A widespread commitment to digital transformation is influencing and changing the way that work is done across various business segments and departments within the modern enterprise. In this environment, corporate finance departments are often under pressure to adopt new technologies – such as automation, AI and blockchain – to streamline and enhance current processes. Some find the concept of digital transformation intimidating, while others are hesitant to integrate certain technologies that could disrupt mission-critical financial programs.
One challenge that many financial departments face is the fact that their workforces are not equipped with the competencies and tools to gain optimum value from innovation accelerator technologies like automation and AI. According to research by the Association of International Certified Professional Accountants, only 10 percent of the 700 finance executives surveyed believe their teams have the skills to support their organizations’ digital ambitions.
Beyond teaching employees how to use new technologies, finance functions need to empower their people to be more involved in digital transformation efforts from the ground up, by contributing ideas on how processes can be optimized. Financial professionals also need the ability to manage their resources – such as data – more strategically. The Financial Education & Research Foundation (FERF)’s Benchmarking Accounting & Finance Functions 2019 report highlighted that today’s financial executives are increasingly needing a blend of professional expertise that includes both financial and data management skills to be able to make informed decisions around their digital transformation initiatives.
Selecting the right type of technology can provide corporate finance departments with an opportunity to circumvent the perceived complexities of digital transformation. Often, an agile approach makes the most sense; and if this seems like the right route, low-code process automation technologies can give finance teams the flexibility to tailor their digital assets to meet their needs. This user-friendly and easily scalable software makes it possible to reduce manual workloads, increase efficiency and improve data accessibility in a way that’s compatible with existing IT investments.
How low-code process automation can advance digital transformation
Low-code development platforms take a user-centric approach to process automation by enabling users to design and build their own custom business applications without leaning too heavily on specialist software programmers. This way, finance functions can swiftly deploy digital solutions to increase the speed and efficiency of their core processes, from accounts payable to financial planning and contact management.
Departments can also easily build automated workflows that reduce the need for manual work; and generate electronic forms with an intuitive, flexible entry point for collecting information into automated processes. Additionally, when all process solutions are run on one platform, this helps to centralize content, improve visibility to facilitate risk management, and provide process insights that augment business intelligence.
Beyond that, as emerging technologies such as AI increase in adoption and popularity, finance departments can utilize low-code software development to integrate AI and machine learning with human-based tasks in an intuitive way, instead of struggling or heavily investing resources to learn and adopt these technologies. The automation of these tasks enables existing finance representatives to get work done more efficiently while still obtaining the benefits and insights of AI technologies and positively contributing to the company’s bottom line.
How a global asset management firm used low-code process automation to streamline business processes
Digital transformation is not only about introducing new technologies but also about evaluating current business models, processes and roles – and assessing how these can be modernized and optimized for current and future business growth.
One example is the transformation of Sarasin & Partners. This specialist investment firm, dedicated to managing international investment requirements, oversees 213 employees, 86 investment professionals and manages around $17.7 billion worldwide. Given the scope of its operations and the complex regulatory environment that this firm operates in, it is critical for the organization to have robust and auditable internal processes in place that allow for efficient workflow while complying with the regulations enforced by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) in the UK and other authorities.
Sarasin & Partners initially implemented low-code automation technology to improve the efficiency of its procedure for logging operational risk incidents; however, after seeing the success of this approach, the company leveraged the solution for other departments. Through low-code process automation, Sarasin & Partners reduced the end-to-end time required for incident reporting by 75 percent. This is equivalent to saving a day’s worth of work per week for a full-time member of the risk management team.
In addition to optimizing risk management processes, Sarasin & Partners introduced automation into other areas of the business, resulting in improved management of data to reduce unnecessary paper and digital resources, increased efficiency and audit defense capabilities, and enhanced visibility across department tasks and reports.
Planning for the future
As highlighted in this case study, digital transformation is more than an investment in technology. Rather, it is a holistic re-calibration of IT systems, business processes, people and tools to enable sustainable business success.
As seen through Sarasin & Partners’ use of low-code process automation, this approach can empower corporate financial functions to accelerate their work and become more efficient, in order to add greater value to the business. It also offers benefits to the entire company by increasing collaboration, visibility and communication between departments.
With an agile and user-friendly enterprise software solution in place, CFOs and their teams can fully take advantage of all the benefits of a digital transformation journey. They can meet current needs, while being confident that they have the capabilities to continue innovating processes, in order to satisfy evolving business goals and customer demands in the future.