In recent years the duties of a financial controller have significantly changed. CFOs and CEOs have now come to rely on controllers to provide them with data and analysis that can guide their decision-making process. Controllers are no longer solely focused on accurate financial statements. More and more they are being tapped to forecast financial results and monitor financial operations.

To focus on the task of providing critical information to CFOs and CEOs, controllers have been adopting software to automate their accounting and payroll procedures so they can shift their time and focus from financial statement production to financial statement analysis. Doing this allows them to gain a better overall understanding of the company’s operations, identify areas where costs might be reduced and profits might be increased, and recognize other opportunities for the company.

To meet the increase in responsibilities controllers now have, they are seeking ways to cut down on the time they spend on manual tasks.

Here are 3 essential tasks that can be executed by using automation software that can free up your controller to focus more on strategically-based financial activity.

1. Accounts Payable / Accounts Receivable

With controllers being tasked with monitoring the financial health of your business, it can overburden them. Inevitably, certain activities could fall by the wayside. Invoicing, for example, is historically a time-intensive process from start to finish with entire AR/AP departments handling large volumes of transactions. Being responsible for accurate records while influencing business strategy is putting pressure on controllers to be even more efficient.

Automating your accounts payable and accounts receivable (AP/AR) can help make this happen. Putting hundreds of thousands of these kinds of tasks into the hands of automated software can help improve relationships with vendors and even save your company a little money with vendors who offer early payment discounts. At the same time, it offers customers a better invoicing experience which can lead to future sales.

Historically, AP departments have been responsible for vendor payment management which has required several layers of review. As controllers look for areas where deception might occur invoice payment has always been a key risk area. By automating the AP process it can help free up time for the department to shift focus from payments to dual reviews, creating a tighter internal control environment. 

An automated system can prevent duplicate payments or inaccurate vendor information by confirming the information on the invoice and payment amounts. And instead of having to input hundreds of invoices by hand, the information on each can be automatically transcribed into your ERP, giving your controller more time to focus on high-level tasks that provide more value to your business.

On the other end of the spectrum, there are many facets and moving parts to your AR department that absolutely have to be done within a certain amount of time and which usually require a ton of paperwork. The multitude of tasks can include document creation, extracting data, acquiring sign-offs and signatures, and having your team communicate with customers and possibly other stakeholders.

With AR turn over a key business metric controllers are scrutinizing how efficient their billing departments are more than ever. Given the number of steps involved, the AR process has a tendency to get bogged down, preventing your company from quickly receiving payment. By automating AR, data for invoices can be pulled from your excel spreadsheets or your CRM/ERP to instantly create an accurate invoice that can be emailed to clients in an expedited manner. And if there is any lag in approval, your system will automatically send out reminders.

By automating AR you also streamline the experience for your clientele. The easier and more quickly you’re able to send out invoices with accurate information, the more your customers will know they can rely on you and come to appreciate that kind of customer service.

2. Account Reconciliations

Depending on your business type your controller might be performing reconciliations on accounts every day. The number of accounts that require regular reconciliations grows as your business grows. Financial automation allows your controller to create a scalable process for reconciling each of these accounts in an efficient way. 

Historically, cash reconciliations occur outside of the accounting system. Typically, this is done by exporting data from a bank and comparing it to the data captured in the system. If the two don’t agree then hours can be spent investigating which entries didn’t make it into the system or aren’t supposed to be there.

Other key areas of reconciliation often include AR/AP which tie directly to the PnL. Any keen controller will be watching these accounts closely to understand days in receivables or if their vendor terms are beneficial to their company’s cash flow needs. Reconciling these accounts can take days in some cases, especially where there are high volumes of transactions. Automation can reduce that burden and shift the focus to analysis. 

Managing cash, revenue, and expense accounts are key components of a strong internal control environment. Automating the reconciliation process in conjunction with automation in other critical areas like AR/AP can significantly strengthen the control environment by shifting the focus from manual input to review, oversight, and analysis. This shift represents a powerful benefit of automation.

3. Gathering Data for Insights and Analytics

Dashboards have become essential to financial controllers for gathering data and tracking KPIs in order to understand the current financial health of the company and predict its prospects for the future.

This is a kind of automation that integrates a wide range of data and services onto one page so controllers can identify any numbers that might be off within the operational or management levels of a company.

These tools also allow organizations to interact with everything from Salesforce and Quickbooks to Google Analytics. Such dashboards import business KPIs from existing data that highlights account status, expenses, burn, MRR, cash, departmental performance, and human resource-related issues.

The use of such automation tools is known as “finance digital transformation,” which helps controllers create financial reports based on accumulated data that can produce accurate forecasts and plans that offer a summation of both operational and financial data.

In the past, many controllers and employees in their department wasted far too much time collecting hundreds of spreadsheets and passing them around via email. What modern, automated data collection and dissemination offers is agility. When data can be collected instantly, budgets and forecasts can be generated right away and allow your financial team to focus on activities like analyzing performance data, modeling what-if scenarios, and discovering inroads to new business opportunities.

One of the best automation tools companies have nowadays for accessing data is the cloud. Your team can pull information from any laptop, mobile device, or desktop using cloud planning platforms and work closely with others to update and share information in real-time.

Learn How DataRails Can Help Your controller Focus on What Matters Most

The DataRails platform reduces inefficiencies saving your firm time and money. It allows for the incorporation of all pre-existing systems into one unified interface so you can automate the consolidation of information from across the business. Save time and avoid errors by utilizing the FP&A solution made for your company. 

Learn how DataRails can help your controller focus on what matters most