5 Key Benefits of Automation
The Finance function has always been expected to operate with efficiency targets, deliver more with less, drive transparency and reduce costs. This expectation has only heightened with professionals working remotely.
Today, many organisations are looking beyond the traditional landscape to streamline complex finance processes. Statutory financial reporting is certainly on the change agenda, with organisations looking to drive efficiencies through standardisation, centralisation and automation.
According to a recent APAC Survey by Thomson Reuters and the SSON, nearly three-quarters of respondents indicated they have either already centralised statutory reporting or plan to centralise it within the next three years. The trend for a central delivery model continues to develop, organised around Shared Service Centres (SSCs) or Centres of Excellence (CoEs), to streamline processes, and reduce both costs and risk.
APAC region is a top global SSC location
Deloitte’s 2019 Global Shared Services Survey revealed that India and USA are the favoured destinations for setting up international SSCs. This finding is consistent with prior surveys—highlighting that the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is a prime destination for companies establishing SSCs to support their global networks.
India has consistently been the top location of choice for offshoring transactional activities. The report also ranked two other APAC countries—Philippines and Malaysia—third and fourth in the world, respectively.
Singapore is also emerging as a key SSC destination, according to research conducted by leading recruitment group Robert Half. This is due to geographical location, government incentives, and the availability of technological skills and top talent locally.
Turning SSCs into profit centres
Today, many organisations and SSCs based in India and the APAC region are looking to become fully-fledged internal profit centres and sources of substantial business value.
What’s halting progress?
Generating statutory financial reports across multiple jurisdictions is a complex task in itself, given the distinct local formatting and language requirements that need to be met. When you add tight reporting deadlines and ever-changing regulatory requirements, this becomes an incredibly challenging undertaking.
Historically, these complexities and language barriers have limited the assimilation of statutory financial reporting into a centralised Shared Services model. This is largely due to a reliance on manual processes that use spreadsheets and standard word processing tools for data collection and report generation.
This antiquated approach lends itself to inaccuracies and inefficiencies—making an already convoluted task even more difficult and time-consuming. In this scenario, the risks of delayed reporting, or even non-compliance, cannot be ruled out.
Managing statutory financial reporting without an agile delivery model backed by automation, can prove to be effort-intensive, costly, complex and iterative—leading to a high risk of human error.
Potential consequences include:
- The risk of inconsistencies and errors
- Inefficiencies due to lack of standardisation
- Trouble staying on top of ever-changing regulatory landscape
Approaches need to evolve
By standardising, centralising and automating statutory financial reporting, organisations can:
- Save time
- Cut costs
- Reduce risks
While perceived complexity has always limited assimilation of statutory financial reporting into a centralised model, such concerns can be overcome with purpose-built technology platforms.
Automation can help
A growing number of SSCs are adopting digital technology—and automation is a key focus area. Whether organisations look to centralise their statutory financial reporting processes, maintain these in-country or take on a hybrid approach, automation can enable any of these methodologies. Not only does it promote an agile delivery model, but it also strips out any inefficiencies and additional costs inherent in these processes.
Given these benefits, it’s not surprising that a rapidly growing number of organisations are implementing end-to-end process automation solutions:
- 8% in 2017 vs. 63% in 2019
And they are seeing tangible benefits:
- 80% have achieved up to 20% savings through automation
The drive to efficiency means that organisations need to re-think whether they have the right tools and support required to complete statutory financial reporting obligations in an accurate and timely manner while working remotely. Using dedicated technology to standardise, centralise and automate reporting process can deliver greater efficiency, accuracy, and savings.
A purpose-built technology platform can:
1. Close regulatory knowledge and language gaps
Legislative updates to accounting standards and in-country regulatory disclosures and requirements change the way accounts must be prepared and the disclosures that must be provided. Staying on top of such changes across many jurisdictions can be an uphill battle – creating gaps in knowledge and the potential for the statutory accounts to be non-compliant.
With a solution that provides country-specific best practice content from the Big Four accounting firms, organisations can be assured that they have all the information needed for continued compliance as legislation changes – locally, regionally and globally. New mandated disclosures can be applied easily to reports, keeping organisations up to date with changes to accounting standards.
A solution that fully integrates Big Four content and a universal on-demand language-translation function, can essentially ‘de-language’ the entire process.
2. Minimise human error
Manual processes can monopolise time, using up a lot of team resources. They can also be error-prone, particularly when teams are under time pressure and/or there are last-minute adjustments to financial statements and reports.
Adopting the right solution can mean eliminating hundreds of hours of burdensome manual tasks that can lead to errors and inconsistencies, which is all the more vital in a changing, regulatory landscape that is more complex and stringent across many jurisdictions.
With an automated statutory reporting solution, teams spend less time reviewing data and fixing errors. They can simply enter data once and see it flow automatically to all relevant reports; as well as increase accuracy with automatic rounding, numbering, referencing and roll-forward processes.
3. Eliminate spreadsheet stress
While Excel and Word are great tools, they are not well suited to the pace of modern accounting. When spreadsheets and documents are used to prepare accounts, there is more risk of human error, particularly when teams are under tight reporting deadlines and do not have the time or resources to check everything.
A modern statutory reporting solution eliminates the need for disparate spreadsheets and multiple report iterations. Automation allows organisations to capture and store data in one location to stop re-keying errors. Changes need only be made once to be reflected throughout all reports.
4. Increase consistency
MNCs and SSCs need a standardised process for producing accounts globally. However, when the business is preparing statutory accounts for multiple entities, there may be different teams involved in preparing different sets of accounts for one jurisdiction with no consistency in wording of policies or corporate standards. More formats and inconsistencies can mean more time spent by auditors and higher auditors’ fees.
Automation standardises the process of creating statutory financial reports through a centralised platform with a global function. This way, organisations spend far less time reviewing information and ensuring data consistency.
5. Create credible audit trails
Providing auditors with an easy-to-follow trail from trial balance to reporting, is essential for assisting an efficient audit process. However, with a manual process, trying to keep track of what changes have been made—and by whom—to the initial trial balance can be an administrative nightmare.
Managing all statutory reporting on one digital platform can help substantiate reports by providing a full audit trail from trial balance to reports, including adjustments.
Ready to transform multi-country statutory reporting?
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