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Emerging technologies and process automation are changing the way finance professionals work. These new applications and platforms are streamlining our practices, enabling efficiency and reducing errors – but many finance professionals are understandably concerned that automation will ultimately lead to the elimination of their job.
However, from what we have seen so far, these new ways of working are providing considerable opportunities for finance professionals. Whilst there will almost certainly be a shift in key skills, opening-up to the world of automation can bring positive change.
According to Halliday Marx co-founder John Marx “Clients who embrace automation are removing the time consuming, repetitive, low-value tasks that would otherwise distract their talent from focusing on high-value strategic initiatives, enabling them to fully utilise their creativity and problem-solving skills.”
Simply put, automation is the use of technology, programs, robotics or processes to achieve outcomes with minimal or no human input. Whilst this might sound ominous at first, the processes most likely to undergo automation are typically the basic, repetitive, transactional, administrative tasks. These activities are also top of the list for automation due to their high level of defects and errors that result in constant, regular human rework. Automating these processes relieves finance professionals of menial tasks, allowing them to focus on more interesting, strategic work. Some examples of the tasks companies are most likely to automate include:
Organisations leading the way for automation have also started to explore even more sophisticated processing. Technology has allowed machine learning to manage entire end-to-end processes and manage complex decision-making steps, sometimes independently of any human involvement. However, this should not be seen as a threat. This type of machine learning can provide us with real-time, strategic insights than can be used to support our decision making and business planning.
It’s already here – and it’s been here for a while. Automation is part of our daily lives; PC updates, chat bots, smart meters, on-line tax returns……if you’ve used or experienced any of these you’ve already benefited from automation.
Automation will change the way finance professionals work; day-to-day tasks will look different or be removed completely. However, as we mentioned earlier, automation is about eliminating the resource-intensive, routine, transactional, time-consuming tasks such as:
Removing these tasks creates an opportunity for finance talent to work faster and smarter, allowing you to focus on the more creative and strategic areas within our roles, such as advising clients, forecasting and providing insight.
Automation will not remove key finance roles, it will enhance them through providing immediate, accurate and insightful data. We just need to view robotics in the right way; technology cannot build relationships, think creatively or solve strategic issues – this work is for humans!
Don’t view automation as a threat. Take every opportunity presented to keep up to date with the latest technology and automated processing so that you understand how they might complement your role and support your organisation. Understanding how automation supports the future of business will not only demonstrate your flexibility and adaptability, it will also place you in demand.
It is also important to ensure you are continually working to develop the key skills that go hand-in-hand with automation. These include:
This skill will always continue to grow in importance. As you work to focus on more strategic initiatives, decision making will shift to the forefront of daily activities. Excellent communication skills are vital in building relationships with key stakeholders, ensuring you know how to ask the right questions to get the information you need and to build trust.
Once you are free of having to manage repetitive, administrative tasks, you are better placed to focus on long-term business success. To master this effectively, you must be able to analyse critical factors and variables that might influence long-term objectives. The ability to think strategically is critical in understanding where value and opportunity exist.
It is not surprising that automation can feel threatening. However, its ability to reduce errors, improve quality and free up time for us to work on more value-add activities makes it an opportunity for personal development and job satisfaction. If it isn’t already, automation will soon feel like a very regular and expected part of our daily working routine.
If you’re looking for career opportunities in the finance professional space, or need great talent to support your business, contact our specialist team on 020 7096 8200 or email us at [email protected]. Let’s start the conversation.
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