The basics of financial process automation

Everyone has a least favorite repetitive task. Whether it’s doing the laundry, taking out the garbage, or balancing the budget, these tasks are always the same and almost always a bore. If advanced technology ever completely automates these repetitive household chores, you can bet most people will buy it.

That’s why so many business owners integrate financial process automation into their accounting systems. Not only does automating financial tasks save valuable payroll hours compared to manual accounting, but it can also protect your data, limit errors, and provide greater insight into the overall health of your business.

As your business grows, the simple bookkeeping you started with eventually becomes a more elaborate system, necessitating a greater understanding of finance standards, complex mathematical functions, and the desires of numerous stakeholders throughout several financial processes.

For businesses large and small, keeping a team of accountants on staff to handle these duties day to day just isn’t feasible. Thankfully, you can manage things with automation.

How financial process automation helps business owners

An EY study on how automation is changing modern workplaces found that 80 percent of finance-related tasks benefit from automation, higher than all of the other sectors in the study. According to EY, financial functions are ripe for automation because they’re rules based. Compare that to learning and development functions, where automation can improve only 12 percent of tasks.

In most businesses, financial process automation speeds up tasks in these common processes: 

  • Invoicing, including automated reminders for customers
  • Accounts payable, such as paying invoices and handling approvals for expenses
  • Account reconciliation
  • Data recording
  • Financial statement preparation
  • Employee expense reports
  • Expense management
  • Payroll forms
  • Employee benefit management
  • Tax reporting and compliance

Automating these financial functions leads to

  • More time for finance executives to spend on tasks that require human intervention
  • Automatic approval requests for every step in a process, with forms sent to each stakeholder in order
  • Instant data transfer from one organization/department to another
  • Auto-populating forms with information from connected databases

Why you should automate your finances

Before you can start automating, you first have to define your finance processes and map out their individual steps. This task alone helps you organize accounting by laying the groundwork for automation — and lowering your accountant’s stress levels.

Once you do this, you can see where to further automate auxiliary tasks and create a connected system of automated and people-driven processes that opens new opportunities for efficiency. For example, a credit card company can automate its approval process for new clients, offering a set interest rate and other offers determined by automatically aggregated financial data.

Automation also eliminates the pesky element of human error. Even if you can ensure your team inputs data correctly 99.99 percent of the time, that .01 percent can still cause headaches. Errors are much more common in a manual system, while an automated system significantly improves accuracy.

Above all, an interconnected system of automated financial processes provides top-level insights into your business. A system arranges data into reports and charts that can help you make quicker, better-informed decisions, saving you time and money.

How to implement financial process automation

Automating your accounting and finance standards will help you better manage your business, which leads to improving your organization’s understanding of its own financial process and eliminating friction points.

Here’s how you can get started:

  1. Map out your financial process

Whether it’s through an intensive, company-wide look at every stage of your finances or simply one big brainstorming session, account for each step and stakeholder involved in your accounting procedures. Use a flow chart to track how you collect and report data, then highlight the stages you can automate.

  1. Tie automation to business objectives

Although it would be nice to completely automate every process all at once, this may not be practical. Instead, implement automation in a way that tackles your most pressing needs first. If your business is plagued by tight deadlines for financial forms at the end of every month, transform those tasks first and guide your employees through the changes.

  1. Find an automation solution for your business

The right software can make automation seamless. Jotform gives you a number of ideal solutions. For example, Jotform Tables provides a number of finance sheet templates to get financial process automation off the ground, including budgets and balance sheets. Online forms — which you can customize with the Jotform Form Builder — populate these tables for you.

You can make these forms the foundation of your financial processes, which you can automate with Jotform Approvals. This new product offers a number of financial approval process templates to keep stakeholders and employees informed of and accountable for each approval.

Financial process automation improves how you handle the money for your business. When tasks run smoothly in the background, you won’t have to lift a finger.

This article is originally published on Jun 28, 2021, and updated on Feb 24, 2022.
Aytekin Tank is the founder and CEO of Jotform and the author of Automate Your Busywork. A developer by trade but a storyteller by heart, he writes about his journey as an entrepreneur and shares advice for other startups. He loves to hear from Jotform users. You can reach Aytekin from his official website

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