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Finance automation: automate and create value in your finance team

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Hallam on how to set up an automation process for finances to improve the value of your business

There has been a huge focus on automation and digitization over the last few years. With the rise of machine learning and AI, business owners are looking at more and more areas within their business where they can utilize this technology.

If you’re not already automating your bookkeeping, then you need to.

Here are my top five areas that you can start automating today.

1) Accounts payable

Here are the areas of accounts payable you can start automating straight away:

  • Use a recurring bills function

  • Use an app such as hubdoc to collect all of your bills into your accounts system

  • Utilize the ‘email bill’ to your accounts system straight from your inbox

  • Integrate your PO system for seamless PO generation and bill matching

  • Get your employees to submit their expenses directly to your accounts package

Implementing some of these will save time and duplication of tasks and allow your workflow to be more efficient.

2) Accounts receivable

Automating our accounts receivable, in particular credit control, has been a huge time-saver.

Here are some of the accounts receivable functions that can be easily automated:

  • Debtor chasing

  • Integrated invoicing with your operating system

  • Setting up automatically emailed invoices direct to your customer (useful if you send regular invoices that are consistent amounts)

If you only do one of these, I absolutely recommend implementing a debtor-chasing app that integrates to your system. This will send automatic chasing emails from a template and at intervals set by you. While you will have to pay for one of these services, the time you will win back makes it worthwhile.

3) Banking

Importing your bank and credit card transactions is an easy time-saver.

Reconciliations are so much simpler as the transactions are imported daily, and this cuts down human error as they are automatically imported. They match off quickly with invoices and bills, which are in the system awaiting payment. The whole process is so much quicker and easier and you have better visibility of your balances on a daily basis. Most systems automatically remember where you coded similar transactions too, so are auto-populated.

4) Cash flow management

Are you still managing cash flow on Google sheets or even a spreadsheet? If so, stop now.

The best piece of automation we have implemented within the finance function without a doubt is our cash-flow management.

We use an external cloud-based cash flow tool (there are many available with a quick Google) and this integrates to our accounts software.

Some of the benefits of using an integrated cash flow tool include:

  • Real-time cash flow updates (due to integrations with accounts and automated daily banking reconciliations)

  • Planned to pay dates for bills and invoices are updated automatically as they get updated in the accounts system

  • Full visibility of when client/supplier invoices are due

  • Variance tracking of cash in and out

  • Scenario planning/cash flow modelling

  • Ability to add your forecasts in to give a realistic look of where cash will likely be at any given time in future months

5) Management accounts

My final recommendation for automation has to be your management accounts. This is not an easy area to automate and we have had to use multiple data specialists to start pulling this together, but the end result presents information in a more user-friendly way for all relevant stakeholders of the business in one place.

You can go from manually compiling a spreadsheet with data, leaving you open to error, to populating a more sophisticated version using imports from trial balances and data from other areas such as operations and sales.

We are now working towards an integrated dashboard, which populates a monthly report using data straight from our accounts package and from other data sources in the business.

This will give us a complete BI Dashboard, which can be tailored for different areas of the business in an easy-to-interpret way and that takes a fraction of the time to put together, meaning month-end reporting is quicker and more accurate. Who doesn’t want to save time during month end?

Final thoughts

Before we automated these areas, a huge amount of our time was taken up on basic bookkeeping and administration. Once we had automation processes in place, it enabled us time to focus more strategically on the business, and this is where the finance team is best utilized. We also have the added knowledge of knowing our data is more accurate due to the integration of systems with less manual entry.

If you can automate some of these areas you will most definitely allow your finance team more time to add real value to your business instead of being bogged down by mundane administrative tasks.

Julie Rodrrigues is finance manager at Hallam.

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