Is It Time to Automate Your Finance Planning Processes?

Automating repetitive financial planning tasks can reduce errors, shorten cycle times, and increase financial planning and analysis (FP&A) productivity.

If you’re moving or manipulating the same data over and over again, month after month, it’s time to automate your financial planning and analysis (FP&A) processes. Why? As an article in CFO magazine explains, automated systems for finance and accounting teams take time-intensive, repetitive tasks and “put them on autopilot, freeing up work hours and bandwidth.” 

So where to start? Generally, you want to automate planning functions that feature consistency and repetition. Those traits will maximize your time savings because you’re generating the same finance report on a regular basis.

At Workday, our finance team relies on many of these automated systems. For example, we have a fully automated process that loads invoices and collections data into Workday Adaptive Planning for finance.

The whole idea with automation is that once it’s set up and running, nobody really has to think about it.

That’s one of the many benefits you can achieve through automation. Here are more automation tips, so you can get on board with continuous planning and start generating strategic insights instead of getting buried in mundane tasks.

Tip 1: Practice Makes Perfect

The more you look for tasks to automate, the better you get at figuring out what to automate and what to do manually. For instance, if you start doing a fully automated saved-search import for billings and collections, you can use that same model to bring in another dataset from your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.

Tip 2: Get Buy-In

One of the key perks of automation is that it doesn’t just free up your time but can benefit others on your team as well. For example, accessing reports should become easier for them. Keep everyone in the loop on what is being automated so that your entire team can become more efficient and strategic. That will also ensure that if someone leaves the company, the automation they created won’t be lost or difficult to duplicate. 

Tip 3: Share the Benefits

The whole point of automation is that once it’s set up and running, nobody really has to think about it. Therefore, part of the calculation of whether something is worth automating is if the benefit can be appreciated systemwide. Everybody on your team should have access to what’s running automatically, and there should be no surprises. If you’re out of the office or busy, the automated programs should still keep running and be easily accessible to anyone who needs them.

Tip 4: Don’t Automate Everything

Avoid the temptation to automate everything—especially in the beginning. Figure out which report or data analysis will make your work more efficient, accurate, or understandable—or all of the above. Then, build momentum, working with the rest of the finance team to strategically identify where it makes the most sense to automate.

Tip 5: Keep the Human Touch

Automation is amazing, but the heart of finance will always be human beings using critical thinking and expertise to add value to their organizations. It’s important to maintain that human element. Your system should augment what you’re doing and help you do it faster, but with human-made decisions behind it.

As the pace of business quickens, knowing how to take a strategic approach to automation will give you and your team a clear competitive edge. And remember: If you don’t automate, your competition surely will, gaining an advantage over your organization.

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