Why automation is a C-suite priority in 2023


Why automation, why now

The threat of a looming recession means that CIOs are looking at genuine business transformation – one that that will deliver meaningful outcomes quickly. Robotic process automation is the most obvious weapon of choice as in the C-suite toolkit. Why? Because it can be implemented in an incremental fashion without a complete overhaul of existing systems. With a 97% ROI and payback in under six months, RPA offers a range of benefits including cost savings, increased efficiency, improved quality and greater agility, investments in automation are sure to deliver value from day one. A joint study on automation conducted by UiPath and The Economist reports that 70% of C-suite executives list RPA and AI high on their list of strategic priorities. The same study found that the responsibility for driving automation initiatives for their business lay on the CEO (22%), CTO (29%) and CIO (17%).

For the CFO, automation can help to reduce costs and improve the bottom line. Automation can reduce errors and boost accuracy, which in turn reduces costs associated with rework and customer complaints. For the CEO, automation can help streamline processes and improve the speed and accuracy of tasks, which can lead to faster turnaround times, improved productivity, and increased capacity to handle more work. For the CIO, automation is a critical technology that can help to drive business growth and success.

Why the C-suite must join forces to advance adoption of automation within the enterprise

Despite the host of benefits that automation offers, one of the biggest barriers to automation is the fact is that businesses often don’t know where to start. And when organizations do figure out how and where to start their automation journey, they are often hit with several stumbling blocks. From legacy issues such as processes, applications and systems to employee resistance, barriers to deployment can vary widely. In addition, executives are also under pressure to deliver rapid results from their digital investments. This is where the C-suite can step in.

As CEOs, CIOs and CFOs have a broader view of the company, their cross-functional perspective of the business can help navigate many of these problems. Whether it’s selecting the right pilot projects, creating centers of excellence, introducing common standards and platforms to enable full scale industrialization of RPA, or educating the business on the use of RPA and AI, the C-suite brings significant value to the table when embarking on automation projects. The c-suite can also collaborate more effectively to invest, govern, educate and support their teams throughout the automation lifecycle.

While many CEOs and CFOs might be of the view that technology should be left to the specialists, especially when their businesses aren’t in the IT space; the truth is, they couldn’t be more wrong. Even though CIOs are well-placed to identify which digital initiatives can provide the most value and ROI in the near- to short-term (and which ones must be shelved), CEOs can help drive the message on how these digital investments can help meet wider business goals.

On the other hand, CFOs help finance centers of excellence and drive home the message that continuous digital innovation is key for the business to boost cost efficiencies and thrive in a competitive marketspace. CIOs have the technical expertise and experience to understand the technology and how it can be used to achieve business goals. CEOs, on the other hand, have a broader view of the business and can see how automation fits into the overall strategy. Together, CIOs and CEOs can work to identify the best automation solutions for the business and ensure that they are implemented effectively.

When deploying new technologies, there is a lot of work that needs to be done in terms of educating the workforce on the benefits and business outcomes of these digital investments. The C-suite also need to ensure employees are involved in the process early on and trained on the technology to accelerate adoption. Beyond workforce enablement, another key area where CIOs and CEOs need to collaborate is in managing the risks associated with automation. Automation can introduce new risks, such as cybersecurity threats, data breaches, and compliance issues and working together to understand these risks and developing strategies to mitigate them becomes key. This includes regular monitoring, testing, and updating of the automation systems to ensure they remain secure and compliant.

Finance automation: A gateway to enterprise-wide digital transformation

Finance is often seen as a good place to start with automation because it typically involves a high volume of repetitive tasks, such as data entry, invoicing, and record-keeping, which can be easily automated with RPA. Additionally, the finance function is often prone to error if done manually, and by automating these tasks businesses can achieve more accurate and consistent results.

Up to 44% of work performed by the finance function can be automated. A KPMG study conducted in Hong Kong revealed that 34% of companies surveyed aimed to achieve basic process automation across their finance functions within the next five years, and 26% were targeting enhanced process automation in the same time period. However, 30% of respondents stated that they didn’t know where they would go about it, showcasing a need for awareness generation on how RPAs can help bolster finance functions.

Finance is often seen as the right place to start with automation for several reasons:

  • High volume of repetitive tasks: The finance department often deals with a high volume of repetitive tasks, such as data entry, invoicing, and record-keeping. Automation can help to streamline these tasks and reduce the need for manual labor, which can improve efficiency and reduce costs.
  • High potential for errors: Financial processes often involve a lot of data and calculations, which can be prone to errors if done manually. Automation can help to reduce errors by automating these tasks and providing accurate and consistent results.
  • Compliance and regulatory requirements: Financial processes are often subject to compliance and regulatory requirements such as Sarbanes-Oxley Act, the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), and the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). Automation can help to ensure compliance with these regulations by providing accurate and consistent data.
  • Time-sensitive nature of financial data: Financial data is often time-sensitive, and delays in processing can have a significant impact on the business. Automation can help to speed up the processing of financial data and provide faster access to information.

For example, take the case of a leading Australian F&B manufacturer that leveraged RPA to transform its finance function. Key knowledge workers in the finance team spent a significant amount of their time on mundane and repetitive tasks which had to be performed manually as the team was using multiple applications for the same operation. Poor integration between these disparate systems meant that employees had to spend a lot of time extracting and cleansing data, and manually compiling and distributing financial reports. The manufacturer turned to Fortude to overcome some of these challenges. Fortude first identified the financial workflows that were ready for automation and then implemented a UiPath-based RPA solution to increase the efficiency and accuracy of the finance function. The business saw a reduction in overall cycle time by 90% for all finance related processes and a boost in accuracy rate of 99% . The manufacturer also saw an increase in customer satisfaction related to the automated finance processes, and achieved a Net Promoter Score of 10 (customer delight).

Embarking on your automation journey

A ‘business-led’ only implementation approach of RPA that ignores the wider tech infrastructure that is in currently in place could put the implementation at risk. Inclusion of the right stakeholders means that businesses have the opportunity to carefully consider both technical and practical objectives when assessing the organization’s readiness for RPA and formulating the RPA roadmap.

The C-suite must take charge and clearly communicate the benefits of RPA to get by-in, and bridge knowledge gaps by training employees in the skills needed to fulfill their new, bot-enabled roles.