Finance leaders ‘prioritising automation’ for growth

42 per cent of UK finance leaders are focused on growth with automation as key priority amid the disruption of the pandemic, according to a new report.

Research for Dun & Bradstreet conducted by Censuswide based on interviews with 251 CFOs and finance leaders across a range of industries found that CFOs are preparing to embrace new technologies to improve efficiencies across automation, data and planning as they look to increase their ability to manage disruption in 2021.

When it comes to using new technologies to automate manual processes, 35 per cent cite automation as one of their highest priorities for improving business efficiencies, with 75 per cent already on this journey, having already either completely or mostly automated their financial operations.

Despite widespread disruption, the survey found respondents’ highest priorities for the year included business expansion and growth (42 per cent) and 41 per cent identified the implementation of enterprise technology solutions such as CRM (Customer Relationship Management) and ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) systems as key to improving financial operations.

The survey also found that a total of 38 per cent of CFOs believe COVID-19 poses the biggest threat to their business operations in 2021, more so than geopolitical relations including Brexit (24 per cent), climate change (20 per cent) and government policies (17 per cent).

The report found that CFOs believe there is significant potential benefit to be gained from the greater automation of financial processes such as selected cash applications (45 per cent), order management (40 per cent) and billing/invoicing operations (38 per cent).

Successful automation strategy is also underpinned by having the right customer and user data, and effective data management in place, the survey found, with almost half (43 per cent) of finance leaders surveyed saying that data quality was a paramount component of their plans to improve finance operations this year.

However, all respondents cited managing customer data as one of their most significant challenges. In particular, organisations struggled with using data to generate insights with minimal manual work (49 per cent), maintaining useful customer records among systems (45 per cent) and sharing data across the organisation to inform decision-making (43 per cent).

Tim Vine, head of international finance & risk solutions at Dun & Bradstreet, said: “Although the pandemic has disrupted the vast majority of UK business, our research showed that finance leaders are prioritising the implementation of technology and automation to support their future strategy.”

He added: “In order to get the most value, finance teams can identify the operational methods and where automation can drive the greatest benefits in order to prioritise investment and increase efficiencies.”

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