AccessPay CEO Anish Kapoor

It looks as if the much-heralded death of the spreadsheet has arrived at last. A new survey predicts that the reign of traditional spreadsheets in the modern financial landscape is waning. While data reveals how reliance on them still remains strong with some key tasks, the migration towards automation technologies appears to be reducing overall usage.

AccessPay focused their research by speaking with finance professionals and global treasurers, two groups with a long history of relying on spreadsheets to complete a variety of tasks. Tellingly, when asked to rate how dependent their teams were on spreadsheets from 0 – ‘not dependent at all’, to 10 – ‘extremely dependent’, both groups returned an above average answer of 6.

However, keeping the score closer to 10 than 0 is the fact that a handful of key tasks, for example, balance statement data compilation and forecasting, are still heavily reliant on spreadsheets.
This handful of tasks notwithstanding, the otherwise growing abandonment of spreadsheets in favour of automation technologies appears to rest on three key factors. Firstly, the belief that legacy systems are slowing business processes down, was shared by around half of all respondents.

Secondly, the already heavy usage of technologies such as online banking portals points to a growing confidence in technological competence. Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, optimism for a wholesale technological overhaul of financial processes is clear. Both groups answered overwhelmingly in the affirmative to the question, ‘Do you believe that digital transformation can be achieved as a phased approach in finance?’

On the findings of the research, AccessPay CEO Anish Kapoor said: “Technological advancements are making huge inroads into the business world. They are speeding up processes, reducing the risk of human error, and allowing professionals to concentrate on more mission-critical tasks.
“The extent to which legacy systems are slowing down business was clear from the research. Indeed, over 80% of global treasurers we spoke with told us they experience delays in obtaining cash data, and only 19.1% have access to real-time visibility. This is neither acceptable nor necessary with the innovations that are available on the market today.”

On why uptake of new technologies is still relatively slow, Kapoor explained: “We are still confronted with certain barriers to wholesale adoption of technological alternatives to legacy systems. Perhaps unsurprisingly, is the belief that the expense required to implement new technologies is prohibitive. We also see that many professionals feel there is a general lack of expertise and resources amongst their teams to make the transition, despite the obvious optimism that automation technologies can enhance current practices.”

Kapoor believes that the key to increasing adoption of automation technologies lies in education and working to change attitudes. “If you look at Treasury Management Systems, technology specifically aimed at improving the way Global Treasurers are able to do their job, less than half of the Treasurers we ask use them. This suggests to us that many Global Treasurers are not even aware these alternatives exist. It is up to the fintech community to educate businesses, not just to the existence of these technologies, but to their affordability and ease of use.”

There can be little doubt that Kapoor and the rest of the fintech community will play a part in the digitalisation of corporate finance, it is simply a question of how long it takes, and what can be done to speed up the process.

by Bill Boyle
IBS Intelligence Senior Editor
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