Not since the Industrial Revolution has the workforce experienced a bigger disruption as it has with the Automation Revolution. And at the forefront of this revolution is Business Process Automation (BPA). BPA is a means of conceptualizing and translating everyday business processes and operations and finding ways to automate them with software.
Said another way, BPA turns what was once performed by man into something that can be performed by computer.
Here’s a look at ten departments and business tools that are blazing the trail in automation solutions:
1) Continuous Controls Monitoring (CCM)
Continuous controls monitoring (CCM) is a term for software that continuously monitors an organization’s transactions. The intent of CCM, then, is to reduce the cost of—and ideally avoid entirely—an audit. By integrating with transaction applications, CCMs enable suspicious transactions to be flagged and reviewed in an almost real-time basis.
This is especially useful for publicly-traded organizations needing to comply with sections of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act.
2) Regulatory Compliance
Regulatory compliance software is like the grade school teacher who’d always correct your grammar—pedantic, but always looking out for your own good.
Regulatory compliance software serves as a safety net in accounting departments. When acting as an ever-watching eye, compliance software can guide and report errors to the accountant. This is especially useful when navigating changing tax conditions and other fickle rules and regulations.
What’s more, regulatory compliance software acts as a safety record; documenting called-out errors or other questionable entries when routine audits take place.
3) Budgeting and Forecasting
Budgeting is ancient. Its lineage, in fact, can be traced all the way back to the time of Luca Pacioli, as he toiled away inventing accounting practices back in the fifteenth century. In the hundreds of years that have passed since, the biggest revolution in budgeting, then, is the advent of budgeting software.
Budgeting software allows accountants to access and manipulate data in real-time. And with multivariate reporting functions, advanced budgeting software goes well beyond conventional two-dimensional reporting from days past.
In this sense, accountants can examine and create alternative outcomes to several different situations. For example: calculating how disruptions in a project’s budget and timeline effects next quarter’s income statement are just one click away.
4) Accounts Payable
If the paper check isn’t the bane of accounts payable, then I don’t know what is. That’s the origin story to accounts payable automation software—a means to disrupt the paper check and move payments electronically.
AP automation can be as complex as a fully digitized and touchless payments workflow—the full procure to pay process—to as simple as a payment file with vendors and amount due totals.
Automating the accounts payable department, at any scale, ushers in timeliness, reduction in errors, and, most importantly, lower AP costs.
5) Travel and Entertainment (T&E) Solutions
Dovetailing nicely with accounts payable automation is T&E automation—after all, what’s an employee reimbursement but just another vendor to pay? Which is precisely what T&E automation accomplishes.
T&E automation provides a single platform where employees submit, supervisors authorize, and accountants record expenses, signaling to accounts payable to issue payment—ideally ACH transfer or other forms of electronic payment.
Salaried, hourly, quotas, and commission are a few variations a payroll specialist may encounter. Combine any number of those variants for any employee and you can see how errors may arise in payroll.
Automating payroll not only simplifies this process for the payroll specialist but also removes the possibility of over and underpayment caused by errors.
7) Accounts Recievable
Automatic recurring billing. That’s been AR’s solution to the subscription-based business models that’s risen in popularity in tech and consumer industries.
AR automation has given accountants freedom from preparing and issuing the same invoices every month. And when integrated with payment portals, AR staff is freed entirely from processing payments.
Ultimately, AR automation has given invoice processing greater levels of efficiency.
8) Project Management
The service-based economy has transformed every mid-level employee into a project manager. It’s no stretch to say, then, that project management software has become a prolific workplace tool.
Project management software is used to organize and decompile complex projects into smaller and more manageable jobs. Additionally, project management software for larger organizations has the ability to assign tasks or subtasks to different departments, groups, or individuals.
Following up on any aspect of a project is one click away. And gauging whether a project is running on time or on budget—or both—is as easy as looking at a convenient, visual dashboard.
At the frontier of project management software is CMS integration. That feature allows a project to be further associated with paying customers, leads, and prospects—in other words, an ROI manager’s holy grail.
9) Customer Relationship Management (CRM)
In the modern sales process, contacts move from prospect, to lead, to qualified within the marketing department before they’re handed off to sales and—hopefully—converted to a paying customer. Next, they may move to an onboarding team. Later, they may need to call or contact support for help. And at any point, those same contacts can be re-marketed too—and the sales process begins anew.
That’s why customer relationship management (CRM) tools have proliferated in the workplace—your customers have innumerable ways in which they interact with your company; you need an efficient way to document those interactions.
In more sophisticated implementations—working alongside third-party plugins and services—CRM automation automatically moves contacts through the purchase cycle; marketing to them with the right content at the right time. What’s more, a salesperson can follow up with any identified contact after they’ve spent 40 seconds or more engaging with a particular web page.
In its simpler implementations, CRM automation serves as a record keeper for sent emails, documents, support tickets, faxes, etc.
Regardless of the size or breadth to any CRM an organization implements, its goal is always the same: give the client a sense of continuity in interaction; your customers shouldn’t have to re-introduce themselves every time they call your company.
10) Cloud Computing (Cloud-Based Services)
About the Author
Chris Doxey, CAPP, CCSA, CICA is an independent management consultant providing Internal Controls and Business Process Best Practice Solutions. She has extensive experience in accounts payable, procurement, internal auditing, internal controls, Sarbanes-Oxley compliance, payroll, logistics, financial systems strategy, and financial integration at Digital, Compaq, Hewlett Packard, MCI, APEX Analytix, and Business Strategy, Inc. She was recruited to assist MCI (formally WorldCom) recover from their internal control challenges. She has a bachelor's degree in English, a bachelor's in accounting, a master's in business administration, and a graduate certificate in project management. Chris has written numerous articles and published two handbooks: AP Leadership Skills and Implementing a Controls Self Assessment Program for Your Accounts Payable Department.More Content by Chris Doxey