Fatihah Ramzi, DigitalCFO Asia | 3 February 2022
Founder And CEO of Cyclone Robotics
Change can be frightening, particularly when it comes to replacing processes inside businesses that have been performing the same duties in the same manner for years. However, there are numerous appealing and cost-justifiable advantages to automating, especially when it comes to accounts payable. Although your company may have gotten by with conventional, error-prone, and inefficient AP processes, it may be worthwhile to explore the benefits of automating your accounts and how it may help your finance team to work smarter, not harder.
DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Vincent Gao, Founder and CEO of Cyclone Robotics, on AP Automation and some trends we see pertaining to financial automation services.
Reasons Why The Finance Teams Are Resistant To AP Automation
Data Security Concerns – As the AP process involves a large volume of data that might include highly confidential financial information, data security is a key concern for finance teams. However, by leveraging RPA (Robotic Process Automation), finance teams can eliminate paper-based and manual processes, and allow the whole AP process to run automatically, reducing the risk of data leakages and errors.
Lack of IT Support – Implementation of automation in finance teams is sometimes discouraged by limited IT support and the lack of proper finance IT infrastructure. To solve this, companies should adopt RPA solutions that seamlessly integrate with an enterprise’s existing system with the ability to run across a variety of platforms and software systems, greatly reducing the barriers of deployment.
Concerns of High Implementation Cost – Finance teams might think that they must implement the AP automation across the full department in one go, and therefore are worried about the total cost of ownership. In fact, they can start with implementing task automation to certain parts, such as billing and invoice issuing, which are lower in cost. With proven success, they can then scale and apply automation to the whole AP process.
Misconception of Automation – One of the misconceptions of automation is that robotics will replace humans and make people lose their jobs. This is untrue – RPA can create new ways of working in the digital age and provides employees with a more agile working environment, especially since the pandemic has accelerated the digital skills demand of employees.
Acceleration Of Finance Functions In 2022 Due To A Digitalized Work Model
During the pandemic, more people are choosing to work remotely. Businesses require more digitalized working tools and solutions to help people perform their tasks remotely and securely, even more so as the financial industry handles sensitive documents and data.
To better support employees to manage day-to-day automation tasks by eliminating time-consuming manual processes and minimizing potential human errors, even while working remotely, companies should source for a digital process automation suite of solutions, which is 0-code and easy to deploy. This includes RPA Mobile Designer, different digital bots, and the CIRI Digital Assistant, enabling low-cost and secure process automation.
With the rapid changes of digital systems and applications, the role of CFO is also evolving. With a large volume of data in hand, CFO can now rely on the data analytics to generate more insights about risk and compliance, identify financial disruptions and make smarter decisions.
With the accelerated application of digital operations in more and more finance functions, it also requires better human and machine collaboration and coordination to ensure the smooth and efficient operation.
Benefits of AP Automation In Mitigating Fraud
AP Automation has long been an issue facing many organizations, especially when it comes to transferring documents and forms from unstructured to structured information. The traditional way of avoiding fraud still relies heavily on manual human labor approvals. However, by leveraging RPAs, the AP process can be automated based on clearer layers of approval and procedures. Moreover, with AI and Document Structure Understanding (DSU), users can turn invoices and POs into data, which can form part of the automated process, without needing humans to type or verify documents. The robots work 24×7 which increases efficiency and productivity, allowing users to focus on more strategic tasks. Ultimately, enabling the CFOs to mitigate frauds more steadily.
If there is no clear approval procedure and roles & responsibilities, it is difficult for the RPA to run the AP process. Companies should look for solutions that cover the whole lifecycle of digital transformation, including phases of requirements discovery, design, testing, and operation & maintenance, creating a positive feedback loop that accelerates improvement. This is how Cyclone Robotics’ solutions can help CFOs to review the process, find out missing parts and improve their processes. Therefore, AP automation not only enable CFOs to mitigate fraud, but also improves the process, ensure better data accuracy, and save costs.
Trends In Financial Automation Services
Companies worldwide are undergoing digital transformation in their finance functions, however, while digital operation is the key to transformation, it is often overlooked. As Gartner defined, digital operation is the “processing” center of digital transformation, providing the orchestration of systems and other resources.
“Automation will play a bigger role in digital operations within the finance functions in the future.”Vincent Gao, Founder And CEO of Cyclone Robotics
Earlier this year, Gartner identified hyper-automation as one of the top strategic technology trends of 2022, and noted that RPA enriched by AI has become its core enabling technology. To empower automation in finance functions, it is key to integrate AI technology to drive intelligent operations.
With the accelerated application of digital operations to more and more finance functions, the role of people is also changing, and a new form of human-machine collaboration is emerging. Employees can interact with the machines depending on the complexity of tasks, either working closely with the robot and managing its interaction directly or allowing the robot to operate on its own while the employee plays a monitoring role. In the future, new skills will be required for employees to collaborate with the robots in either role.
In relation to finance services, it is imperative to take a closer look at the different categories in the field. The first category is shared finance service – where humans handle procedures related to pay, such as expense, reimbursement, asset accounting, tax submission. In this category, they will require tools or solutions to further minimize disruption and improve task efficiency.
The next category is strategic finance, which manages relationships with customers. This is an area where they can improve using automation, tax management, fund management, capital management, risk management. We are seeing more data and documentation processed digitally. The CFO needs to enable their own team to be able to handle finance management. Therefore, there’s going to be a role shift – finance teams must learn how to collaborate with bots in a more productive and efficient way.
The third category is business finance, which relates to finance deals with budgeting and planning, deals with project management, operation, and analysis. It will require more data analytics to provide insight to support them to make business decisions.
In essence, automating AP processes is inevitable especially when companies are required to digitize due to the ongoing pandemic. With Automated AP Processes, companies can reduce human errors, time spent and are able to conveniently keep track of their payments on a single platform. Despite change being scary and needing time for employees to adjust, companies need to focus on the long-term benefits of it. Overall AP processes will ensure the continuity of businesses.