How AI will shape the future of the finance department

As artificial intelligence adoption gathers pace, CFOs need to envisage how it will transform their finance departments and the work they do. AI frees finance teams from low-level tasks that consume their workday, and enables them to focus on higher-level strategic activities that directly contribute to the growth and success of the organisation…

Finance departments are undergoing digital transformation. The dual and dynamic pressures of Brexit and slower UK growth are forcing CFOs to compete harder than ever on cost and productivity, and to provide new products and services for new markets.

To survive and thrive, CFOs need to run more efficient departments. Only then will they have the capacity to provide higher-value services. Efficiency is about cutting costs, saving time and scaling services. Cognitive automation holds the answer: providing finance professionals with more time to grow their capabilities and make better use of data and insight. Powered by decision automation, this will enable Finance to:

Deliver better financial performance. Execute better analysis of risks and opportunities through real-time monitoring and predictive analytics.

Prioritise client requirements. AI helps integrate and monitor data from a huge set of sources and identify what is important to individual clients and stakeholders.

Use digital assistants for fast insights. Like Apple Siri and Amazon Echo, CFOs can have a conversation with a cognitive robot to identify anomalies without having to open a dashboard.

Achieve error-free data entry and management. Data entry is usually riddled with errors, but automated decision systems can pick up on conflicting and missing information, cross reference new data with historical data, and apply any other rules as defined by the business.

 Access automated analytics. Any deviations in analysis and results currently need to be scrutinized in time-consuming and painstaking detail. AI improves on this by drilling into the numbers to quickly and easily explain the source of the deviation and what it means to the business.

As advanced technologies like cognitive automation continue to impact the finance function, the question now is not whether CFOs should adopt AI but about how fast they can do so. AI enables finance teams to spend more time conducting analysis and joining the dots between customer behaviour, financial outcomes and strategic decision making.

How ERPaaS can help

With our cognitive intelligence platform, you can:

  • Achieve error-free data. Our platform eliminates the need to manually check data across each system by updating and validating changes across all connected systems.
  • Drill into the numbers to deliver fast insights. Reliable and error-free data that’s been automatically verified and compliance checked frees you up to focus on higher-value insight tasks.
  • Access real-time analytics. Any non-compliances are automatically flagged so Finance doesn’t have to spend time checking every data deviation.
  • Solve issues that demand your attention. Our platform resolves common errors and performs routine tasks without human input, so finance teams can make better use of their expertise and contribute directly to the growth of the organisation.

Contact Colin King on 01463 710 816 or email info@erpaas.com today to find out how ERPaaS can power better financial performance.

 

Advertisements

Finance processes best suited for cognitive tools

As the finance function comes under increasing pressure to shrink costs, support growth and provide business insights, there is enormous potential for cognitive automation to support CFOs and finance directors in informing strategy and making suggestions in real-time.

Cognitive automation gives organisations a competitive advantage by meeting the key challenges today’s finance function faces. Here’s how:

  • It radically improves cost efficiency
  • It helps Finance remain in control of a constantly changing environment
  • It allows Finance to focus skilled resource on driving value creation for the business.

Implementing intelligent technologies allows CFOs and finance directors to easily ask questions of their data analytics to make educated decisions with confidence. But how can CFOs ensure they are implementing cognitive automation so it delivers economic success? The best results can be achieved when artificial intelligence is applied to the right processes. Finance can take full advantage of automation by allowing cognitive technology to…

  • Take the guesswork out of sales forecasts. A missed forecast can lead to low employee morale, potential job losses, weaken shareholder value and ultimately compromise the success of a company. Cognitive automation enables finance teams to make more precise predictions by collating accurate revenue forecasts in real-time to paint a clear picture of a company’s financial data.
  • Simplify invoicing. Matching incoming payments with invoices has long been a frustration for accounting teams – spending valuable time tracking down missing information and who’s paying for what. However, cognitive automation can combat this persistent headache by reading documents and searching for relevant and missing information to match payments with invoices, freeing up employees to spend time on higher-value tasks.
  • Help CFOs answer more questions in boardroom. Finance teams often say they are drowning in data but starving for information. When the board is asking questions like: “How do you plan to grow the company?” “What’s holding growth back?” “Are there any uncertainties facing the business?” and “What are the greatest areas of spend and return?” making sense of the data to answer these business-critical questions is often hopeless. Cognitive automation can solve this dilemma by turning the tsunami of data into meaningful answers the board needs.
  • Unlock unstructured data. Cognitive automation can identify underground trends impacting businesses. From unlocking rich insights from sources like social media, emails and even call-centre transcripts, artificial intelligence holds the key to helping Finance develop and scale customer-centric services to advance their competitive position.
  • Take care of continuous accounting. Finance teams no longer need to sweat the small stuff – daily accounting transactions, budgeting and compiling spreadsheet reports. Instead, cognitive automation will do the work so they can focus on providing informed insights and delivering higher-value inputs that add real benefit to the business.
  • Handle strategic risk management. Cognitive computing lends itself particularly well to risk management, as threats usually include unlikely or unclear events. Cognitive capabilities are surpassing traditional analytics to tackle massive data sets by identifying any indicators of known and unknown risks.
  • Complete sophisticated planning and forecasting. Artificial intelligence can save employees from days of historical data analysis by scanning reports and compiling results in seconds – even while employees are sleeping. Thanks to cognitive tools, Finance can respond and adjust to changes in the economy and across industries incredibly fast.
  • Meet the increasing demands of stakeholders, investors and boards. Producing corporate reports which satisfy the needs of key stakeholders in the business is critical. Cognitive tools can pull the relevant data from multiple systems to present meaningful data which helps stakeholders make informed decisions on how best to grow the business.

How ERPaaS can help

With our cognitive intelligence platform, you can:

  • Easily validate invoice data to ensure the format is compliant and consistent.
  • Answer more questions from the board with reliable and error-free data that’s been automatically validated and compliance-checked.
  • Unlock more unstructured data within emails and FAQs for analysis. Questions are then automatically answered or redirected to the appropriate department without human input.
  • Focus on higher-value tasks that demand your attention whilst automation takes care of continuous accounting.

Contact Colin King on 01463 710 816 or email info@erpaas.com today to find out how ERPaaS can drive value creation for your business.

How an AI approach can boost your company’s performance

It used to be that to be successful in finance you just needed a good head for numbers. But just like paper gave way to spreadsheets, digital worksheets are now giving way to autonomous thinking machines that will redefine the finance department forever…

Why is automation so important to building tomorrow’s finance department? According to Accenture, it will be a key component of creating a guaranteed income for a large part of the global economy. The research revealed that AI has the potential to boost average rates of profitability by 38% and lead to an economic boost of $14 trillion across 16 industries and 12 economies by 2035.

And with finance and CFOs being called on more and more by the C-suite and departments like sales, marketing, HR and operations to provide raw data and sophisticated analytics to make sense of what’s going on in the business, finance teams have an increasing role to play in strategic business thinking.

But with all this data swamping finance teams, it can be a struggle to answer the needs of other departments without the help of automation. AI changes this by enabling finance to hand over many routine manual tasks – such as collecting high quality data, prepping reports and processing general analysis – to focus on providing high-value insight that helps drive business growth and performance.

As the role of the CFO evolves, it’s logical that the role of the finance team will evolve with the increasing use of cognitive automation, cloud systems and analytics. Here are a few ways AI can boost the performance of the finance department.

  • Rather than reconciliation work, finance teams will be carrying out analysis and insight work. It’s predicted that automation will eliminate up to 40% of the transactional work the finance department does today, opening finance to new tasks they didn’t have the capacity to perform before.
  • Finance will have the ability to create more timely reports. Automation will position finance to provide better-quality data, more cost-effectively in real-time so organisations can be more forward-looking.
  • Finance will be able to share alternative data that supports business-critical decisions. Incorporating data from other sources, such as social media which complements existing data, will help the board understand how well the company is performing so it can make proactive decisions. This has the potential to be one of the most important competitive advantages.
  • Rather than producing static reports, AI will help finance engage investors with reports tailored to their requirements. Structured financial and non-financial data in the form of interactive reports will serve key stakeholders and investors with information that’s fit for their needs.
  • AI will maximise efficiency, find patterns across complex data sets and engage other departments. Cognitive automation changes everything by finding trends hidden in complex data to unearth insights in a way that has never been possible before. Self-service dashboards will give other departments access to the data they need instantly without taking up the finance team’s time and resources.
  • In the age of AI, financial personnel will need ‘softer’ skills. While there will still be a need for accountants and analysts, new cognitive technology will mean that in addition to needing more strategists, data scientists and IT professionals, financial teams will need to embrace skills like communication, teamwork and conflict resolution.

While the implementation of cognitive automation is still in its early phases, the future is coming faster than you think.

How ERPaaS can help boost your company’s performance
With our cognitive intelligence platform, you can:

  • Reconcile data from multiple systems in one central location that instantly validates data and checks for compliance.
  • Automatically answer queries and validate payments, invoices and expense claims without human intervention.
  • Deal with non-compliant claims before they’re submitted. Our platform automatically flags non-compliant claims, so there’s no need for manual checks.
  • Give employees a self-service app to change their personal details (address, bank account information, and additional information that may change their benefits and entitlements). All data is automatically validated and checked for policy compliance via the app to reduce payroll errors.
  • Say goodbye to paperwork and the human errors that come with it. Our platform makes filing, data processing and updates more efficient and streamlined.

Contact Colin King on 01463 710 816 or email info@erpaas.com today to find out more.

Five company culture improvement ideas that work

Keeping your employees engaged and happy isn’t about shiny slides or having free beer on tap, it’s about improving the small everyday things and empowering them to do things for themselves. This article will help HR create better, intuitive processes to prove to employees that the business cares about the small things…

Company culture is shaped by our daily work rituals – just like exercising well leads to better health, investing in your people and good processes will naturally improve company culture.

Here are five easy, actionable ideas you can implement today to improve company culture, both in the short and long-term:

1. Encourage staff to take holidays
Not every member of staff takes the time off they’re entitled to. A study by Direct Line Travel Insurance revealed that up to four million British workers do not take their full holiday allowance every year, and this could be having a detrimental impact on the health and wellbeing of staff. Ask yourself if your current absence management processes make employees feel comfortable about requesting time off. To encourage employees make full use of their annual leave by stipulating when employees need to use their holidays by and implementing an automated system that sends them reminders to book time off. Not only does this result in happier individuals, but a well-rested and healthier workforce is good for business.

2. Reimburse expenses faster
Slow expense processes can be draining, especially on the people who are out-of-pocket and the financial teams wading through mounds of receipts to get them processed. Add to this sloppy submitting, approval lags and reimbursement holdups, and everyone involved can end up feeling scornful and frustrated. Through automation, you can save days on your expense system, gain a real-time picture of your expense liabilities and compensate employees quickly in the process.

3. Give employees regular feedback
Many employees don’t get enough feedback, and when they do get it once a year it’s often based on outdated information and unfair ranking systems (Read our blog on Why unconventional reviews work). Regular, timely feedback can vastly improve performance, reinforce positive behaviours and create that all important feeling of togetherness so everyone works towards the same goal.

4. Make it easy for employees to request appraisals
We know that conducting regular appraisals with staff opens doors to make employees feel valued and refocused. But take this further by giving employees the autonomy and opportunity to ask for appraisals when they feel the need to understand when and why they’re doing well, and how to fix things when they’re not. This will give them a sense of control over their own destiny so they strive to make more of a success of their role.

5. Enable employees to report absences in real-time
Sickness absence can have a big impact on productivity levels and the morale of employees if managed poorly. When dealing with unplanned absences, line managers need to deliver a personalised approach for every employee to make them feel like they’re being treated fairly. Implementing a self-service system where staff can report in sick on their smartphones will help managers capture timely and accurate information to better manage absence and apply a policy to fit the employee’s needs.

Why unconventional appraisals work

 The world of performance management is changing rapidly, but the way we manage our people hasn’t yet caught up. Many frontline managers are still relying on old management practices that are no longer effective or contribute to challenges with productivity. Let us show you some ways to freshen up your approach to appraisals…

The traditional performance appraisal – based on an annual rating system – is fundamentally flawed and disparate from the values-based, vision-driven and collaborative work environments that many organisations claim to have.

We now live in a world where business moves too quickly for annual reviews to be effective, and where people want immediate and meaningful feedback. By removing ratings and switching to more frequent, less formal check-ins, people can develop faster without the fear of having to justify a rating at the end of the year.

There are various approaches managers can use for different situations to motivate, engage and retain their employees. Here are a few ideas to help you shake things up:

  • Monthly 1-2-1s. Some workers need goals once a month or even once a week (depending on your industry). Have regular catch ups to assess how employees are feeling about their current workload and whether they need more goals to work towards. Frequent communication helps with employee engagement and development as managers better understand how their people are doing.
  • Quarterly team performance reviews. Work is happening in teams more than ever, and many people are involved in multiple teams that often spread around the world. This makes it difficult for managers to accurately know their team members’ performance, with employees doing work managers don’t see or even understand. Setting team goals to align every team member allows managers to correctly assess performance to set goals for the next quarter.
  • Annual performance review. If done and managed properly, annual reviews can work. There’s no need to get rid of them completely as they can build a culture of trust among employees and managers. Use data for the whole year to talk about an employee’s performance and help them work towards their longer-term career goals.
  • Real-time feedback. Whenever it feels right, it’s always good to give employees real-time feedback so they can improve their performance fast or feel appreciation in the moment. Regular reviews and feedback are needed so employees can constantly improve their performance and enjoy their time at the company.

Let’s look at a few companies that have changed their performance reviews:

Google exercises peer reviews so it doesn’t rely on management to collate feedback. Instead, it gathers realistic feedback from the people on the ground.

Zappos’ reviews are always linked to the company values to ensure the culture thrives via its employees.

Gap adopts monthly coaching sessions called GPS (grow, perform, succeed) between management and employees instead of annual reviews.

GE has a performance tracking mobile app that allows employees to make text and audio notes, attach documents and upload handwritten notes so managers can collaborate on progress and goal-setting.

Happy meeting

If your current appraisal process isn’t working for you then think about an approach that feels right for your employees and company culture. Once you’ve found a solution that works for you, there are eight things you should always practice when it comes to conducting reviews:

  1. Transparency – set clear goals from the get-go
  2. Recognition – remove any fear by starting off with a positive
  3. Create an action plan together – start mapping out goals with the employee so they have a sense of ownership
  4. Set personal goals – what are their career goals and how can you help them?
  5. Take notes and follow up – note down everything you’ve discussed and follow up to make sure everyone is on the same page
  6. Gather regular employee feedback – make regular check-ins to ensure everything is on track
  7. Focus on behaviour, not personality traits – it’s easier for employees to accept feedback on what they do rather than about who they are
  8. Use as much data as possible give employees real-time feedback that’s more accurate.

 

Four things frontline managers can do to reduce absence

Managing and reducing absence is tough. Especially when your absence policy isn’t consistently applied across the business and managers default back to approaches that ‘work for them’. We’ve listed four simple ways frontline managers can easily, accurately and speedily manage unplanned absence.

  1. Schedule return to work calls, welfare calls and reminders.
    When someone is on long-term leave, return-to-work management can be complex and costly. Implement the right processes by recording sickness absence, keeping in contact with sick employees, planning to help employees adjust to returning to work, and coordinating the return to work process to support them to stay in work.

Solution: ERPaaS eradicates the problem of paper and collates all the information to automate the steps that need to be taken for anyone returning to work.

  1. Deliver a personalised approach for every employee.
    When dealing with absence, managers need to take into consideration an employee’s specific circumstances, as well as their history. It’s important that managers don’t just default to approaches they’ve used in the past – they need to apply a policy in a way that treats employees fairly and uniquely.

Solution: The ERPaaS Absence Management Solution helps managers follow the right approach for different situations by guiding them through HR policies and accessing their records so they can make quick and fair decisions.

  1. Support employees with mental health issues.
    Mental health is a growing contributor to absence, and is costing UK businesses 91 million days a year. If you think someone is having mental health issues, try to pin-point the underlying issue to reduce the risks of any working conditions (i.e. unfair workload, bullying etc.), monitor wellbeing and follow up at the right times to help improve their welfare, performance and presenteeism.

Solution: The ERPaaS Absence Management Solution helps managers follow and manage the process to make better, more informed decisions about dealing with different mental health issues and problems.

  1. Enable staff members to report in sick on their phone.
    Implementing a self-service system for employees means they’ll be able to do more of their administration themselves – easing the burden on managers. A major advantage of enabling employees to report in sick via an app on their smartphone is it provides timely and accurate information.

Solution: Our app gives your employees 24/7 access from any device, anywhere.

How to reduce unscheduled absence

“We’ve never had more tools to manage absence, but does your organisation have the skills to make the right decisions?” Asks Andy Fisher, Human Resource Product Manager at ERPaaS…

Unscheduled absences of any kind can be hugely disruptive to productivity, and while they remain a fact of life in the workplace, reducing absence isn’t as simple as it sounds.

People miss work for a variety of reasons from childcare and eldercare pressures to illness, injuries, and increasingly mental health issues relating to stress, burnout and even bullying and harassment. Mental health is a growing contributor to absence and is costing UK businesses 91 million days each year (Centre for Mental Health, 2015).

But with so many reasons behind absence and an array of tactics to deal with them (see table below), it’s no surprise that today’s frontline managers can feel overwhelmed when it comes to dealing with absenteeism.

Approaches used to manage short-term absence (% of respondents)

*Approaches used to manage short-term absence (% of 880 respondents). Taken from CIPD Absence Management: Annual survey report 2016

According to the CIPD, 93% of organisations have an absence and attendance written policy in place but many businesses are still turning to dedicated ‘absence management’ teams, with 11% nominating absence case managers for short-term absence, and 22% for long-term absences. But this approach doesn’t solve the problem of absenteeism as it takes the decision away from frontline managers who are best equipped to manage it.

A smarter approach to absence management
At ERPaaS, we’re supporting frontline managers by helping them use artificial intelligence to make better, more consistent decisions when dealing with unscheduled absence. We’re preventing them from falling into the trap of defaulting to familiar responses and approaches so they make the right decisions for individuals at the right time. We believe that’s the only way to truly tackle and reduce rates of unscheduled absence.

We’d love to hear about your experiences of dealing with absence, so please leave a comment below.

Alternatively, if you’d like to learn more about how our intelligent platform can help you improve the implementation of HR and absence policies, email us at info@erpass.com or call us on 01463 710 816. You can also complete our contact form below and we’ll get back to you as soon as we can.

4 Things You Should Be Doing to Combat Presenteeism

Your organisation is undoubtedly concerned about rising rates of absenteeism, but has it considered the effect of presenteeism?

Almost 75% of people surveyed by CIPD in 2016, across all sectors and sizes of organisation, report that they have observed presenteeism – employees coming to work while unwell, rather than taking sick leave – with one in five reporting that more than half of all employees in their organisation work in spite of their ill health. CIPD’s findings suggest that presenteeism often results in stress-related absence and mental health problems, with organisations that focus on wellbeing and mental health being less likely to report increases in presenteeism. Continue reading

10 Tips for Effectively Managing Your Business Expenses

You probably don’t love managing your expenses, but that doesn’t mean you have to hate it!

Whether you’re tired of expense management being its own unmanageable expense or whether you’re at your wit’s end with the huge pile of receipts and paperwork to be dealt with at the end of every month, these ten tips will help you whip your expense management system into shape!

1. Automate as much as possible

Why waste time on piles of paperwork or unwieldy spreadsheets when your system could deal with that for you? Automate your expense claim process and never worry about paperwork again!

2. Claim and approve from any location

Waiting until you get back to the office to make a claim can be a real hassle, and can lead to mistakes or forgotten claims. Record your claims from your mobile device as you spend and submit them immediately, enabling a faster and more accurate process.

3. Do your part – protect the environment!

If your expenses process is 100% digital, those mountains of paperwork and receipts sitting on your desk can be reduced to nothing. Save time and desk space, and save the trees – it’s the best of both worlds!

4. Keep it auditable

When it’s time to audit your expenses, what would you prefer: piles of unsorted papers, many of which are missing or incomplete, or easily searchable and consistent digital records? We know what we’d choose!

5. Stop hoarding receipts

It’s the end of the month and you’re swimming in little pieces of paper. Was this one a business expense or a personal expense? Is there something missing here? This one only has a cost on it…what was it for? Avoid this all-too-common scenario by taking a picture of your receipt, storing it in your expenses system along with the relevant info, and throwing the paper copy away. You’ll never have to wade through a pile of receipts again!

6. Avoid mistakes

“To err is human, but to persist in error is diabolical.” We’d like to think that Seneca the Younger was talking about his expenses process when he first said this! Avoid common human errors – which can be the difference between a £5,500 purchase and a £55.00 purchase – by using an expenses system that automatically validates all inputs and does most of the data entry for you.

7. Keep it simple

A simple process means less time spent training and more time spent doing!

8. Predict the future

You don’t need a time machine or a crystal ball to predict your future expenditures — by storing all claims in the same system and making them easily accessible, you can perform accurate analyses of your data, identifying any spending patterns, recurring trends or problems with your expenses process with ease.

9. Make sure everyone sticks to policy

Enable your system to automatically deal with policy violations or unusual claims and you’ll be able to stop false or fraudulent claims in their tracks.

10. Avoid that last-minute panic

A simple system that can be easily accessed from anywhere at any time, and that can process claims at a fraction of the time taken by traditional paper- or spreadsheet-based systems will save you and your employees that last-minute submission day panic. There’s no need to leave everything until the end of the month when making claims is so easy!

brochure-pages

If you’d like information about Expenses&HospitalityPlus, which can provide your organisation with all of the above and more, visit www.erpaas.com, or click here to view and download our brochure. If you have any questions or thoughts, feel free to leave a comment below, contact us via Twitter, or send us an email at info@erpaas.com.

(This post is part of a series of posts showcasing the benefits that each of our PolicyPlus applications can bring to your organisation. Click here to visit the original post and view a list of all the posts in the series.)

ERPaaS at CIPFA CYMRU Wales Annual Conference 2016 – Highlights

Last Thursday saw our Business Development team venture south to Cardiff for the CIPFA Wales Annual Conference. The conference was held at the Park Plaza Hotel in the city centre and welcomed speakers and delegates from across the country in both the public and private sectors.

The conference was opened by Iolo Llewelyn, the President of CIPFA Wales and, with the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement still fresh in everyone’s mind, Professor Tony Travers from the London School of Economics also took to the stage to discuss how local governments need to aim high to achieve their collective goals.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The breakout areas were awash with delegates and the ERPaaS stand received plenty of footfall from enthusiastic visitors, primarily to talk about what we have to offer, but the chocolates certainly helped to draw them in!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Our MD Simon Robinson ran his workshop “Empower Your Staff or Close Down Services”, which drew the usual healthy crowd of eager delegates. The talk touched on how modern technology that is commonly used at home isn’t the same as the technology used in the workplace, highlighting how organisations are actually lagging behind their workforce in terms of technology. He spoke about the importance of determining how you, as a business leader, can implement technology and services that will benefit your staff and organisation and leave a lasting legacy.

cyb22qzxeaa1ndq

Following on from the workshop, which will be available to watch in the near future, Simon was invited to sit on the guest panel for the closing discussion of the conference, a Question Time style session discussing some of the decisions set out in the Chancellor’s Autumn Statement and how they will affect both the public and private sectors.

During the event, Simon spoke about the “elephant in the room” for public services – moving resources out of non-productive areas and into front-line services where they’ll actually make a difference. There was also some very interesting discussion surrounding methods of overcoming political and legal barriers to innovation, especially surrounding data protection, as well as the current economic climate and its effect on the public and private sectors. It turned out to be a very enlightening experience and, for anyone who’s interested, we’ll be posting the video of this event very shortly.

cycsmwmw8aaa31c

Panellists, from left to right: Brian Roberts, CIPFA President and Director of Corporate Resources; Alan Birmingham, Policy and Technical Manager at CIPFA; Simon Robinson, Managing Director of ERPaaS; and Chris Tidwell, Head of CIPFA Wales.

The video below is a light-hearted summary of our time at the conference – if you missed out on attending or if you want to relive some of your conference memories, feel free to watch it and let us know what you think! As mentioned above, we’ll also be posting a video of Simon’s workshop, so make sure to subscribe to our blog or follow us on Twitter or Facebook so you don’t miss out.

If you have any thoughts or questions about the conference or about ERPaaS in general, feel free to leave a comment below or send us a tweet at @erpaas.

We’d like to wish a huge thank you to CIPFA Wales and the staff, speakers and delegates of the conference that made the event a huge success. We’ll hopefully see you all again at CIPFA Scotland in 2017!