Oct 13, 2022
4 min read

Automation: How finance teams can use it to scale fast

Finance team using Payhawk spend management automation to scale
Quick summary

Relying on legacy financial systems won’t help you scale your business. Instead, improve your processes and let your finance teams focus on strategy and growth.

Table of Contents

    If you currently rely on outdated financial systems, your business is going to struggle to grow for two reasons. One, your finance teams are caught up in clunky, manually-intensive tasks and unable to focus on things that matter — like strategic solutions, and two, inaccurate data means you lack financial visibility.

    How finance automation can help scale your business

    According to a recent report conducted by the Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in association with Payhawk, 38% of business leaders say ‘just a few or zero simple finance tasks have been automated.’ This means that nearly two thirds of respondents have at least some level of finance automation. But, it still shows that there are businesses out there that are doing everything manually.

    Holding on to manual tasks is stopping your finance function from becoming more strategically active. So, if you’re currently using legacy systems that don’t talk to each other, or you rely on manual data entry and paper-based administration, you need to consider updating your processes to grow.

    We get it; changing software can be expensive and daunting. Why change something you’ve been doing for so long if it works? The thing is, does it really work? Are you having to implement more and more workarounds and throw increased headcount at the issues?

    How do you improve these outdated processes if that’s your organization?

    The answer lies in finance automation. Automation is the key to smooth and efficient business finance processes, which makes financial forecasting accurate, and resource planning easier and essentially frees up time for your finance teams to focus on strategic strategies to help grow your business faster, such as delivering the information specific teams need in order to drive better business decisions.

    HBR report: how to drive business strategy and growth

    Challenge old ways of working with automation

    If you’re managing finance the way you’ve always done it, it can be difficult to see a different way forward. But if you’ve got friction between finance and non-finance, you find you have no time for analysis and add value at month-end and you have to correct lots of bookkeeping issues before even starting month-end — then maybe it’s time for a change. But how can you change it?

    Automation helps lighten the load, and that’s evident from the results of the recent report. Those able to automate simple finance tasks are much more likely to say their finance department has become increasingly involved in business strategy over the last two years. That’s when comparing it with teams who are still remaining largely manual.

    It’s clear that automation unleashes the strategic potential that finance teams can offer an organization. It holds the power to accurately forecast, budget and allocate resources because all the time-intensive tasks have disappeared.

    Expectations are high for your finance team

    Removing repetitive admin tasks means you free up time for your finance teams to strategize and drive business growth in a way they’ve never been able to before.

    And people believe finance teams could be doing more to help drive growth. Although the majority (76%) agree the financial departments play an essential role in supporting the organization’s business objectives, 64% felt they could do more.

    But with demands getting greater, your finance team’s capacity to deliver them isn’t growing as quickly. This generates a larger gap for finance to recover.

    There’s a vicious cycle. For finance teams to further support and drive business objectives, they need to analyze financial data to make the necessary recommendations. But to even begin doing this, they need support from technology, including automation and integrations, to make the expected job possible.

    It’s unfair to expect your team to deliver above and beyond without first giving them access to the right tools for the job.

    Six problems finance automation can solve

    As we’ve said already, updating your outdated financial processes is a must — 67% of report respondents believe their finance department needs to put more effort into improving its outdated processes. And introducing automation into the mix will improve these outdated processes and help reinforce collaboration between departments and improve visibility across the company — all of which are crucial components to fast business growth.

    So we’re exploring just a few ways finance automation can help you revamp your finance department for the better.

    Shed the manually-intensive tasks

    In a recent report from Harvard Business Review Analytic Services in association with Payhawk, 67% of business leaders said that finance departments are likely to spend most of their time chasing down receipts and expenses. But when there’s technology to automate these tasks, receipt chasing should be ancient history.

    You need to challenge these old ways of working because chasing receipts and expenses will not help your business scale up. Instead, you need to swap the archaic for the progressive to unlock the possibility of business growth.

    Think of all the other manually-intensive tasks you can automate that are currently zapping unnecessary financial team time — bookkeeping, supplier invoices, OCR and approval workflows. All of these tasks can be automated with Payhawk.

    Create a culture of financial transparency

    The aim of the game is to make everything to do with your finance function more streamlined and efficient to free up time, and removing reimbursable expenses will help you achieve that.

    Getting rid of reimbursable expenses means you instantly create a culture of transparency and certainty regarding your finances. They’re difficult to manage, particularly if you have multiple branches or office locations. Trying to keep tabs on who’s spent what can quickly become a time-consuming nightmare.

    With Payhawk, you can say goodbye to cash for good and equip every employee with their own corporate visa card, with limits you can oversee and a digital system for them to snap receipts, automatically syncing their spending within your ERP.

    Integrating your ERP with Payhawk lets you watch as important data syncs perfectly. No more unmatched expenses, no more friction between finance and the rest of the organization, no more bookkeeping issues hindering month-end. Instead you increase transparency of financial information throughout the month and your ERP is always up-to-date.

    Human error happens, eyes miss information, employees lose receipts or fail to share them with finance departments. This leads to inaccurate financial reporting, which can create problems with tax authorities and auditors.

    Get quick access to important financial data

    With systems syncing data and completely removing human error, finance automation gives everyone in the organization the real-time financial information required to make informed decisions.

    You can’t achieve real-time data without expense management software that integrates perfectly with your chosen ERP system. So if you rely on legacy systems without free-flowing financial data at your fingertips, you cannot gain full visibility of your company spending.

    You need clarity when growing your business, particularly around your financial state, and stakeholders will want to view progress just as much as you do. Being able to instantly create accurate financial projections and understand your company spending means you’re in a much healthier position to embark upon rapid business growth.

    Empower employees with spend autonomy

    The report found that just 11% of non-financial team employees were “very” satisfied with their organization's expense systems. So by focusing on implementing a software solution that helps finance teams cut down on time-consuming tasks and processes while also catering to the needs of non-financial teams, you will be able to focus on business growth a lot quicker.

    Set monthly card limits and issue every employee an expense card to orchestrate a culture of accountability while giving them increased autonomy over monthly company spending. Pre-approve expenses under a certain financial threshold to empower employees further to make decisions within their own departments.

    Rapid expense approval will smooth the spending process

    When you’re looking to scale your business, it’s not all about cost-cutting. In fact, it’s not about cost-cutting at all, it’s about evaluating the things you’re spending money on and working out whether it adds value to your business, helping you achieve objectives.

    So instead of putting a stop to spend, you need to change how the entire expense approval process is working for you currently. If employees and team leaders are waiting around for expense approvals from multiple people in your organization, it’s creating inefficiencies you can afford to streamline. These time savings could be spent drive growth through add-value spending. Focusing on the important aspects driving business growth means getting rid of these drawn-out approval processes.

    With the Payhawk web and mobile app, expenses can be approved on the go, which means a complex sign-off process doesn’t delay necessary spending. Even if your policy defines a multilevel approval chain, it’s still a straightforward process. Add as many approvers as your policy requires, and as each fulfils their approval role, the next approver will be notified — it’s simple.

    Within Payhawk, you can create custom approval workflows to suit your specific organizational structure, which means company expense management can become streamlined while supporting the culture of good governance and cost control. There are no emails sent chase the process — everyone can view progress in the dashboard, so no one is left in the dark.

    Ultimately, Payhawk helps your finance team add more value

    Your finance team is full of highly-qualified and competent individuals, and their skillset can be better applied to higher value tasks, rather than some of the manual processes that currently exist.

    It’s clear that business leaders and employees are keen for finance to use this skill set to guide the business in a strategic direction with planning and budget forecasting.

    But for them to do their job properly, they need support from the right technology — and that means an expense management software that seamlessly integrations into the ERP system and enables automation that removes menial manual tasks holding this progress back. And that’s what Payhawk can offer your organization.

    To compete and scale up, you need to change your finance function to reflect the modern way of working, and we can help you do just that.

    Learn more about how Payhawk can help you upgrade your financial processes — schedule a demo.

    Trish Toovey - Content Director at Payhawk - The financial system of tomorrow
    Trish Toovey
    Senior Content Manager

    Trish Toovey works across the UK and US markets to craft content at Payhawk. Covering anything from ad copy to video scripting, Trish leans on a super varied background in copy and content creation for the finance, fashion, and travel industries.

    See all articles by Trish →
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