19th Jan 2019

Barriers to Automation: Jumping over the hurdles

Life is so much easier for treasury and financial professionals now they can automate certain tasks. But some still haven’t realised that automation is the way forward. They argue that there are serious barriers blocking the path to automation. Yet barriers are nothing but hurdles we can jump over…

Meet the usual suspects

As we were putting together AccessPay’s Calling Time On The Spreadsheet report, we picked out the key barriers that automation faces. They’re very much the usual suspects; cost, expertise, resources and integration. If we dig a little deeper, we soon see that these so called barriers can be an excuse or reason to not move forward and “fear of change” is usually the culprit behind the excuse.

Overcoming Common Barriers to Treasury and Finance Automation

Money matters

Many that we polled said that cost is the biggest blocker for automation.

OK, rolling out automation isn’t always economical, but over time you can recover set up costs and generate actual ROI. The figures are astounding; we came across a study on Tech Republic which shows that by 2020, intelligent automation could add over US$500 billion (£395 billion GBP) to the world’s financial industry, as well as deliver 10%-25% in cost savings to the sector.

Avoiding the infliction point

Good people are just so hard to find, good experts even more so.

You might not have automation experts ready to go and training one up might be expensive. If you get one of these experts on board now though, you’ll thank your lucky stars later down the line. There’s a great Reuters editorial which tells us why recruiting early is the best way to go.

The piece argues that a lot of firms are hoping to put off digital transformation measures until the last possible second. But by doing so they hit the “infliction point”. This means that there will come a point when your business will need to roll out automation to keep up both with your competitors and technological changes. Doing this all at once is a logistical nightmare, not to mention expensive, but if you do it in stages you can recruit talent as and when you need.

Question of resources

So, it’s obvious that automation can do great things for your business. But do you actually have the resources to roll it out now?

That was another issue many said was a barrier to automation in our report. We need to keep in mind that the two biggest resources you’d need to make automation a reality at your organisation are money and expertise. But these resources will benefit over time.

Let’s take a closer look at expertise. If you’re going to secure your firm’s future, you’ll eventually need to take on millennials – the financial leaders of tomorrow. An interesting piece of research shows that 80% of millennials see learning a new skill as a top benefit to look for in a new job. So, if you give young staff the chance to learn about automation, you could attract top talent.

Adding new technologies: Death of the spreadsheet

Our research also showed that treasurers and financial professionals don’t agree on everything. Both see the benefits of automation, but treasurers worry about how to integrate it with their legacy systems such as spreadsheets. But if you look at the risks attached to spreadsheets there’s so many issues with them (one in every 100 spreadsheet cells has a mistake) it’s wiser to automate them.

The techies of the financial world – IT directors – already see the danger of legacy systems when they’re left unattended. In a poll quoted by Computer Weekly, 60% of those working in financial organisations argued that there’s value in integrating legacy systems with customer service applications, as this will allow them to easily put customer satisfaction measures in place.

Scaling it up

This all sounds wonderful, but we should keep in mind that the needs of small and big businesses are different. It may be possible for you to roll out automation if you’re a 20-person outfit, but what about if you’re a multinational with legal entities across the globe? Wouldn’t it be impossible for you to apply automation on the scale you’ll need?

Well that wasn’t the case for ITV, which is one of the UK’s biggest media firms.

Read the full story of how ITV transformed their finance and treasury function here.