What’s Next for CFOs? Automation

by FEI Daily Staff

Deloitte’s latest report, CFO Signals What North America’s top finance executives are thinking – and doing, shows that many CFOs are now focused on increasing revenue and investing for the future rather than just cost reduction. In fact, about 63% of CFOs say they are biased toward revenue growth, while only 20% claim a focus on direct cost reduction.

For the first time since the recession, many corporate executives are very optimistic about the U.S. economy. According to the 2015 CFO Outlook from Bank of America Merrill Lynch, 96% of CFOs expect to pursue one or more growth strategies, while nearly half plan to reinvest in their businesses through capital expenditures.

The time is right for CFOs to use improving revenue streams together with strategic insight to transcend the status quo. But how, exactly, should finance leaders proceed?

A Balancing Act  

As the sheer volume of data and information expands exponentially, there is no room for inefficiency, inaccuracy or compromise. Somehow, the office of the CFO must produce more useful and reliable analysis from more raw data in less time and with less manual work. Every core finance and accounting activity has to operate as effortlessly as possible. But that's not all.

Complex finance and accounting processes, currently thought of as reliable, accurate and auditable, often turn out otherwise. According to a recent report from The Economist Intelligence Unit, commissioned by Qlik, 52% of CFOs see data accuracy as the biggest obstacle to doing their job.

Leaders from the office of the CFO have discovered the right technology is the best way to balance the need for high efficiency and unquestionable quality. They're applying it to areas of finance and accounting that they may have overlooked before. Most notably, operational leaders now use process automation to complete steps in the local or "entity close," which often include many repeatable tasks.

Before process automation, these steps typically took as much as two-thirds of the time and effort of the entire financial close and cause the majority of inconsistencies. This part of the financial close has been called “the undiscovered mile" and it's a driving force for transformational change in many businesses.

Work Smart

With financial close automation targeted specifically at the undiscovered mile, the office of the CFO can re-allocate valuable resources from spending time on repetitive tasks to developing better analysis for innovation and competitive advantage.

Users of financial close automation usually achieve at least a 40% reduction in the operational cost of the close and a 45% improvement in the time to close, while increasing process consistency, quality and compliance. With automation, CFOs can dedicate much more quality time to plans for strategic revenue growth and be confident in the accuracy, compliance and auditability of everything they do. It's the one way to truly accomplish more for less while maintaining quality and control at every step.

Dennis Walsh is President of Redwood Software Americas and Asia-Pacific.