets.

Create savings and increase efficiency
Often, we think of savings in terms of dollar amounts, but CFOs and controllers are uniquely positioned to create time savings, with operational efficiency being a key performance metric.

For example, CFOs and controllers must be able to provide accurate information to executive management teams and company directors in a timely fashion, which can be enabled through accounting automation.

At one point in time, it would take days (or even weeks) to manually pull data from past transactions and organize it into spreadsheets that were often riddled with errors. With accounting automation capabilities at their fingertips, innovative finance leaders can replace cumbersome, outdated processes with forward-thinking analytics that can save time when consolidating and managing data.

In fact, the Sage ‘Close The Books Survey’ showed that professionals who automate more than 50 percent of their journal entries close those books 20 percent faster!

Enable strategic thinking
The strategic mission of accounting and finance teams is to evolve everyday as technology advances. Today, they are tasked with not only reviewing past transactions but to carry out data-driven decision making and planning; something that can be achieved by employing cloud accounting software to optimize workflows and build an effective strategy for future growth.

With access to real-time data and analytics readily available through dashboards and reports right at their fingertips, CFOs and controllers can drive strategic initiatives across the entire organization and plan more accurately for year-end audits.

By empowering finance teams to automate repetitive tasks like purchase ordering workflows, vendor payments, and bank reconciliations, accounting automation software allows finance departments to create massive time savings, boost visibility for staff and leaders, and free themselves up to focus on value-added activities that directly impact the bottom line.

Finance teams no longer need to be preoccupied with repetitive tasks and can instead pivot to developing short and long-term strategies for their organization’s financial health.

The future of accounting automation
Traditional financial processes are a thing of the past; the future of finance now lies in accounting automation to empower and enhance the existing capabilities of finance teams.

Forward-thinking finance leaders who wish to modernize their operations should research the solutions available and focus on the bigger picture — executing a winning strategy that will position their organization for lasting success.

Daniel Oh is Country Manager (interim) of Sage Canada.

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