I still remember how excited I was when I started my internship some years ago. I was a kid in my last year of University interning at the Accounting department of a big corporation in the middle of the hit of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis. Those were very tough times. During this period I gained experiences and skills, and also had the opportunity to learn from my leader and my colleagues, something that I am really thankful for and that I still carry with me to this day.
At that time, one of my missions was to carry out supplier invoices bookkeeping... In my opinion, the most tedious task of them all. Every Monday morning I would arrive at the office and sit on my desk to check tasks for the rest of the day. Payment run process by the end of the week... I knew exactly what my tasks were going to be for the rest of that week, and also I knew that the days will seem like weeks. Check, validate, post, file, and REPEAT! In an infinitive loop the rest of the day... What a promising week...
The silver lining was that at least I wasn't working full-time, but my colleagues did. At that time I said to myself, "it's ok, I'm the intern, I'm here for this". However, there were other people just like me, doing the same thing and wondered, "How many people were carrying out the same task across all the offices? How much were corporations spending on this?"
But I wasn't the only one who thought about that. Not long after, companies changed their approach and started to externalise these services to other countries with less expensive labour costs. However, this didn't really change the main challenges of the area, but rather transfer them to a different location. Companies had to spend a lot of time transferring knowledge and also face time-zone differences. What would happen if you needed something from their side at that very moment? What time is it now? What time is it there? OK, let's wait until tomorrow...
And that wasn't the only challenge. What about billing fraud? What about poor data entry because of the tedious and repetitive tasks? What about the duplicate payments due to this poor data entry? What about payment delays? We are all humans and make mistakes, no matter where we are. So, OK, keep calm and let's call the supplier to say sorry and promise this won't happen again.
However, a few years ago Robot Process Automation or "RPA" arrived and provided a new vision for these activities. Thanks to RPA, companies would now have the ability to record tasks previously performed by humans, therefore solving many of the issues previously described and removing human error. This was very cool at that time, but in my humble opinion, it's an old fashion approach nowadays.
The traditional approach of RPA is to build an opportunity assessment for different activities, prioritise them, and replicate the processes made by humans, following the same procedures and steps the same way as other person does it in the team.
But, does it make sense? Not for me. First, run a comprehensive analysis of the area, instead of automating easy random processes. Think digital and think how this new asset can help you improve in the organisation. Why do we treat robots as if they were people? Why are we configuring them to follow the steps of one person? We are already breaking the challenge of billing fraud within employees with them. Instead, let's re-engineer the AP area, save in license costs, rethink the full process and flow, and automate the steps which make sense. It's what we do.
If you are transforming your area, make it properly, make it right, make it digital. Use an invoice accelerator. Don't spend effort automating processes that can be removed, and take advantage of the new possibilities of what digititisation can offer. Use robots to make the area more efficient, not just to transform one employee into a robot. Don't settle for the same routine only this time using a robot. Instead, re-engineer the whole process and give it to a robot.
With our approach, we offer you an end to end scope, including process reengineering, analysis and just automating and developing what you need. This is the way where you can start seeing benefits from the start, in just 2- 3 weeks. Don't wait until the end of a long project to see if automation is worthy. Increase efficiency, the quality of your financial data, following the internal and external audit standards, and keeping control of your operations on site.
Let’s do not forget the lessons learnt from these odd times, where the difference between a company that survives and others that unfortunately don't make it is the level of digitisation. Clearly, Automation is one of the key technologies that companies are using to be more efficient, especially when used with the approach mentioned above.
Tools are there, just use them wisely.
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Intelligent Automation Consultant