The Swiss watches of RPA
Swiss watches have been appreciated for five centuries, for two principle reasons: their great precision, and their beauty. These two characteristics involve, on the one hand, technology that is constantly updated and improved, and on the other, attention to detail and care toward customer satisfaction. The technology of Swiss watches didn’t always originate in Switzerland, but The Swiss were ready to take on board and develop new ways of manufacturing; taking the best from other countries and perfecting them. Today you can find Swiss watches in very classic forms, but also in modern styles, unisex, and with current tastes in materials like steel, rubber and silicone.
Now, imagine for a moment that passion and devotion in Swiss watches applied to organizational processes. Imagine processes based on current technology, operating with great precision and in harmony with the rest of the organization, without human intervention, without errors, without distractions, and paying attention to the needs and satisfaction of the client. Sounds good?
The good news is that this is possible. Emerging technologies such as RPA make it possible to automate processes without the need to change the legacy or central systems, without modifying the ERP, and without projects that consume time and money. Companies from sectors as diverse as banks, logistics and transportation, hotels, insurance, retail, and communications have incorporated RPA technology to automate their processes with great success, as reported by CiGen, specialists in RPA for Australia and the Asia-Pacific region.
In 2018, ACCA (Association of Chartered Certified Accountants), together with CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand) and KPMG (the global consulting firm) conducted a survey of 2,700 companies worldwide, in particular on their experience with implementing RPA. The survey included companies in sectors such as trade, industry, professional services, financial services, public sector, non-profit organizations and outsourcing companies. The study notes that the organizations surveyed are leaving behind the models of “low cost labour” and offshore outsourcing, and are replacing them with models based on RPA automation.
The methodology that these organizations have followed is to identify inefficient processes, debug and simplify, and only then automate them. Many times, the processes are so tangled and so manual that the owners of the process can execute them, but hardly manage them (in terms of prioritizing, optimizing and measuring). After automation, process owners often regain the ability to manage them.
These are the most important benefits of the introduction of automated processes through RPA that the study reports:
- Improved control.Automated tasks via RPA are recorded and verified at each step. This produces valuable and detailed information about the performance of the software, as well as the transparency of the process. In addition, the RPA software provides an audit trail that can be useful for compliance. RPA uses configurations and user profiles based on the security of existing information in the company, in order not to compromise the internal control of the application with which it is working.
- Improve the speed of the process. RPA transforms the efficiency of routine financial tasks, since it can often perform a task in seconds instead of the hours it can take a human. As the cycles are drastically reduced by the implementation of RPA, process performance increases significantly.
- Lowerprocessing cost. As the implementation of RPA extends into the organization, the study found that costs are significantly reduced. However, it can be misleading to measure costs only in terms of staff reduction due to automation. The reduction of the effort depends to a great extent on the specific steps within the process that is being automated, and this, according to experience and the reference points available, can translate into a reduction of costs by anything from 15% to 55%. A more practical measure suggested by the study is to consider the benefits obtained from the reduction of obstacles in the process and compare it with the cost of automation.
- Operational capacity24/7. Unlike their human counterparts, automations can be programmed to operate 24 hours a day, 7 days a week throughout the year. With the proper process, this can triple the time available for processing, compared to a human shift.
- Accuracy of the data. Access to high quality data is the basis on which finance teams can seek to transform the value they offer. The adoption of RPA technology can improve the accuracy and quality of the data. Automations are programmed to follow rules, validate data and not make mistakes like humans. This reduces the inaccuracy of the data and the quality risk. However, since the software is programmable, an error in the programming instructions can be significant, so it is vital to perform tests before going live.
- Improvement to the flexibility of the financial process at scale. Automations can be programmed to operate at specific times, or to adapt to variations in workload volumes.
- Improves the transparency of the process performance. A valuable feature of many RPA software products is the availability of analytical information about the performance of automation.
- Ease of deployment of customized process solutions. The very nature of the technology, when directed by the end user, means that RPA software can be programmed through highly customized processes.
As we can see, the benefits of having processes automated by RPA are multifaceted. And while some of these organizations have been very close to having Swiss watchmaking processes, it is not just about automating repetitive tasks that reduce the need for staff (by the way, there is always an opportunity to retrain and redistribute the staff, taking advantage of their analytical skills, to better support predictions and decision making). At Conciliac we can help you transform your old machinery into precise RPA watches.
Author: Conciliac Team
ACCA, CA ANZ, KPMG: “Embracing robotic automation during the evolution of finance”, September 2018.
“Watches with Swiss mechanisms, why are they the best?”, oroHora.com.