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AP and Finance Needs to Lean on Technology to Combat Staff Shortages

  • Written by Andy Mellor, Regional VP Kofax ANZ

Like many other Australian industries, extreme labour shortages and high workloads are plaguing the accounting and finance sector. Closed borders due to the pandemic led to a considerably shrunken talent pool.

The National Skills Commission (NSC) recently added general, management and taxation accountants to the priority migration skilled occupation list, highlighting a large demand for jobs in the industry. In fact, a recent survey from Chartered Accountants ANZ found that in April there were a whopping 888 audit vacancies. While the government is taking steps to increase skilled migration, it’s only part of the answer. This sector needs to lean on technology to address labour shortages today and ease the burden of current employees.

Finance and accounting teams live in a world of numbers, overseeing spend management and aiming to keep every department on budget. And while many professionals do this successfully, finance departments are capable of doing more if they’ve the time - or an extra set of arms. Most finance and AP organisations require employees to tackle time-consuming and manual tasks such as processing information from third-party sources or handling admin tasks unique to their business. These types of tasks are labour-intensive, and can often be viewed as mundane, as well as piling on to the already high workload faced by accounting professionals.

While there are several paths finance departments can take to ease the workload of current employees, the quickest, and perhaps most effective way, is through the implementation of AP automation technologies. AP automation delivers quick wins that have an immediate impact and assist organisations in a variety of ways.

More time for higher value work

AP teams continuously work to make sure payments are made on time, every time, without mistakes. But the reality is companies often lose money due to errors associated with manual invoice processing, inefficient workflows, and duplicate invoices. Fortunately, the workload that comes with these mundane manual tasks can be eased though intelligent automation.

By automating manual tasks, employees will be empowered to focus on more strategic, higher-value projects such as ensuring compliance with regulations and creating financial plans for clients. Easing the workload of employees helps organisations combat staff shortages, and increases job satisfaction, as employees are taken out of the ‘meh’ zone, and able to spend more time on strategic work.

Increased productivity

Manual, paper-based processes and software creates high invoice processing costs and long cycle times. According to a 2020 Shared Services Organization Network AP Automation Maturity Study, organisations that use automation are able to process invoices in less than 20 seconds. In comparison, those without automation have an invoice processing time of 20 minutes or more. Speeding up the time spent on manual and repetitive tasks creates greater organisational capacity.

Fewer Errors and Improved Cash Flow

AP technologies help companies manage workloads with the benefits outlined above, and with reducing errors and managing cash flows. Proper automating can reduce costs and errors significantly. Mistakes such as duplicate invoices result in delays and negatively impact cash flow if payments go out in error. In addition to reducing invoice errors, AP automation allows companies to know which payments are due and can maximise the cash position accordingly. AP managers can identify the number of high, mid and low-value upcoming invoices for effective cash flow management while comparing the forecasted cash outflow.

Forward-thinking accounting teams are taking the initiative to move beyond just managing the bottom line – they’re using technology to boost productivity and reduce the time spent on manual tasks. AP automation transforms invoice processing into a cost-cutting, time-saving machine that helps the organisation in more ways than one. With AP teams facing staff shortages across Australia, now is the time to look beyond traditional solutions to ease employee workloads.

By Andy Mellor, Regional VP Kofax ANZ

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