It’s no secret that the role of the finance department within companies is evolving. A simple Google search will bring up a plethora of articles dissecting how the finance organization is no longer confined to the back office crunching numbers.

This is all fine and good, but crunching numbers is still extremely vital and time consuming. Depending on the size of your company, a full-time accountant can spend their whole week managing purchase orders, processing invoices, hunting down accrual estimates and vendor payment details, and seeking required approvals for all transactions.

That’s not a very good use of that accountant’s time.

So, how do you free up that accountant from managing accounts payable, and what could they be doing with their time if they didn’t have to manage AP? Both are excellent questions.

Ways to free up your finance team’s time.

If you’ve browsed through any of the other posts in our blog, you likely already know some of the answers. Our CEO, Ben Portusach, broke down three ways to address increases in AP volume in this post.

Essentially, your choices are to hire more staff, outsource, or automate your AP functions. Ben discusses the pros and cons of each, so I won’t dive into them too much. However, let’s agree for the sake of argument that hiring more staff is your least ideal solution. It’s likely the most expensive option of the three and sort of defeats the point of freeing up the original staff accountant in the first place.

That leads us to outsourcing. Outsourcing is cheaper than hiring more staff, and it would definitely free up your full-time accountant. However, outsourcing is just throwing more bodies at the problem. And if there’s one thing we know about people, it’s that they are prone to mistakes and cutting corners from processes to save time. You would essentially be giving up control of your accounts payable to a third party that may not have your company’s best interests at heart.

Automation, on the other hand, is a cost-effective solution that allows you to keep control of your accounts payable while drastically reducing the time your finance team spends managing it. There are lots of great automation tools out there for you to consider that will fit the specific needs of your policies.

Now that we’ve briefly explored how to free up that awesome staff accountant, let’s talk about how to leverage all that shiny, new free time of theirs.

What your finance team can focus on when not focusing so much on AP.

Now that your full-time staff accountant is spending only a small fraction of their time managing the daily AP tasks, they can put their knowledge of company vitals, creativity, and overall experience to help finance become a strategic partner.

They can help lead strategic partnerships with other departments.
Other departments like IT and HR need to implement new technologies, policies, and programs to stay competitive, keep employees happy, and help keep the company efficient. While they may have a general idea of the best way to create and implement these requirements, your full-time accountant could become a key resource. Given their in-depth knowledge of company goals, current financial health, budgets, and additional stats, they can provide an invaluable insight into the best way to bring these interdepartmental goals into fruition.

They can become an advocate for key initiatives.
With today’s technology advances, there are plenty of things keeping your average CIO up at night. Cybersecurity Ventures, a research and publishing firm focused on the cyber economy, predicts that global spend on cybersecurity will reach $1 trillion dollars by 2021. With a lot of high-profile hacks in the past year, this is not surprising. Your finance team can work with your CIO, as an example, to help determine what level of spending is required to keep your company data safe. Once the proper budget is determined, they will be critical at bat in helping to sell that budget to key approvers.

They can help manage expectations.
Here’s an example of how your staff accountant can help the finance department manage expectations. With employment levels at an all time high, HR departments need to become creative in their benefit packages to find and keep top talent. It’s easy for them to run off the rails with incentive programs before they’ve blown through their budget. Marketing, too, is a department where new ideas for selling the company and its products can quickly nuke a set budget. Having someone from finance work with them directly from the beginning of their brainstorming can help keep their expectations grounded in reality.

They can research new regulations.
Government regulations are, especially these days, in a state of flux. From the new tax laws that went into effect earlier this year to ever-changing environmental regulations, there’s a lot to keep up with. Your accountant should be more free now to research any regulations that do or may apply to your company, and suggest ways for the company to stay compliant.

They can do more abstract reporting.
Your accountant has access to all your company financial data. Instead of having them run reports that show the here and now, they can use their new spare time to run a few different forecasting models to help nail down the best overall strategy for your company. Showing a few variant forecasts can help key decision makers choose the path most inline with company goals.

These are just a few ideas we at Accrualify can think of. The key takeaway is that your finance staff can help drive company efficiency, growth, and goals when they aren’t spending all of their time managing the day-to-day tasks around accounts payable and accounts receivable. You have a great team full of talent. Why not leverage them?

We’d love to hear how you would leverage your finance team if they only had the time. Please share in the comments section!