COVID-19 and Automation are Changing Finance for Good
It’s been more than three months since the World Health Organization declared COVID-19 a global pandemic. Since then, communities have joined together to “flatten the curve” by closing buildings, limiting social interaction, and increasing testing.
Similarly, the business landscape has been hit by massive changes. Organizations across all industries – from technology and software to manufacturing, retail, media, and more – have had to adapt to new ways of doing business in order to retain, and in some cases, continue to grow their customer base.
In fact, survey results from an upcoming report, The State of Finance Amid COVID-19, found that 80% of finance professionals confirm they have been very or somewhat involved in their company’s internal and external response to today’s pandemic.
Unsurprisingly, technology has been paramount to meeting business objectives.
Nearly 50% of finance professionals confirmed that finance automation technology has helped their business handle the financial changes brought on by COVID-19, with Ecommerce Platforms (36%), Subscription Billing Software (25%), and Tax Compliance Technology (18%) topping the list of technologies respondents found the most helpful.
What’s more, finance teams are continuing to look for new processes to automate and migrate to the cloud to further stabilize day-to-day business amid economic uncertainty, including Billing and Invoices (33%), Collections and Payments (28%), and Forecasting and Metrics Reporting (28%).
The truth is, the pandemic has prompted finance teams to look towards automation in order to eliminate the need for manually intensive, non-value added processes and free up time to focus on priority projects that address new challenges brought on by COVID-19. Additionally, cloud platforms are a true driver of remote work, as the cloud enables companies to conduct business from anywhere, thereby eliminating the utilization of on-premise solutions that may or may not be accessible in a remote working environment.
As today’s finance teams strive for data integrity, efficiency, and a full view of financial operations to help the larger organization reach bottom-line business results, traditional “business as usual” must change. Manual work won’t cut it anymore – it’s expensive, limits agility and overall scalability, and runs the risk of human error. The future of finance – and modern finance leaders – relies on automated technology to free teams up to focus on more strategic efforts to drive sustainable growth, compliance, accuracy, and, most importantly, a seamless customer experience.
In fact, aside from employees, customers topped the list of the audiences that are a priority for finance today. With 60% of finance professionals stating that customers have been seeking delayed payments and/or credits for their company’s services, the way customers are engaging with a product or service can have significant downstream implications for things like cash flow and closing the books. Approximately 70% of respondents noted that delayed customer payments, credits, and cancellations have impacted their revenue in some way.
However, with the right technology and infrastructure in place, finance teams can lead their organizations in efforts to proactively reach out to customers and provide solutions to meet customers where they are and address any potential impacts to cash flow – whether it be suspending billing, offering free trials, or issuing credit memos.
The finance function has come a long way since the days of solely crunching numbers. While the traditional role of finance teams was purely a control function, focused on spreadsheets, closing the books, and analyzing inventory levels, the current pandemic — and the rise of automated technology — is making way for modern finance. Finance leaders and teams are now becoming key advisors to help navigate today’s economic climate, providing confidence to the C-Suite and the entirety of the organization on go-forward plans backed by data-driven insights. As a result, embracing automation and cloud-based technology is critical to embodying the modern role of finance.
*This article was authored by:
- Mike Rinehart, VP and Corporate Controller, Avalara
- Kristin Hagan, Sr. Director, ISV Partnerships, Zuora