Could automating business processes make your firm more productive?

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Grenke Leasing

Digital transformation is a key priority for businesses if they wish to remain competitive - and automating various functions is a big part of this.

That's why it's reassuring to see that the many advantages of this approach are being widely recognised by decision makers.

According to a new survey by Robert Half, 59 per cent of finance executives believe digitalisation will help to increase the productivity of staff in finance-based roles.

Meanwhile, 53 per cent believe it can help to free up people's time for more meaningful tasks, as it would take their focus away on data entry.

Furthermore, 51 per cent of finance executives are confident that digitalisation would provide more opportunities for their workforce to learn new capabilities.

"The main benefits that businesses are expecting, or already achieving from digital transformation, include improved efficiency and productivity, better decision-making and employees taking on more value add work leading to more fulfilling careers in the long-term," Robert Half observed.

Some 87 per cent of finance executives polled said they recognise the positive impact that the growing reliance on technology holds for businesses.

As a result, digitalisation is becoming more and more of a priority, as businesses seek systems that will help them address threats and exploit opportunities to secure a competitive advantage.

What tasks suit digitalisation?

Manual, data entry jobs increasingly look set to be impacted by digitalisation in the next three years. Some 41 per cent of respondents said financial modelling will be affected by automation by 2020. In addition, 40 per cent expect digital processes to be extended to the generation of financial reports, while 38 per cent believe it will be seen in project management and reporting.

As Matt Weston, director of Robert Half UK, commented: "Digitalisation will offer a new approach where labour and time-intensive processes can be shifted to allow for more value-added work to take place.

"Automation is impacting traditional business functions in a big way. Finance is no exception and professionals will need to be prepared to hold a more prominent and integrated influence on the wider business, gaining new skills that will see them through the technological shift."

Companies must be flexible with technology

The shift towards digitalisation means businesses can't afford to stagger along with outdated technology and equipment that is no longer fit for purpose.

However, for small and medium-sized enterprises in particular, the prospect of replacing and upgrading their IT infrastructure can seem prohibitively expensive.

The best option, therefore, could be to lease new IT equipment, rather than purchase it outright.

This is an ideal approach for businesses that want to be agile when it comes to technology, as it gives them the freedom to update it when necessary and not be held back from embracing new working practices.

Instead of committing to an investment and tying up funds in technology that could quickly become outdated, businesses can sign up for a simple, flexible and bespoke financing solution that meets their individual needs and circumstances.

Soft skills a necessity 

According to the Chartered Institute of Management Accountants, a technical understanding will remain a "core competence that provides professional credibility" to staff in finance roles.

However, head of future finance Peter Simons believes this will "need to be enhanced with soft skills".

"We are already seeing this move occur within the finance department with the shift from technical to commercial skills," he observed.

"In the future, financial insights won’t just come from financial analysis but collaborating with other areas of the business."

As a result, the ability to engage with people, communicate in a "compelling way" and ask the right questions will become more and more important if they are to make "informed business decisions".

With the right mix of interpersonal skills, expertise and an up-to-date IT infrastructure, companies should be in a strong position to compete and forge ahead in their sector.