In recognition of the fact that automation can help standardize and automate manual and labor-intensive activities, companies have turned their eyes towards automating transactional processes. Not only does process automation provides the opportunity to reallocate time to more value-adding activities, but it also provides the opportunity to standardize end-to-end processes and execute them with excellence and high quality.
Below we have gathered the most common AHA moments that our clients have had during their automation journey, when we supported them in automating their finance processes.
Take an end-to-end perspective
Remember to consider activities performed both inside and outside the system as well as across the different stakeholder groups to harvest the full benefit of automation. When assessing process performance, we often see that a significant amount of activities in a process are performed outside a system. Those activities should also be addressed when assessing the automation potential. Furthermore, if you focus on automating only bits and pieces of a current process, your process is likely to end up flowing like a patch solution. This can be avoided by taking an end-to-end perspective across the multiple functions involved in the process.
Consider your target operating model
Process efficiency is not only about automating manual activities in the current process. There are several elements that are necessary to ensure efficient and effective processes, which are defined by the design of the company's target operating model. For example, what policies should the process design adhere to and how are critical risks inherent in the process mitigated by controls? From where should the activities be performed, by whom and by what underlying technologies? Process automation will most often lead to a change in the ways of working for those people who are executing the processes today. Hence change management and upskilling the personnel remains equally important to ensure a successful implementation and to maintain operational efficiency afterwards.
Be open towards using a blend of technologies
We often experience that companies have biases towards what technologies to use for automation. Some believe that automation primarily should take place via the ERP system, and some want only to use technologies they have used before. Customization in ERP rarely works well in the longer run, so keep it to a minimum. For custom needs, consider a combination of best of breed solutions combined with low code intelligent automation on top of your current technology stack to maximize the automation potential and to ensure a shorter time to benefit.
As for the activities you perform outside the system – have you reflected on why? Our experience is that many activities are performed outside the ERP system because it does not offer a standard solution for those activities. But by considering best of breed and low code solutions, you can automate many of those activities as well.
In summary, finance automation will be most successful by taking a holistic approach. Think end-to-end, consider all elements of the target operating model, and keep an objective and open mind towards the use of different technologies for finance automation.