Digital Transformation in Finance: Automation Delivers Fast
The pandemic, and now the macroeconomic environment, have accelerated the need for companies to move even faster in completing their digital transformation to stay competitive. And automation has already started to play a huge role in companies’ ability to do so.
Automation is being prioritized as a strategic imperative.
Over the last six months, I’ve had the good fortune to spend time with UiPath team members and customers. I’ve seen how organizations across industries are harnessing automation for more innovative transformation.
At one time, digital transformation was viewed as a ‘rip-and-replace’ undertaking. Ripping out existing systems and applications to replace them with new ones. More recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of enterprises adding an “automation layer” on top of their application stacks.
The automation layer sits between workers and the enterprise systems and applications they need to get their work done. In weaving together applications, systems, and software, robots are allowing organizations to re-imagine business processes. And reap the benefits without the costly, risky, and time-consuming rip-and-replace undertakings that were once required.
In addition to seeing how customers are innovating transformation with automation, I also have the privilege of seeing how UiPath uses UiPath.
I’m amazed at the role automation is playing in digital transformation. Especially in finance.
Years ago, the Finance and Accounting (F&A) department was one of the first areas where UiPath began using UiPath technology. Since then, our teams have continuously found new ways to innovate, and the ROI that robots are providing our F&A department today is truly impressive.
Software robots are currently giving back more than 100,000 hours annually to the F&A department.
Talking with UiPath SVP of Finance and Global Controller Mihai Faur, I learned he’s maintained the same number of employees for the last three years. In that time, revenue grew from $350 million to $900 million, while operations have increased and become more complex. And yet, they’re accomplishing more with the same number of people.
That’s the power of empowering employees with software robots.
Take invoice processing. Some organizations still have employees locate invoices in their ERP system and then upload the invoices to customers’ portals.
A robot named “Billy the Portal” handles that for our Commercial Finance team. Billy also makes sure each customer receives the invoice as soon as it’s issued and, at the end of the day, sends the team a report of all invoices sent during the day.
Cost savings from robots doing transactional tasks are an easy calculation. What is your cost per transaction before automation? What was the cost for processing one invoice? Compare that to the cost per transaction once robots are handling those tasks—it’s easy for any F&A team to be happy about the results.
Other examples include the global payroll accounting automation and the “Soft Close” bot that helps close purchase orders in our procure-to-pay (P2P) system each month.
With the time and cost savings from robots, the F&A department created new Revenue Recognition Operations teams. By delegating accounts receivable and accounts payable tasks to robots, employees were freed to work on more complex jobs. And moving employees to the new teams provided new career opportunities—they’re now on a path to becoming controllers in the future.
For many in finance, ensuring accuracy and meeting required timeframes governed by compliance regulations are what keeps them up at night. Mistakes can cost organizations millions. "Accelerated digital transformation, persisting pandemic pressures and increasing regulatory requirements are driving widespread compliance disruption," reports LexisNexis.
One of the first automations in the UiPath F&A department was created to help with a revenue recognition audit. The systems in place three years ago made the audit a slow, painful process. An automation was created to help complete the audit in the regulated timeframes. The department hasn’t looked back.
United States (U.S.) organizations must comply with the Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX), a federal law that (among other things) established “audit report standards and rules” for publicly-held companies.
Our F&A department uses automation for SOX controls. Robots ensure higher accuracy for these integrated audits.
How long does it take your F&A department to close the books after the quarterly close? I’ve seen it take close to two weeks in some companies. With automation, the UiPath F&A department closes the books within five days after each quarterly close.
This is a critical business process that’s perfect to delegate to robots. The process tasks are tedious and dull. Both of which can contribute to human error.
There’s no human error when our F&A department closes the books each quarter; robots provide 100% accuracy.
With robots handling those aspects, finance employees shifted time and focus to analyzing the data robots prepared. Team members embraced the shift to more complex work. An added bonus of team members being happier and more productive is the higher retention rate.
A more recent example is the “Data Gathering for Indirect Tax Compliance” automation. A robot gathers the documentation required by our indirect tax compliance supplier. Then the supplier prepares tax returns for all subsidiaries.
Before the robot, employees manually exported all the necessary reports and supporting documentation from various sources. With the robot, there are no human input errors and the process is faster.
Once a week on LinkedIn, Faur is highlighting a robot used in our F&A department. Follow along and watch for our quarterly blog post highlighting other ways UiPath automates with UiPath.
For more ways to transform finance, download our latest F&A e-book "Automating Finance."
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