In a time when the mandate for innovation and digital transformation has never been stronger, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is rapidly emerging as a solution for finance and accounting operations. In a recent HfS Research and Accenture survey, two-thirds of the respondents said that transforming finance was a priority for their organisations and that in the last five years the move toward RPA is an increasingly common first step. CFOs, in the leasing and financial services industry, face additional challenges that require immediate attention. Like streamlining accounting and general ledgers, complying with new revenue recognition guidelines, automating expense processing, or reporting on new KPIs. Organisations need to modernise their structures with innovative, integrated, and scalable solutions and optimised business process that supports all those changes. However, the reality is that finance teams work in a technology landscape with business processes that were designed 10 or 15 years ago, along with the implementation of the ERP systems in use today. Legacy and patchy finance systems and business processes result in a highly inefficient organisation that rely on manual processes and spreadsheets. The result is increased cost and data errors that add to the finance process complexity and audit concerns.
The Value of Robotic Process Automation RPA
In previous posts, we discussed what RPA is, and since, the landscape of automation technologies has continued to mature. According to Gartner, robotic process automation (RPA) software revenue grew 63.1% in 2018 to $846 million, making it the fastest-growing segment of the global enterprise software market, and it is expected that RPA software revenue will reach $1.3 billion in 2019.
What is RPA? In a nutshell, RPA takes the robot out of the human. Like it happens in the leasing and financial services industry, back-office processes are full of repetitive, routine and tedious tasks. RPA is the application of technology that mimics the activity of a human being in carrying out a task and can do those repetitive tasks more quickly, accurately and tirelessly than humans. Note the stress on the word task. RPA takes away the job that does not need knowledge, understanding or insight. Tasks that can be performed codifying rules and instructing the SW to act. In companies in highly regulated industries such as banking, the value of automation goes beyond labour saving. It is an efficient way to apply superior capabilities to address compliance. Also enables an excellent customer service as companies have more control over the process and can allocate human resources to deal with more complex enquires bringing more value. However, these tools have their technical limitation, and for automation projects to be successful, organisations need to avoid leaning towards finding tools to address a specific pain point, like releasing people for doing tasks they complain about. Those tasks might only represent a small portion of the process. With a business process first approach organisation can avoid those mistakes.
The Importance of a Business Process First Strategy
RPA usually is used as a tactical implementation for cost savings. However, if we consider RPA as a broader strategic tool, part of a holistic technology innovation strategy where the management is involved and supported by a robust change management plan, it can spring more extensive benefits. To avoid automation implementation disappointment and for RPA to deliver real value, the first step requires a business processes assessment to pick the right process to automate. A process for automation needs to be an optimised, repetitive, rule-based process, usually high volume, involving structured data. A holistic assessment of an end-to-end processes change allows the evaluation of the suitability of the process for automation instead of focusing on the technology. When we focus only on the specific technology, if a process includes tasks that the technology cannot perform, the organisation is prone the fall into the error of redesigned the process to fit the tool instead of optimising the process itself. A process assessment evaluates and considers how the process outcome can be achieved differently. Also, with this business analysis, the organisations will likely discover opportunities to strengthen demand for technology innovation across multiple business units. Our proprietary AMOBI methodology provides the collaborative approach between the business organisation, the systems that support it and the project organisation tasked with redesigning and implementing improved optimised processes. A holistic approach that enables organisations to define, design and implement solutions aligned to the specific industry and organisational need.
Business Processes with the Customer at the Core
In a fragmented finance system landscape, RPA can be implemented to improve efficiency by automating manual finance processes. However, in our experience, we found that the main challenge in these implementations is that organisation do not know what their actual processes are, let alone where to use RPA to deliver real value. RPA is a tool that does not come embedded with best practices. With a business process first strategy in mind, organisation design processes around the internal and external user experience, having at the centre both the customer and the internal organisation. This approach enables to optimise the human interaction where needed and only automate what you should, improving efficiency and effectiveness.
Cultural Change and Business Processes First
Legacy systems, functional silos and business processes unentangled with the digital customer experience, are some of the challenges organisation need to address in a changing competitive environment. The current corporate culture in the industry is ill-adapted for innovation, business transformation, and the transition to a customer-centric business model. The demand for faster change and business agility can only be addressed by considering innovative solutions like RPA. To succeed organisations, need insight from skilled employees as well as the accuracy automation solution delivers. Automation presents an innovative tool to enable digital transformation but requires a business process first strategy supported with a cultural change. Without it organisations are prone to fail to implement automation and deliver innovation.
About VIP Apps Consulting
VIP Apps Consulting help companies to optimise business processes for the next generation of leasing and financial services ecosystems. Our diverse multi-lingual asset finance and a technology-focused team can unlock your technology vision, deploy the right solutions for your organisation and let you capitalise on the business opportunities that technology innovation brings. Our unique process-driven approach and AMOBI and DELIVER proprietary methodologies deliver greater value and efficient business outcomes, minimising cost and risk.
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