Will Accounting Software ever replace the Finance team?
This month we examine the seminal subject of if software (or indeed machines) can ever replace humans in the workplace?
Thankfully, the very short answer is no!
Let’s consider how the finance function has evolved and how accounting software has developed alongside. The question now on the lips of many finance leaders is; what are these emerging technologies, and how will they impact the future structure of their finance team?
With the acceleration of digital transformation in the UK comes an influx of business solutions “infiltrating” finance teams in businesses across all sectors. Machines and automation replacing the manual workloads of humans is not a new phenomenon; in fact, in many functions such as the production line or warehouse, some traditional roles have already been made obsolete through technology. Gone are the days of armies of assembly-line workers on the shop floor with little or no automation; these now having been supplemented or even replaced by hardware, robotics, and software, managed centrally, that can simplify component design, assemble vehicles, mix ingredients or test finished goods.
Finance teams have been using some form of technology for many years, often designed specifically to support accounting processes. Beginning with the introduction of the lowly electronic calculator (still an essential!), all leading finance solutions are now expected to support electronic approval workflows, fully integrated banking, document management and provide digital dashboards and business intelligence for monthly management reporting.
The pace of digital transformation, especially digitising off system processes, has accelerated greatly due to the pandemic in parallel with the increased demands of both customers and suppliers. Numerous businesses have now chosen to close their head office and reinvest the resultant savings in overheads to implement remote working solutions for their staff. From a finance perspective, whilst this function still continues for some to be office based, increased trust and use of new technology and software mean day to day operations can now be carried out from any location.
Humans equal accuracy
There are now a vast number of different solutions available in the market place from full-scale ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems including intelligent OCR (Optical Character Recognition) and AP automation tools, through to add an array of add on modules and interfaces which address and resolve the host of inefficient data re-keying and over reliance on spreadsheets which have often blighted the finance function.
However, the challenge with all technology that replaces human effort is of course accuracy, a core requirement in finance. A misinterpreted piece of data on an invoice could be very costly in real terms and therefore two questions always arise: how accurate is the solution and to what extent can we trust it over a human equivalent? The honest answer is that it will vary from one vendor’s solution to another. However, with the ever increasing presence of AI and machine learning within ERP solutions, it is argued that technology will learn from its mistakes far quicker than a human counterpart will.
Where does this leave us mere humans that form the finance teams? Well, there is obviously far more to finance roles than repetitive data entry, but such manual processes remain commonplace in many finance teams and can now be replaced in large part with more efficient digital solutions and software. The days of printed reports, manual posting of journals and sending invoices and statements by post are long gone.
So, does this mean without these labour-intensive tasks that finance staff will become archaic? Well of course not!
Finance teams will instead be freed up to focus on evolving and using their newfound time to better support the business, adding value in new ways. Embracing digital solutions will ensure that finance roles can more easily shift towards providing improved and insightful forecasting, data modelling and real-time analytics. The resultant actionable insights can then directly help drive businesses forward with their chosen strategy, with finance becoming an enabler rather than just a back-office function.
Are you ready to give up your spreadsheets?
If you are, then why not get in touch to see how we can help? We have a range of services that are designed to support you with your business transformation, no matter what stage you are at.