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Gert Jan Wijman - Finance Digest │ Financial Literacy │ Financial Planning


By Gert-Jan Wijman, VP of EMEA at Celigo

As the months have ticked on, the likelihood of a recession across the UK and Europe has intensified, and financial services businesses need to be proactive if they are to stay afloat and weather the worst of the storm.

Successful businesses must always be looking forward, and the best solutions must not only address pressing issues but put companies in the best position to succeed when market conditions normalise.

To this end, embracing and investing in automation is the answer. It can allow savvy businesses to stay resilient amid current challenges and future proof themselves against obstacles down the line.

However, business processes cannot be automated effectively without integrating the applications that support them. This transformation needs to be driven by CFOs, who must work closely with the entire C-Suite to ensure their goals and ambitions for the business are in sync.

Why the cloud is essential to driving automation

By design, cloud applications allow for elasticity and greater agility. They decouple work from

location, which over the last two years in particular has resulted in an explosion of applications as hybrid working allowed employees to work from anywhere.

However, this shift has magnified integration challenges. While the cloud allows for information to be stored remotely, thus easing the burden on companies’ hardware and affording workers maximum accessibility from anywhere, programmes are often siloed.

Businesses need to integrate solutions together if they are to have the most pronounced impact. Cloud-based apps need to speak to each other to enable automation, like putting dominoes in a row. Until all gaps are filled and each fallen domino knocks another over, one cannot expect to get the most from automation.

In the finance sector this can be complex, especially with the proliferation of specialised finance applications to support quote to cash, Accounts Receivable (A/R) & Accounts Payable (A/P), cash management and the like, but that shouldn’t dissuade businesses. When done right, integration only simplifies processes and eases pain points, opening up the gateway to smooth automation.

The power of automation to turbocharge evolving workforces

Organisations have become more geographically dispersed – a trend that predates Covid-19 but was accelerated during the pandemic – and require technology that connects workers across countries, offices and homes.

Automation allows for this and much more. By ensuring processes communicate effectively, workers can all have access to the same information in real time. It radically challenges collaboration approaches, workflows and processes to make them faster, simpler and more agile while taking into account employees may work from anywhere.

This can help to clamp down on errors, an important consideration given that a disparate workforce can hinder oversight abilities. For instance, manual processes often lack version control, audit trails, consistency and scalability, increasing the risk of inaccurate or incomplete data infiltrating spreadsheets. 

This can make it impossible for business leaders to be confident in decisions made based on that data. However, when information across an organisation is updated automatically and in real-time, departments are empowered to deliver meaningful change.


Meaningful outcomes, short- and long-term

For CFOs, this means more accurate ledger reporting, timely financial reporting, improved compliance and as a result, a boost in revenue and profit. And their teams will be liberated to embrace more creative solutions to problems and execute more complex ideas.

It can also permanently reduce the cost of doing business. By taking menial tasks like data entry out of workers’ hands, they can be freed up to perform more high-value jobs without the company losing any productivity. Automation is sometimes portrayed as a job killer, when really it’s a job enhancer.

It may not be anything new, but automation’s importance has been underlined by the current

economic conditions; 57% of employers want to use automation to improve human performance and productivity and research shows that for 6 in 10 current occupations, over 30% are technically automatable.


The demand is there, and so is the opportunity, now it’s about making it a reality.


Democratising technology across the enterprise

In addition to being dispersed, organisations have also become more horizontal, allowing employees across the business to make decisions on how to run their specific department. While that helps make companies agile, it can cause problems for IT departments if not managed properly; information is no longer gate kept for the most senior of employees.

This requires a federated model where business users can automate their own processes with IT maintaining and overseeing, allowing those with most expertise to be in charge of automation.

There has never been a better time to democratise data and technology. By allowing more people to dictate the automation structure that works for their teams, departments can make the best decisions for themselves and further improve efficiency, with IT serving as a check and balance and only supporting when needed.

CFOs and CIOs must work together like never before. They must understand each other’s needs and be open to collaborating on solutions. The modern CFO needs a firm grip on the tech their teams need, and CIOs can no longer only preside over tech, instead embracing a more wide-reaching role as a leader.


How machine learning and AI can further streamline the workforce

Automation is just the first, albeit crucial, step but the ultimate goal is to automate at scale. Businesses should be striving to augment their automated processes with technology such as artificial intelligence to further reduce labour costs, shore up production

and free up the best talent to focus on what they do best.

Over 80% of businesses consistently self-report increased or continued investment into hyperautomation initiatives. The future of finance could look very different in the not-too-distant future, and the recession may accelerate this shift.

In order to automate at scale, technology must learn from past mistakes, make corrections and suggest ways to improve processes in real time. Soon it won’t be enough to simply automate, and the next challenge will be how to do it in the most effective and efficient way.

At scale, this looks like automating all processes at every location across the organisation, so the technology constantly learns what works and what doesn’t. 


An automated future isn’t an ‘if,’ but a ‘when,’ and the only question that remains is who will be left behind.


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