How CFOs Leverage Automation in Today’s Demanding Market

Over the past five years, people and organizations have experienced rapid change - culturally, economically, and operationally. Given that change, what are the key issues and tactics that today’s financial leaders are facing?

Basware recently partnered with the Executive Leadership Network (ELN) to answer this question, bringing together CFOs and financial leaders to share experiences and strategies related to financial operations, automation, and managing change within organizations.

Moderated and hosted by Peter Dorrington of ELN, the session featured Kevin Farrell, Senior Vice President for Basware’s Alliances, who engaged in a 90–minute open conversation focused on the complexities and changes many CFOs and financial leaders are experiencing today in the face of rapid digital transformation, including the emergence of artificial intelligence (AI) and why automation is critical today.


The interactive session was guided by four questions that are on every financial leader's mind today.

Question #1

How are you managing your employees’ engagement, staffing levels, and overall satisfaction during this massive digital and AI transformation?

The conversation began with an open dialogue focused on prevalent fears surrounding AI and job security, dispelling the notion that AI will lead to massive job losses. Instead, the conversation suggested that, while AI may automate 50% of tasks, jobs will evolve, requiring employees to adapt and leverage AI tools effectively. The key is reskilling employees to enhance their roles rather than replace them, ensuring they remain valuable assets within the organization.

Several participants shared their experiences and strategies in this work. One participant highlighted the importance of reassurance and clear communication during transformation phases to mitigate fears of downsizing. By focusing on the potential for deeper analytical work and better stewardship, particularly in non-profit sectors, employees can see the value in the changes. Another participant emphasized upskilling their teams to take on more strategic tasks, ensuring that employees see the long-term benefits of these technologies for career advancement and organizational support.

Farrell highlighted the importance of skills enhancement in engaging employees. In flat organizational structures, career progression can be challenging, making skill development a crucial aspect of employee satisfaction. Automation can free employees from mundane tasks, allowing them to engage in more valuable and strategic activities, which is essential for maintaining motivation and job satisfaction.

The discussion also touched on the practical aspects of implementing automation, such as moving 72% improvement in automation rates on day one of implementation. That metric increases to 86% improvement within three months of use - and keeps improving.

Automation has the potential to move your accounts payable process to 86% improvement within three months of implementation.

This shift is not aimed at reducing staff but at increasing efficiency and satisfaction among suppliers. The focus is on using technology to handle routine tasks, allowing employees to focus on exceptions and more complex issues that require distinctly human skills such as critical thinking.

Question #2

As AP automation has emerged, has your overall relationship with your suppliers and key partners improved and become more strategic in the past few years?

Supplier relationships are the lifeblood of your organization, and they can often be the most complex relationships you encounter. For those reasons, the CFOs and financial leaders who attended our webinar agreed that you want your suppliers and key partners at the table with you at every step of your digital or AI transformation journey.

The conversation delved into the complexities of managing supplier relationships across different jurisdictions and industries. And all participants agreed on the importance of strategic supplier management, transparency, and ensuring mutual benefits are emphasized.

Question #3

Does your organization have a strategy for the e-invoice mandates and tax regulations that are proliferating from country to country?

E-invoicing emerged as a significant topic, particularly regarding compliance with government mandates and tax regulations and whether roundtable participant organizations had strategies in place to navigate them.

The conversation focused specifically on the challenges of adapting to e-invoicing requirements across various regions and the potential impact on AP cycles.

Another important topic - fraud detection in invoice processing - was also addressed. All participants were asked how their respective organizations examine fraud and/or mine data with an emphasis on how to minimize financial risks.

Question #4

As your organization's automation increases and your data become richer, do you have ESG initiatives and teams in place?

The conversation also touched on Environmental, Sustainability & Governance (ESG) initiatives and their integration into finance functions. While some organizations have dedicated teams for ESG reporting, others see it as a shared responsibility across legal and finance departments. The dialogue underscored the evolving nature of ESG reporting and the challenges of quantifying and integrating sustainability metrics into financial operations.

The interactive roundtable concluded with reflections on the broader implications of automation and technology in finance. Farrell advised organizations to define their success metrics clearly and engage in thoughtful planning when selecting technology providers. He stressed the importance of change management and executive involvement to ensure successful outcomes. Digital transformation is an opportunity to clean house, and Farrell offered good advice if your organization is considering embarking on AP automation in the face of change and an increase in AI:

  • Define your success metrics from the start.
  • Partner with new providers to define what success looks like for and with them.
  • Understand that your organization is going through a technology change for a reason.
  • Know that change has an impact on your people and suppliers; both should be an important part of this change.

Want more?

Learn more about how Basware can support your AP automation and e-invoice compliance by reading our blog, “The Evolution of E-Invoicing and Digital Trade: Preliminary Insights from the Billentis Report 2024” or reading our case study on Mercedes Benz and their integrated e-invoicing strategy.

Director of Marketing - North America Jen leads Basware's Marketing efforts in North America and is part of Global Marketing Leadership and North America Country Leadership, respectively. Her remit is to help drive our strategy and growth in NA, working across all key teams and stakeholders to make it all just happen.

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