Build your future in 2017: tech and trends

Robotic Process Automation

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New technology can drive further automation of business processes, building a more successful future for your business, according to Mario Spanicciati.

Throughout 2016, some of the greatest innovation in business happened at the intersection of finance and technology. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was introduced into the modern business world, along with always advancing cloud technology and process automation tools. The key to staying ahead of the curve is to embrace the evolutionary benefits and create a culture of continuous improvement that empowers your employees.

Here are the tech and trends that will help build the future of your firm in 2017, and unleash exceptional accountants in the process.

Future-proof your firm

In today’s fast-paced business environment, achieving success means constantly improving and evolving to meet new demands, regulations, reporting requirements, and organisational complexity.  Embracing new technologies is the most effective way to meet all of these challenges, and prepare your teams with a future-proof finance strategy that is designed for change.

Building this strategy begins with implementing technology to automate the most time-consuming processes. This takes care of your people, releasing them from rote, manual tasks to provide the level of analysis that drew them into this profession in the first place. It also enables continual process improvement, which can create a cyclical approach that serves your customers even better as a result, and in turn, grows your business.

Embrace RPA

The Power of Robotic Process Automation is not in replacing people with robots, but in unleashing them to focus on strategic operations. The critical and complex nuances of higher level accounting can only be understood by human judgement, which will sharpen as accountants become less and less bogged down by mind-numbing, mundane tasks.

RPA evolves the role of the accountant, and augments their effectiveness through automation. It is a progressive, positive, and necessary shift that is freeing accounting and finance professionals to focus on the greatest value they can provide to their organisation.

Use tools to attract and retain top talent

Randstad’s 2016 Workplace Trends Guide reports that 34 per cent  of accounting and finance professionals plan to look for a new job this year. Turnover significantly effects the efficiency, motivation, and morale of a team, but so does outdated manual processes and tedious tasks. When nothing about their job actually uses their well-honed skills in analysis, accountants can feel blocked from helping their business think more strategically.

Forward-thinking companies that are embracing process automation tools will attract the best and the brightest from those that are content with legacy technology and “the way it’s always been done”. They will empower their accountants to utilise their strengths and know their contributions are valued, which results in retention, and that creates competitive advantage. Becoming an organisation that “gets it” could be your most effective recruiting and retention strategy for 2017.

Actively listen for process improvement

Your accountants spend their work week entrenched in company processes and procedures, and are the best resource for finding out what’s working and what isn’t. By providing the opportunity to generate solutions and implement them, you will not only receive valuable insight and information, but they could get the rest of their team on board. Change is often not well-received, even when it’s blatantly necessary, and empowering a change agent can be highly effective. Additionally, elevating your accountants to this level will make them feel valued, engaged, and invested.

It is equally important to listen to your customers just as closely and even more often. Your customers are the experts on what they need to continue to drive value in their organisation, and creating the products and solutions that meet their unique needs can result in highly loyal, lifelong relationships.

Embrace the limitless power of cloud technology

The cloud has created a bright spot in the future of finance. It contains what CFOs need to realise their vision and exceed the C-Suite’s expectations. It provides what accounting and finance professionals need to become modern finance leaders. It enables a new level of knowledge sharing, decision-making, and strategic alignment in a digital workspace where individuals from different functional areas can collaborate.

According to FSN’s Future of the Finance Function Survey, CFOs view the cloud as the place where finance will find the most innovation. Cloud applications allow business users to gain automatic access to the latest features for automation, standardisation, and analytics, and gives accounting and finance professionals full control over systems and change management. For companies that embrace the innovation, automation, and standardisation the cloud has to offer, the sky is the limit.

In conclusion

Success in 2017 will require always adapting, innovating, and improving to keep pace with our rapidly changing business world. This is a fundamental shift in philosophy that combines technology with reimagined legacy processes and empowered employees. And it’s inspiring, because it means that each day can be better than the last.

Mario Spanicciati is chief strategy officer at BlackLine, a financial automation software provider.

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