A small business guide to
finance automation

For businesses of all sizes, finance automation is changing the way they approach many essential tasks such as bookkeeping, expense management, payroll and more.

What is finance automation?

Finance teams could use a hand. 


While sales, marketing and engineering have all benefited from software eating the world, with tools that remove many of the repetitive tasks associated with those disciplines, finance has lagged behind. Functions in our day-to-day lives have gotten more accessible (hello, smart homes), but finance teams have been left relying on tedious manual processes to complete essential, but non-strategic work. In effect you’re left unnecessarily churning away at items that require too much time, effort, money, and headspace to complete. 


Imagine your current workflow of manually downloading CSVs from your payment application of choice, manually inputting those numbers into a spreadsheet and then finally uploading all of that data into your accounting system. Tedious. Repetitive. Time-consuming.


But now, technology has finally caught up in the world of finance. Thanks to modernization and automation, you can now get precious time back to work on other tasks that are more impactful. In this article, we’ll dive into precisely what finance automation is, why it’s so necessary, its implications, and what it means for the future of your finance team. 

In this guide, you'll learn how automation can help you make your finances more accurate, give you time back, and ultimately save you money. Here's what you'll find in our guide:

Accounting and bookkeeping automation

Payroll automation

Vendor management automation

Expense automation

Bill pay automation


What is finance automation?


Finance automation is the concept of leveraging technology, like AI, to complete tasks and processes usually done by hand. With finance automation, you eliminate the need for team members to spend hours upon hours on a task. You instead lean on advancements in technology, such as OCR and machine learning, to automate processes for you. 


Imagine this: up to this point, to review spending, you would have to spend hours categorizing hundreds of expense reports to your GL—a highly tedious and time consuming process. To make matters worse, you were constantly reviewing outdated data to make highly consequential business decisions because of this lag. But now through finance automation, you can glean real-time information on spending, allowing you to fine-tune your finances on the fly. 


The result is more precise insights into spending, faster onboarding processes through seamless integrations with HRIS platforms, and the end of expense reports. 


Why you should switch to finance automation


One of the biggest hurdles for any team in adopting new processes and systems is plain old inertia. Many times implementing a new system can indeed be time-intensive and have a steep learning curve. Unfortunately, finance teams have become reliant on outdated processes despite not being ideal solutions. 


You may also be wondering about the ROI of adopting finance automation. Why change if my current systems and processes have gotten me this far? 


Put simply, the answer to these questions is accuracy, efficiency and ease of use


Efficiency


With finance automation, many of the processes you’ve grown accustomed to get more efficient or disappear altogether, such as expense reports (and we all know how much fun those are). Think about how long it takes you to onboard employees and give them corporate cards. You’re likely onboarding new hires one at a time, a tedious process that, while important, is better served being automated. 


Thanks to finance automation, this process can be done in bulk and you can easily set expense policies across the board, saving you precious time. 


Ease of use and cost


Modern finance automation tools are designed with ease of use in mind. No need to scramble through dozens of confusing dashboards with ambiguous functionality. It can be as simple as clicking, dragging and dropping to complete business-critical tasks such as paying your bills. 


But ease of use means nothing if the adoption process is complex and unintuitive. And given the functional complexity of finance automation, it can be easy to assume that the implementation process is just as complex. Thankfully, this isn't the case. 


Modern finance automation tools make it quick and easy to migrate over to them, with some even creating automated switching reports to ease the transition. But this has to be expensive, right? Not at all. Finance automation platforms like Ramp are completely free.

Accuracy


Regrettably, given the mass of information finance teams have to process, human error is an unfortunate, but very big reality. According to a report from Ocrolus, this error can be as big as 4%. And with no slowdown of work in sight but little resources to take it on, finance automation undoubtedly can fill in a huge gap. 


Technology has only gotten better, more accurate and quicker over time (remember dial-up?). And finance automation tools have followed the course. The AI of today delivers data and metrics that are accurate and reliable while still being delivered quickly.

How can finance automation help you? 


It’s hard to overstate the benefits of taking tasks that have, up until now, been done manually and replacing them with automation. Here’s how finance teams, employees and your business overall can benefit from the switch to automation. 

Finance teams


It’s challenging to get an accurate picture of spending when you have to wait for your transactions to sync, sometimes hours later. Particularly today, you need the ability to make quick decisions with reliable, up-to-date information. But up until recently, this has been close to impossible, particularly with legacy systems that force you to be reactive instead of proactive. With finance automation, spending visibility is instant, allowing you to make mission-critical business decisions in real-time. 


Finance teams can also look to benefit in plenty of other areas, such as the issuance of corporate cards and expense audits. With finance automation, corporate cards can be issued in bulk, eliminating the cumbersome process of completing this process one at a time. And when it comes to expense audits, automation makes it easy to surface anomalies in spending and money saving opportunities at a glance, no need to wait hours for GL syncing.  


Employees


For employees, the process of spending usually goes like this: 


  • Realize you need a job-critical piece of software
  • Go to your manager and ask them to share their corporate card with you OR spend money out of pocket
  • If you paid out of pocket, manually fill out a tedious expense report and wait an unspecified amount of time to get reimbursed, sometimes days, but more often than not, weeks or months 


Not only is this process time consuming and frustrating, it’s simply not ideal in a modern, agile business. With finance automation, employees can easily be assigned their corporate card in bulk with predetermined spend parameters.


Once employees make an approved purchase, it syncs automatically to your GL. No more being in the dark with employee spending. This means no more expense reports at the end of the month for employees. This means no more chasing down employees for said reports for finance teams. Everyone wins. 


Your business


Every business needs SaaS tools. They’re essential for productivity. But far too often, companies are left overspending on these tools and, in some cases, duplicating them. Finance automation saves you time and money by automating your SaaS audit process. 


Did you know that your business could still complete essential functions with a cheaper tier plan? Did you know that companies like yours are paying 27% less for the same exact software licenses? Automation can surface these insights for you.


Taken as a whole, finance automation allows you to make faster, smarter and more strategic business decisions.


What impact will finance automation have on teams in 2022?


The move to automation will be a significant benefit for finance teams in 2022, but understandably, there are some concerns that this shift will render some job functions moot. While this is a valid concern, the adoption of finance automation should be seen as a tool to leverage. 


The invention of autonomous cars did not render drivers unnecessary, it was simply an improvement over the current system. To the same effect, finance automation is a tool used to make finance teams, employees and businesses more efficient by reallocating time away from time-intensive tasks. The insights surfaced through automation should still be reviewed to ensure that they make sense for their particular business situation, roadmap and goals. 


The future of finance is automated


In many ways, a shift to automation in finance was long overdue. Until now, finance teams had become reluctantly reliant and locked into less-than-ideal processes that required too much time, overhead and effort. Employees were stuck submitting tedious expense reports at the end of the month and duplicate spend was shockingly familiar. Tasks like closing the books, onboarding new employees, and even figuring out whether or not you are overspending became a multi-day effort. This was not sustainable. 


But now with finance automation, teams can save time, money and future headaches thanks to intelligent AI that works like the most efficient tool in your finance toolkit. 

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