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The most common reason finance teams don’t embrace technology

31st May 2024
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iplicit’s mission is to make the complex simple and accessible. Its powerful cloud accounting...
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We hear every day how technology like AI is going to change the way we work. Yet many organisations are still wary of embracing even well-established tech. 

At an iplicit webinar called Building the Finance Function of the Future, we asked finance professionals what was holding back their organisations when it came to software and technology. 

Why finance teams don’t embrace technology

What our survey said is holding people back from using technology 

The webinar looked at how finance teams could benefit from AI, automation and better integration between software systems. Guests heard from Lauren McIlroy, Partner and Head of Virtual Finance Function at AAB; Kenny Galloway, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Lightyear; and Paul Sparkes, Commercial Director at iplicit

Two questions were asked at the end of the event. Here are the responses received: 

1. Do you think you finance team would benefit from embracing tech such as AI, automation, and integrations? 

  • Yes 96% 
  • No 4% 

2. What are the main things that hold your organisation back from embracing technology? 

  • Lack of time/resources 59% 
  • Budget 52% 
  • Fear of change/the unknown 37% 
  • Lack of company buy-in 29% 

(As you’ll see from that 177% total, most people chose more than one answer!) 

So by a wide margin, a lack of time and resources to devote to an upgrade was the main barrier to improving efficiency through technology. 

What kind of time savings can AI and automation achieve? 

One theme to emerge from our webinar was that technology is already saving large amounts of time for finance teams. 

AAB’s Lauren McIlroy told the webinar that automation in everyday tasks like credit control could make a “massive difference”. 

“When I first worked in industry, we had an on-premise accounting system where things were all stamped and put in files and a lot of time was spent looking for transposition errors for incorrect postings, reworking numbers in the system that had been put in incorrectly because of human error,” she said. 

“I remember spending half a day looking for a transposition error in the bank account because the bank no longer reconciled. We don’t need to do any of those things any more. It wasn’t a good use of time and it certainly wasn’t an interesting use of my time.” 

Kenny Galloway told how Lightyear – the accounts payable automation platform which integrates with iplicit’s finance software – looks for ways to help with the most time-consuming work. 

“We focus on what causes frustrations, what takes a lot of time and how that can be automated to come back into the business as cost savings,” he said. 

“This may be manually processing an invoice at line level. It may be managing and checking prices. It may be enabling smoother approvals – or it could be the number of clicks it takes to complete a task. So the future really for us is dependent on the challenges that our customers face.” 

He told how Lightyear had asked customers how they reconciled their bank statements. A “resounding” number said the process was very manual. 

“So we went off and created a feature called statement reconciliation. We’ve been able to say to our customers, you can save five days by using Lightyear’s supplier reconciliation features,” he said. 

Lauren said a pressing issue for many organisations was the need to speed up the reporting process. 

“I see that a lot from my clients – the need for that quick, accurate and timely reporting. So whether it be reporting to PE [private equity] or whether it’s reporting to your shareholders, that is really, really important,” she said. 

“I know the pain of working in industry and having an Excel file that you had to update constantly for changes and to get three days post-month end. If you can automate that, how much better would your life be? Because actually, you could spend your time providing useful commentary to the shareholders, to the stakeholders, to the business – as opposed to changing journals and faffing around with spreadsheets, because that’s effectively what I used to spend a lot of my time doing.” 

She urged finance professionals to ask themselves: “What’s the cost of your time?” 
In many businesses, she said, “the most important people for the business are spending their time posting transactions and doing things because ‘Oh, it won’t take that long’”. 

“Actually, their time is far better spent somewhere else,” she added.  

The ‘haven’t got time’ paradox 

iplicit’s latest guide to efficiency – titled The Superhero FD: How to Save your Finance Team from the Clutches of Inefficiency – speaks of the “haven’t got time” paradox.  

Often, finance leaders are well aware their processes need improvement but are wary of the scale of the project they would be taking on by seeking to upgrade. 

In many cases, FDs carry the scars of previous software implementations. 

However, the change need not be as difficult as past experience might lead you to expect. 

And – as the examples cited in the webinar demonstrated – the time savings from embracing technology can pay off much quicker than you might have anticipated. 

Find out more 

Building the Finance Function of the Future webinar is available to watch on demand. You can also take a tour of iplicit or get in touch for a demonstration. 

Building the Finance Function of the Future