The automation of work in financial departments is a challenge faced by every company whose dynamic growth results in increased manual work in this area. At the same time, the increasing level of process complexity, and particularly the growing pressure on the quality and speed of providing outcomes, does not allow quick and effective application of traditional methods of process optimisation.
In this case, help is provided by means of process automation with RPA tools. When it comes to financial departments, process automation has the potential not only for generating additional efficiency gains, but also for taking a crucial step in order to transform and build finances that will bring even greater value to the entire organisation.
Process automation has been discussed and described on a great many occasions: so many that at least in some industries and circles it has become fashionable. As a result, it is more and more difficult to distinguish real effects of the implementation from the marketing message of companies that supply platforms or other services related to robotic process automation. That is why we suggest looking at five basic reasons why CFOs should think about software robots and consider introducing them into their financial teams. If we fail to identify benefits gained from a given technology, it is hard to assess if our expectations have been met.
The area of finance makes visible and significant efficiency gains thanks to introducing new technologies. Yet, we can still observe that in many companies the introduction of new technological solutions in CFO divisions could be even faster and have a wider range of application. It is difficult because of the complexity and importance of financial processes. On the other hand, due to the growing expectations and more and more dynamic work environment of the CFO, it is the technology that can be a factor distinguishing companies that set new trends.
We do not have to tell you again that we live in a more and more dynamic environment and that this environment requires even more complex and valuable support from financial departments. The automation of office processes has one great advantage for CFO teams: robots take over the most tiring and monotonous tasks from humans and they unlock the creative potential of employees, so that they can devote more time to more complex and demanding tasks that require more expert skills. We often see how employees of financial departments, most frequently highly qualified, devote a great part of their attention to tasks which use their creative potential only to a minor degree. These tasks have one key feature – they have to be performed on time. These are the cases when robots work best: tasks that are repetitive and have to be done with precision and additionally, have a variable volume size. What is more, these are the tasks that have a negative influence on the way employees perceive their workplace. From the point of view of the CFO, the necessity to perform high-volume tasks manually means that teams have no time and possibility to concentrate on tasks that generate more value for the organisation.
Here are five reasons why financial departments should no longer postpone the implementation of robots.
1. Finances are under growing pressure related to the security and quality of data
The quality of process performance is one of the key advantages software robots have over humans. There is a risk of errors everywhere where humans are involved in tasks. Introducing additional measures to reduce the risk of errors is time-consuming and expensive – it most often makes the process longer.
Providing basic financial functions without any flaws and on time is one of the most important tasks of financial departments. Robots meet these criteria in 100% and what is more, they immediately provide reports about any deviations from the defined process. This difference between typical and extraordinary situations lets people responsible for the process deal only with tasks requiring high competences. On the other hand, there is no risk that less experienced employees will take a wrong decision in problematic situations, trying to do their best. The final effect is much higher quality of the delivered work, because you can devote relatively more attention to extraordinary situations and at the same time be sure that other tasks are performed correctly.
Of course, another “ally” of robots is the regulated environment and all reporting and procedural requirements connected with binding regulations. Apart from the correctness and 100% compliance with procedures, robots are additionally fully audit-able. Their work is monitored on the level of the simplest task and the report can be stored as long as needed for the purpose of control.
2. Easily-available solutions to very complex problems
One of the most important features of robot process automation, which makes it even more popular, is the ease and cost effectiveness of its implementation – of course, if done with due diligence. The implementation of robots is especially attractive in terms of time and financial costs when compared to any changes or adaptations only within ERP-class systems.
Apart from that, robots have a very useful feature that is unique in the world of IT solutions and that consists in the capability to use a number of applications simultaneously without the need to build dedicated interfaces. This means that all processes that require switching between applications may be generally automated thanks to robots. Earlier, building IT solutions that would integrate many systems was extremely complicated, and consequently expensive, or almost impossible.
In this respect robots are a perfect answer to the challenges connected with processes and their automation here and now.
3. Increase in the scale and scope of work of financial departments without increasing employment
Robotic process automation, when done duly and effectively, yields approximately 10-20% savings in operations. This certainly is a tangible economic effect, but the experience of automation indicates that the main motivation for introducing automation is not decreasing the number of employees. The main aim is to unlock human potential in order to generate more value at work.
This is particularly important in the case of scalability of financial departments along with business growth. Financial teams which devote a great deal of their time to basic financial operations are forced to increase the employment as the number of transactions increases and the business becomes more complicated. In companies which use robots to perform current and cyclical tasks (or which have had the opportunity to automate these processes in another way) financial teams scale very well.
It is worth having this fact in mind and CFOs who are experiencing increasing pressure in teams as the business grows should pay particular attention to the possibility of applying robots in their own operations.
On the other hand, growing business may in this case allow the employment of additional posts that add significantly more value to the whole organisation: these may be analytical and forecasting bodies, strategic consultants, etc. Today, not only does the size and cost effectiveness of a financial team prove its quality, but the type of work humans perform within this team is also becoming increasingly important.
4. In teams where humans work with robots the career path for employees is more interesting
Robots take over the most boring, the most repetitive and the least favoured tasks from people. These are also tasks which most often require less creativity but involve employees mainly in terms of their effectiveness and error-free work. Delegating these tasks to robots automatically means that human work becomes more interesting. In this case humans have the possibility to concentrate on more difficult cases or to change the profile of their post to more analytical or advisory. Robots provide employees with new development opportunities in a natural way, because the work environment becomes friendly to more and more interesting challenges that require more creativity and expert knowledge.
There are also companies which conduct process automation internally. Then, as a natural matter of course, eager employees have a new career path, i.e. working in IT and doing process automation. This is undoubtedly an interesting alternative, and knowledge of processes is a key competence of a good RPA developer. As practice shows, implementing robotic process automation internally is not a trivial task and few companies have the scale to justify the internal automation process economically and organisation-wise. Without doubt, the entire robotic automation process industry offers new development opportunities to experts on financial processes.
5. Key processes in finance have the potential to generate much more value than they do now
Robotic process automation means not only an increase in efficiency and fewer errors. Automation is above all moving employees towards more in-depth analyses and better possibilities of decision-making.
After the introduction of robots into the processes such as forecasting, order-to-cash or procure-to-pay there is a significant increase in analytical and forecasting capacities and a strongly visible increase in the efficiency of entire end-to-end processes. A typical picture is a situation when the forecasting team devotes a maximum of 10% of their time to the actual forecasting of cash flows in the company and the rest has to be devoted to collecting data from various sources and their reconciliation.
When financial processes are more effective, they most frequently contribute to better management of working assets, better allocation of resources in the company and more precise forecasting and modelling. There is also an increase in the organisation capability to react quickly to changes in its environment, which is thanks to the fact that necessary current tasks take up proportionally less time.
Again the same fact holds true: humans are the most important element of the robotic automation process in financial departments. Even though the main topic of the article is devoted to robots, we have paid the most attention to humans. This is vital because despite the rapid development of technology, the near foreseeable future will not see a change in that humans will still determine the competitive advantage and effectiveness of the organisation, especially in the area of finance. Therefore the prime motivation for considering the introduction of robots should always come down to improving the quality of work of your employees.