Automated financial services (AFS) are software solutions that can perform a host of financial tasks, and they are transforming such services into “an always on, algorithmically-driven industry.” Increasingly, AFS can help small and medium enterprises compete globally. With automated financial services, businesses can send and receive payments more efficiently, stay well informed on current market data, and allow their employees to focus on their customers and related services rather than back office tasks.
While financial automation has been around since the ATM debuted in 1969 and Intuit sold its first accounting software in 1983, software development and online services have grown exponentially over the past fifteen years. Large enterprises and SMEs began to automate complex in-house, business-to-business, and business-to-customer services.
Today, contemporary automated financial systems and services can perform many financial tasks, including tax management, tracking assets and inventory, dispersing payments, assembling financial statements, and gathering financial data across company departments. AFS automation saves companies time and labor because it can handle complex processes and process data with far fewer errors. Moreover, many companies are outsourcing to experts in automated finance who can perform all necessary financial tasks for less money than an in-house department.
Over the past decade, financial automation software and services have reached into many different aspects of finance and accounting. In particular, automation has worked well for high-volume processes such as accounts payable, receivable and expense reporting. Automation has also helped reduce labor hours on time-consuming (but necessary) reports. Automated systems can execute timely, precise, and comprehensive checks on data accuracy and quality.
Accounting software such as QuickBooks or Microsoft Office Accounting helps smaller firms track financial transactions and manage incoming and outgoing payments in real time. Cloud accounting firms like Acuity Financial Experts create on-demand CFO services that allow companies to offload their finances entirely. These organizations automate processes while still employing personnel to deal with more complex challenges. Offsite firms can also operate specific, tricky aspects of international finance.
Veem, a global business-to-business payment platform, combines payment processing and IT systems management to streamline payment practices and make billing much more efficient. Automated reporting software, such as Oracle Financial Management, consolidates and analyses data, lets companies meet regulatory reporting requirements, and helps simplify financial analysis.
Why should small businesses get on board with AFS?
Small businesses are uniquely positioned to take advantage of AFS automation. Over 70% of small businesses are outsourcing some part of their finances, and that number is expected to grow quickly over the next decade. Small businesses are choosing automation because AFS have never been more accessible or affordable, in part thanks to cloud-computing. Cloud services free small companies from upfront infrastructure costs, such as having to invest in expensive servers.
Cloud-based programs allow small companies to upgrade easily, so companies can adopt newer tech as their businesses grow. Cloud-based customer relations management (CRM) software has also made programs easier to use and more accessible to a wider group of employees. Managers and agents can now access automatic programs or complete other, more complicated tasks from their desktop or mobile devices. And, because CRMs are easy to use, they can streamline departments or work well for small businesses with fewer employees. The cloud has made outsourcing services fundamentally less expensive. Small businesses, which may not want to keep accounting in-house, can choose from financial services experts anywhere around the globe.
Small businesses not making use of financial automation may find themselves losing their competitive edge. Without automation, businesses have to spend more time on back-end processes. Companies whose employees constantly perform routine tasks manually are more likely to make mistakes. Manual invoicing, for example, is particularly susceptible to human error. Automated financial software can assure businesses that data input is error-free.
In addition, AFS can create holistic financial oversight with automatic auditing and bank reconciliation. By automating as much of their financial processes as possible, companies can focus on the growth and innovation that will make them more successful (and profitable) in the future.
Automation is the financial future
Business finance will only become more automated as software technologies and cloud services become more available globally. In the future, a business’s customers will most likely be global, as will business partners. Global industries such as import/export companies, transportation, or construction particularly need the know-how to work with regional as well as local rules and regulations. As automated financial services become more sophisticated, they are increasingly able to monitor compliance in accordance with national and international regulations. Technological systems will also be able to analyze data to help businesses make informed financial decisions about company growth.
As businesses become more enmeshed with global partners, financial payments will need to become quicker and more streamlined. Klaus-Michael Vogelberg, Chief Technology of Sage Group, predicts that “[new technological solutions] will be fully integrated into the financial accounting systems of tomorrow’s enterprises.” E-commerce platforms, businesses, and banks will be able to fully-automate payments and perform instantaneous financial transactions. Businesses will be able to conduct financial transactions from anywhere and everywhere, in real time. Companies that cannot deploy these benefits will be left behind. Automated financial solutions will always be a boon for small businesses. With access to similar technologies and services, small businesses will be able to compete in global markets, increase their market share, and grow in the new economy.