Until the 1940s, bowling pins were manually set up by “pin boys” who raced out to restore them to order between bowlers. Automation eliminated this sometimes dangerous job and sped up the game considerably. The change ushered in what is now called “The Golden Age of Bowling” with a dramatic rise in participation. This increased popularity created a corresponding jump in the number of jobs related to bowling — and we suspect many of those jobs were more enjoyable than outrunning bowling balls.
Without automated processes in place, many accounts payable tasks are inherently repetitive and prone to errors. They’re also often boring, and very few finance professionals pursue higher education to track down receipts, or copy and paste data from spreadsheets. Although these types of tasks may not be as risky as chasing after bowling balls, they do inhibit professional growth and negatively impact feelings of personal fulfillment. The irony is that solutions already exist.
When accounting automation takes over the low-value repetitive work, finance professionals can:
- Save time. When every step of a purchase is automated, from the initial approval request to booking to the General Ledger, the AP department no longer has to transfer data from different systems or reconcile bank and credit card statements. Because all transactions sync to the GL, and all supporting documents are part of a transaction record, the time spent on the monthly close is drastically reduced. In many cases, it’s even possible to move to a rolling, or continuous, close, eliminating stressful, days-long closing processes.
- Improve accuracy. Accounts payable automation systems are immune from human error, not just for data entry, but also when dealing with more complex accounting functions like amortization. For example, an automated bill payment system can automate amortized journal entries in the GL, based solely on the contract start and end dates. In some systems, such as Airbase’s accounts payable automation system, OCR technology can extract those dates from a submitted invoice, so the amortization is set up in the GL. Automation also prevents errors for things like categorization, since systems can learn from past transactions and categorize expenses based on vendor history.
- Streamline audits. When it’s time for an audit, you need to be prepared with all required documentation. Anyone who has ever scrambled to find confirmation of an approval, or sent repeated emails about a missing receipt, will appreciate a system that collects every step of a transaction in one place, in a consistent format with an audit trail easily pulled whenever needed. Information is collected without the AP team having to chase it down, thanks to features like automated receipt compliance and customizable approval workflows.
- Provide more opportunities to showcase their knowledge. When an automated system does the manual work, finance professionals can focus on more strategic elements of financial operations. Diana Ngo, Senior Director of Finance at YourMechanic, says this happened once her company transitioned to Airbase for their accounts payable automation.
“Our staff accountant is now doing more FP&A work. He’s working more closely with the VP of Finance instead of spending all his time on manual AP tasks that he was way too smart for.”
Labor market studies have confirmed that accounting automation doesn’t eliminate jobs, but instead adds more value to existing positions. If you’d like to learn how accounting automation can help your career, contact Airbase.
To learn more about Airbase, contact us for a product demo.