Justin Smith

Justin Smith

I'm Justin, Head of Finance, People and Operations at jaam. Our goal is to help companies, departments, and individual users be more effective through automation by combining great people and great technology.

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One small step for man…one giant leap for automation

At jaam automation, we speak to many people daily about technology, solutions, and the challenges that they face within their teams and organisations.  One of the biggest concerns for today’s finance leader is not knowing where to start on their automation journey and while this is understandable, the danger of inaction on starting this process in 2021 is the real risk of being left behind, both from an efficiency and cost perspective.

Many of our customers within finance departments tell us that stakeholders are expecting their teams to ‘do more with less’ and when additional headcount is not one of the top business priorities for their teams, it is crucial to leverage a digital workforce to increase efficiency.

When looking across the multiple use cases for finance automation within business, one of the more natural starting points is within the accounts payable function. Digitizing and removing the manual work from this part of the finance work-stream can be tackled relatively easily but can offer high impact change and immediate return on investment for finance teams.

If you consider a non-automated AP process in your average finance department, you will probably find the following types of steps being followed:

  • Receiving and sorting of invoices via incoming physical mail and the passing around of these invoices between team members before any processing takes place.
  • Digital or email invoices being received by single team members within finance.
  • Email or physical routing of invoices between team members and wider budget holders as part of an approval process (often including physical signatures for approval)
  • Manual data entry into an accounting system which may include supplier creation, detailed product or service entry and order routing.
  • Further manual steps taken to move the invoice from processed to payment stages.

Most finance leaders would be able to pinpoint the risks involved in the above steps but are often nervous to take the first step in automation. ‘Why break a process that is working?’ is often the mindset of people that we come across but considering the upside benefits of efficiency, audit trails, time savings and accuracy coupled with preventing fraud and human error, starting your journey within this part of business makes a huge amount of sense.

Below are just a few examples of how software can help your business automate and optimize the abovementioned scenarios:

  • Using OCR and RPA technology to capture details from incoming invoices which are routed via a centralized inbox.
  • Utilizing forms and workflow technology solutions to create robust online approval processes for captured invoices, new suppliers, and purchase order matching.
  • Extending the use of robots within RPA to move and capture approved invoices and the data contained within the abovementioned forms into the relevant accounting system.
  • Using internal chatbots within your finance department to enable your teams to access data at their fingertips, without the need for constant manual data sharing.
  • Moving approved data from accounting systems into online banking platforms, ready to be processed and paid to suppliers.
  • Automated data inter-connectivity and data flow between internal LOB systems (both finance and others) as well as external systems (i.e. payment portals or customer payment systems) through an API workflow.

At jaam, we firmly believe that by freeing up employees from manual and repetitive work, these team members will be free to perform value added tasks and move away from the grind that is experienced within their daily routines.

An ‘automation first’ mindset is the first step on the path to success and quick wins within accounts payable is a great entry point into the world of automation success.