Robert Half says CFOs see positive change through the introduction of automation.

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A survey for Robert Half of 160 CFOs in Australia, has revealed the general consensus that automation will bring about a positive change in the finance department, leading to better decisions and higher productivity for those who are willing to adapt to change.

The benefits brought about by workplace automation for finance organisations are plenty. According to Australian CFOs, the top three advantages businesses will experience in the finance department are better decision-making capabilities (71 per cent), more efficiencies and productivity (59 per cent), and employees taking on more value-added work (56 per cent).

For finance employees, the positive impacts of automation on their daily workloads are increased output (71 per cent), increased focus on the execution of tasks and less on the inputting of data (61 per cent) and increasingly being able to quickly learn new capabilities (51 per cent).

“While perception for some might be that automation envisions business functions being replaced by robots, this isn’t always true,” said David Jones, senior managing director of Robert Half Asia Pacific. “Australia’s finance leaders are not expecting automation to bring about negative impacts in the form of job losses. Instead, the nature of the finance function will change. The emergence of digitisation and automation within the finance function marks the start of a transition period towards realising new and previously untapped potential.

“The benefits from automation for businesses and individual professionals is potentially huge,” he added. “Businesses will be able to produce more results, and staff will be able to provide more value-added expertise to their organisation in less time. New technologies will also free up time for workers to upskill themselves so they can deliver better results for their company –  whether through increased sales, output, or a more skilled and IT-adept workforce.”

Jones believes automation has the capability to increase a business’ productivity and efficiency – not by reducing headcount in favour of computerisation – but by empowering workforces and transitioning into the type of new-generation jobs that will propel businesses into the future. These roles will typically involve greater emphasis on analytics, creativity, problem-solving and strategic thinking.

While 96 per cent of Australian CFOs agree that increased reliance on technology and digital processes can deliver a positive impact to the finance function, it will be crucial for organisations to ensure they have the necessary skills needed to unearth the positive impacts for both companies and employees alike.

Indeed, while companies will be looking to sharpen their competitive edge with automation, the pressure will fall on a savvy workforce to make things happen. More than three in four (83 per cent) CFOs agree their finance function still has a long way to go in updating its technologies and digital processes.

“What we’re seeing is an increased awareness and appreciation for the positive impacts of automation on finance functions, but we’re still very much on the cusp of change. Organisations understand they need to refocus the workforce to truly realise the benefits of combining the right human skills with new technology. And that will be an ongoing process,” concluded Jones.

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