Accountants and corporate finance professionals have spent 2020 in a state of transition. Moving from the office to the home office requires leaders to learn how to connect staff, provide real-time information, and overcome the variety of hurdles present in doing so.

But as much of a challenge as 2020 was, many companies were dealing with similar issues when staff sat in the same wing of a building. Despite sharing the same network, being able to clear up something in person, and having access to a meeting room, few organizations were up to date in 2019—and the disruption of 2020 exposed the cracks.

Many Have Gotten Lost on Their Path to Automation

Automation, possibly the first step to finance modernization, has only been a dream to be put in the same category as Arcadia and Santa Claus. Have some steps been automated? Yes—companies have had everything from Excel Macros to complex workflows available to handle processes.

But the reality is that few have put in the legwork needed to remove the day-to-day legwork of running a business. This according to a new report from Auditoria.AI, who found that more often than not, companies have automated only a small fraction of their finance back office functions.

In their report, highlighting the responses of several hundred finance professionals across the US, Auditoria set out to document the top issues facing teams and discuss how automation could help. Noting the availability of automation, they were quite surprised to learn that nearly a quarter of respondents (23%) have automated 20% or fewer of critical finance functions.

The Missing Link: Areas Where Automation Can be Prioritized

With so many opportunities for improvement and so many places where leaders could focus their automation efforts, another surprising takeaway is the area with the most manual processes.

Accounts payable and receivable, long considered two of the most time consuming areas, are still reliant on manual processes and workflows. In fact, this shows a surprising lack of change, as a 2017 article in CFO found that approximately half of the week is spend on transaction processing.

With so many tools available—many of which are well within the price range of today’s business—and a high opportunity for fraud, automation can pay for itself. With automated AP/AR functions, companies not only save time and money, but they can also cut out risk. Why? Because another area reliant on manual processes is internal audit. Sadly, this not only leaves an opportunity for fraud, but also a glaring blind spot when identifying it.

The Angry Accountant: Staff Starting to Feel the Drain

It’s not just the fact that you’re putting too much effort into the day-to-day activities, it’s also that your staff is starting to hate the experience. Leaders already know about the talent gap in the accounting and corporate finance department, so if staff is feeling the pressure, they could be eying the door.

In fact, when asked whether or not manual processes are putting a drain on the company, nearly half considered the lack of automation a “significant burden.” Data entry takes time—but it’s also error prone. That means error checking takes time. Which in turn holds back reporting, and ultimately prevents highly-paid staff from doing something that matters to their business.

Learn More: 2020 Survey: Automation in ERP and the Finance Back Office

Finance teams need to step their game up. But after more than 20 years of cloud-based ERP and accounting systems, less than half of respondents automate their back-office processes. If you’re looking to learn even more about the path to automation, we invite you to download a free eBook from Auditoria discussing in greater detail the statistics above and much more.

This eBook, 2020 Survey of Automation in the Finance Back Office, explores the top challenges in the back office and the top areas to improve. Learn more about the results and the best practices for improvement by downloading this guide here.

Bonus: Webcast to Discuss How to Automate the Back Office

We’re excited to hear even more about the path to automation and invite you to join us for Accounting Robots: How to Automate the Finance Back Office. Panelists including Chris Siegfried, CFO, Armanino LLP, Christopher Wetmore, Principal of the RSM Technology Advisory Practice, and Nick Ezzo, VP Marketing of Auditoria.AI will share their insights on the changes that must be made to succeed in the modern era. Click here to watch now.

Additional Automation Resources

Should AP Automation be on Your Investment Radar?

The Role of Automation in the Modern Business

AP Automation in Cash Flow Sustainability