The Automation Era: Will Accounting Teams Become Obsolete?

June 17, 2020 Lydia Adams

Businesses today are undergoing rapid transformation and advancements in the world of technology and communication, with finance teams at the forefront of this shift. Finance and accounting departments across the globe are exploring the current automation options to carry out tasks that were once done manually, while technology is seemingly revolutionizing the role of the modern accounting professional.

But with all this automation, where do people fit in? Despite all the advances in technology and heavy reliance on ERPs, the responsibilities of an experienced finance or accounting professional remain essential. The question is, Will Accounting Teams Become Obsolete Due to the Increasing Use of Automation? And while technology is here is stay, we believe, so are the accountants -- creating a hybrid model of people + tech.

Listen Here: [PODCAST] The CFO's Reality of Doing More with Less

The Increasing Use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in Accounting

Many of the tasks of a modern F&A department (from data entry and invoicing to check processing and billing ) are low-impact, leading accounting execs to lean on technology as a solution. For those who have gotten out of Excel and into the cloud with a range of ERP software options out on the market, the automation definitely can help with some of these low impact tasks. But does automation fully remove these obstacles? In our experience, it can help -- to an extent -- but when you get down to it, people still matter in the age of accounting automation.

Let’s take, for example, the procure-to-pay process. While software can perform some actions necessary to complete the process (creating purchase orders, processing payment), professionals are necessary to follow through with these orders. Technology makes the process run more efficiently, but people make it happen.

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We often see organizations implement technology only to find that the people-power they need to automate the process also increases, leaving them back to where they started. It's a frustrating loop for many. Between the accounting talent shortage, and the need to offload transactional tasks (and manage technology) it can create a problem for financial leaders. The best of both worlds? Balancing your tech needs with a right-sized, productive team.

Empower People While Getting the Most From Automation

When people are overloaded with tasks -- and managing the technology that should make it easier --it's hard to empower then to get things done. First off, ensure that you are using all the features of your ERP and taking advantage of every opportunity to automate. This will allow you to get a 360-degree view of what can be automated, and what needs to be done by a human.

While your ERP can act as a catalyst to help increase the speed, efficiency, and cost-effectiveness of your accounting workload, tasks such as data entry, transaction support, and general accounting still need to be completed manually. The key is to make sure you are using and setting up your technology to work for you, not against you, while prioritizing your in-house team to strategic projects, instead of focusing on low-impact work. 

The Best ERPs: [BLOG] We Ranked The Best ERP Software For Midsize Businesses So You Don't Have To

Getting a full view of what your team can and can't automate (not to mention what they have time for) ensures that you aren't leaning on tech when what you really need is more people. From there, looking at what your people are spending time doing can help determine your next steps. This leads us to our third tip: focusing on strategy.

Will accounting become obsolete

Use Tech to Facilitate a Data-Driven, Strategic Model (But Don't Rely Solely On Automation)

Finance officers often spend much of their time on low-impact tasks when they’d really like to be studying and analyzing data, honing strategy and focusing on business-critical projects. Automation can help you create a streamlined process and allow CFOs, Controllers and other finance leaders to concentrate on real-time data, but without the manpower to execute the strategy, the technology investment is wasted.

Getting into the cloud is just one step of the process. When times are busy, and accounting teams are stretched to the max, it can seem like getting tech implemented is the only thing that matters. However, once it is done, the real work begins. Using the data to your advantage is the real benefit of cloud-based ERPs. And data-driven decision-making takes time.

When team members are spending time using an ERP, but doing menial tasks, their time is wasted and they aren't able to find fulfillment in their careers. You hired your amazing team to take accounting to the next level, propel the company forward and ultimately, win --probably with the hope they would stick around for a few years. Allowing your team to focus on strategic work, while taking your low-impact tasks to a Finance & Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) provider can be an elegant solution to all of these challenges in one simple package.

What is FAO: Discover Outsourced Accounting - Finance & Accounting Outsourcing (FAO) 101

Add Finance & Accounting Outsourcing to Pull It All Together

When your team is overburdened by low-impact tasks, software can’t necessarily alleviate all the pressure. By engaging people + technology (and adding an outsourcing provider to help), you can make your team more efficient, take tasks off their plate and automate your process all at once.  Outsourced accounting teams, especially those in offshore locations like the Philippines, can take over the management of your ERP, align with your RPA goals and take transactional accounting off your list for good, all while saving you up to 75% on traditional hiring/third-party methods.

Podcast: Streamlining Finance & Accounting Processes With Outsourcing Featuring Megan Weis

Be sure to choose an FAO provider that is tech-agnostic, which allows them to work right within your technology (and ensures that all the time invested in getting into the cloud was worth it to begin with). Choosing an outsourcing provider that is flexible to your needs and offers a variety of services from accounts payable and accounts receivable to general accounting and payroll support will ensure you can cover all the transactional accounts that your in-house team needs done. Lastly, make sure that your chosen FAO provider is big on quality, and meticulous about metrics.

To get the full history, data, how-to-guide and research on Finance & Accounting Outsourcing, you don't want to miss our newly released white paper, available here for download free. It's a great start. 

Once you've read it, let us know what you think. We're listeners and ready to hear about your challenges and how we can help. Contact us to talk with an FAO expert.

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