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The Airbase Annual Survey of Finance Professionals

A benchmark report on findings, insights, and 2021 projections.

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2021 priorities for finance operations.

Improving operations is paramount for respondents, whether that be through new tech or new processes.

Those surveyed were asked to select  their top priorities going into 2021. The most common response was “to improve or change finance operations by adding new systems or processes.”  Notably, though, mid headcount companies were twice as likely as high headcount companies to answer this way. Getting control of budgets ranked as a close second priority.

Also worth noting, in a demonstration of forward-looking strategy from one of our cohorts, high headcount companies report prioritizing a move to a continuous close.
2021 priorities by headcount size.
Manual tasks persist regardless of the size of the accounting team.

The data show that manual tasks are common across all teams. Only a very small minority (3%) reported that the amount of time spent on manual tasks was less than 5% of their team’s total time. And larger finance and accounting teams reported the highest time spent on manual tasks: Nearly half (44%) of respondents from finance and accounting teams of 25 or more say that they spend a quarter or more of their time on manual tasks.
Time spent on manual tasks for each finance/accounting team size.
In general, teams with lower software budgets reported spending less time on manual tasks, whereas those with larger budgets spend more of their time on manual tasks. This contradictory information may be because many of the software tools that companies invest in fail to fully address the needs of accounting and finance teams. Modern software solutions are increasingly focused on automating and, in some cases, eliminating the need for the operational processes where high levels of manual tasks are reported.
Time spent on manual tasks by finance/accounting team budget.
A closer look at these manual tasks reveals that they’re evenly spread over a variety of operational areas, from document chasing to error fixing, to handling credit card statements. Bank reconciliations, though, were most frequently reported as being done manually, according to roughly two in three respondents.

The second most highly reported manual task was “documentation gathering to create audit trails.” Only the most modern finance automation tools include the automatic creation of full audit trails, so it is not surprising to see it on the list.
Tasks performed manually.

Outsourcing.

All high headcount companies outsource some of their accounting and finance work, and most companies report doing bookkeeping internally.

Small and midsize businesses tend to outsource some of their finance and accounting functions, so we asked respondents to indicate where they did so. The choices we gave ranged from bookkeeping to CFO support.

Accounting advisory topped the list, with roughly half of respondents indicating that they outsource for it, and only about a quarter of respondents reported using outsourced bookkeeping.
Outsourced tasks.

Time-to-close.

One in five finance and accounting teams spend most of the month closing the books.

Month-end and year-end closes are impacted by the high levels of manual work. We found that 61% of respondents spend more than a week on their month-end close, and 18% spend more than two weeks, with responses ranging from two days to more than 30 days.

It’s reasonable to surmise that further automation of manual tasks, especially when automation is integrated directly to the GL so that it doesn’t create extra work to close the books, can help to shorten these timeframes.
Month-end close.

Guides and ebooks

The Airbase Annual Survey of Finance Professionals

A benchmark report on findings, insights, and 2021 projections.

03

2021 priorities for finance operations.

Improving operations is paramount for respondents, whether that be through new tech or new processes.

Those surveyed were asked to select  their top priorities going into 2021. The most common response was “to improve or change finance operations by adding new systems or processes.”  Notably, though, mid headcount companies were twice as likely as high headcount companies to answer this way. Getting control of budgets ranked as a close second priority.

Also worth noting, in a demonstration of forward-looking strategy from one of our cohorts, high headcount companies report prioritizing a move to a continuous close.
2021 priorities by headcount size.
Manual tasks persist regardless of the size of the accounting team.

The data show that manual tasks are common across all teams. Only a very small minority (3%) reported that the amount of time spent on manual tasks was less than 5% of their team’s total time. And larger finance and accounting teams reported the highest time spent on manual tasks: Nearly half (44%) of respondents from finance and accounting teams of 25 or more say that they spend a quarter or more of their time on manual tasks.
Time spent on manual tasks for each finance/accounting team size.
In general, teams with lower software budgets reported spending less time on manual tasks, whereas those with larger budgets spend more of their time on manual tasks. This contradictory information may be because many of the software tools that companies invest in fail to fully address the needs of accounting and finance teams. Modern software solutions are increasingly focused on automating and, in some cases, eliminating the need for the operational processes where high levels of manual tasks are reported.
Time spent on manual tasks by finance/accounting team budget.
A closer look at these manual tasks reveals that they’re evenly spread over a variety of operational areas, from document chasing to error fixing, to handling credit card statements. Bank reconciliations, though, were most frequently reported as being done manually, according to roughly two in three respondents.

The second most highly reported manual task was “documentation gathering to create audit trails.” Only the most modern finance automation tools include the automatic creation of full audit trails, so it is not surprising to see it on the list.
Tasks performed manually.

Outsourcing.

All high headcount companies outsource some of their accounting and finance work, and most companies report doing bookkeeping internally.

Small and midsize businesses tend to outsource some of their finance and accounting functions, so we asked respondents to indicate where they did so. The choices we gave ranged from bookkeeping to CFO support.

Accounting advisory topped the list, with roughly half of respondents indicating that they outsource for it, and only about a quarter of respondents reported using outsourced bookkeeping.
Outsourced tasks.

Time-to-close.

One in five finance and accounting teams spend most of the month closing the books.

Month-end and year-end closes are impacted by the high levels of manual work. We found that 61% of respondents spend more than a week on their month-end close, and 18% spend more than two weeks, with responses ranging from two days to more than 30 days.

It’s reasonable to surmise that further automation of manual tasks, especially when automation is integrated directly to the GL so that it doesn’t create extra work to close the books, can help to shorten these timeframes.
Month-end close.

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