What is the number one condition for business process efficiency? It has to deliver business benefits. This applies, for instance, to the introduction of new workflows, but also if you are considering robotizing certain financial processes. That is why we always start with looking at what business benefits can be realised by introducing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) within financial processes.
Robotizing processes is in essence a very simple concept: you replace repetitive manual labour with robotic software that takes over and automates these tasks. However, this does not mean that robots can take over everything. Or that RPA automatically gets you to a higher profit level simply because you believe it will reduce resources. Just as with any other change in a process, you have to investigate if there is a genuine business case for it. When we sit with clients, this objective guides our focus: What are the benefits for them? To assess that, we have a number of steps we follow.
Understand and Identify Good Candidate Processes
Our starting point is always to consider and understand how the current finance processes works; mapping the processes that might be good candidates for “robotization”. In doing this, we also ask whether RPA is the right tool at all or whether there are better alternatives. Based on this detailed process mapping, we advise our clients which processes can be robotized and whether or not the clients’ initial ideas and wishes can be achieved.
Validating the business case
This is where our focus on having a solid business case for RPA surfaces again. Is RPA do-able for the target processes and what will the benefits be? Specifically, what are the challenges of using RPA for these financial processes? This is not only the technical aspects of RPA, but also the impact on employees on the finance department. Fundamentally, for RPA to be effective, employees will undoutably need to change their way of working. That is why clients often start with with a modest implementation RPA scope for only a couple of initial processes in the Finance department like invoice processing or within a payment process. Only after we have considered all these factors and we feel there is a good business case to make, we will start with the technical aspects of the project.
Design and build
Robotic software replaces manual tasks. So, we need to have a clear image of which tasks are being taken over. That is why we make ‘recordings’ of the processes within the company and the department where we implement RPA. These recordings are translated into a robotic script. When we do this, we look at the ‘perfect’ flow of processes, typically known as the “happy path”, but also to deviations or exceptions in the process. Take handling invoices as an example. Sometimes an invoice has to be manually approved by another employee. The robot must make sure that it has a script to get the invoice to that person. Once the script is approved, the actual build and implementation phase starts.
A roadmap for the future
Of course, that is not the end for us. We keep monitoring the results of the implementation, are we enjoying the benefits of RPA? We need to extend the value and also look at other financial processes that might be considered for RPA. Because one of the true values of robotization is that it can be implemented over several stages and in a low-risk, modular fashion. We share the results with the staff of other departments like Human Resources as well, by holding “inspiration” sessions. Always keeping in mind that RPA has to deliver added value for the client and the department they’ve identified to deliver it, to ensure they reap the full benefits of it.