The soft benefits of finance automation

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Digitally transforming finance doesn’t just improve productivity and process. There can be advantages for people, too

In previous posts in this series, we’ve been looking the business advantages finance automation can deliver. For instance, Carole Murphy highlighted the improvements to customer experience that can accrue, and the new insights it can unlock that drive value for the business.

Obstacles

These and other benefits were all identified in Capgemini’s recent study, “Reimagining Finance for the Digital Age.” But the report also highlighted some obstacles to progress encountered not just by “Novices” – enterprises starting out in finance automation – but by those we termed “Masters,” too.

As you might expect, for Novices the leading challenge was getting to grips with concepts, and in particular, the difficulty in understanding the large number of potential tools and approaches.

Masters of course didn’t have this issue. For them, the main difficulty was dealing with the burden of legacy infrastructure – an issue covered previously by my colleague Lee Beardmore.

However, there was one obstacle the two groups shared. Novices and Masters alike mentioned a lack of relevant skills internally – 30% and 27% respectively. For Masters, a related issue was the difficulty in recruiting people with the right skills (24% of respondents), while Novices also cited the need to allay employees’ concerns about potential job losses (29%).

It strikes me that all these “people angle” issues have three factors in common.

The importance of communication…

The first is communication. Staff concerns can be allayed if the advantages of finance automation are adequately explained. They can be told, for instance, that the repetitive tasks they currently do – the required non-value adding activities – are best handled by robotic process automation (RPA), and that, far from this being a threat to their jobs, it can actually free them to focus on more fulfilling core activities, and create more time in the business to develop constructive new processes.

… and training…

Communication overlaps into the second factor – and that’s training. If enterprises recognize training as part of the digital transformation of their finance functions, they will need to put formal development programs in place that will not only address their internal skills shortages – but also make it easier to hire people, knowing they will be able to fill gaps in their new hires’ knowledge.

Formal training programs developed and run either by experienced service providers or by the businesses themselves can cover a number of different areas, including core finance and accounting skills; RPA skills; broader finance automation skills; and analytical skills that enable people to stand back from day-to-day activities and identify new areas for potential improvement.

… and the opportunity they bring

Which brings me to the third and final factor – and that’s opportunity. Far from being a challenge, the “people issues” implicit in finance automation represent a prospect of improvement – not just for the enterprise but for individual employees. For instance, a team member who until recently filled a repetitive role in accounts receivable may now have the analytical skills and technological tools to identify trends in all those numbers he or she used to crunch. Yesterday, they were in accounts – today, their insights have made them key players in the market development team, or in customer experience.

As time passes, these opportunities and these new roles will continue to evolve. I believe we’re barely beginning. Think, for instance, of unstructured data – all that information contained in scanned documents, books, video clips, voice, and many other loose file types. It’s all being digitized, and it’s huge. Once it’s all stored and organized, that’s when RPA will really take off – and that’s when not just enterprises, but the smart finance analysts they employ, will really come into their own.

Read the full “Reimagining Finance for the Digital Age” report.

To learn more about how Capgemini’s intelligent automation can deliver enhanced value to your finance function, contact: catherine.munge@capgemini.com

 Learn more about how Capgemini’s Finance Powered by Intelligent Automation offering helps you navigate the myriad of products, tools and services, enabling your business to benefit from an intelligent solution that combines automation, digital platforms, know-how and insight.

Catherine M Munge is responsible for intelligent automation and robotic process automation solutions in Canada, helping Capgemini’s clients to increase process quality and efficiency, and reduce cost by deploying leading automation technologies.

 

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