Automation In The Post-pandemic Landscape: Challenges, Results & Recommendations

Fatihah Ramzi, DigitalCFO Asia | 25 October 2022

Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker

As the world economy battles to recover from the pandemic and businesses look for resilience and a return to stability and growth, automation is now regarded through a new lens. Since remote and hybrid work are set to stay, they pose new challenges for workplace digital literacy. Other advantages of automation include improved document visibility for businesses, a smaller carbon impact, and more productivity.

To find out more about automation in the post-pandemic landscape, DigitalCFO Asia spoke with Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker to get further insights on the challenges as well as results of automating one’s organization. 

Automation Solutions That Are On The Uptrend In Today’s Market

A procure-to-pay (P2P) system was formerly quite popular in Asia. However, when the world entered the post-pandemic setting, the scene changed. The industry is noticing an increase in inquiries and demands for O2C automation software that uses robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) to expedite the order-to-cash cycle and enable faster accounts receivable turnover. E-invoicing in Accounts Payable (AP) and Accounts Receivable (AR) is an intriguing new trend.

New regulations and adoption timetables in both B2G and B2B are pushing the adoption of e-invoicing in the APAC area. In the global market, this is no longer a novelty but rather a reality that forces businesses to reinvent and modernize themselves in order to meet the expanding demands and standards for tax compliance.

For the time being, only Commonwealth agencies in Australia are required to use e-Invoicing effective from July 1, 2022. Nevertheless,  Australia is getting ready to introduce e-Invoicing in the B2B market. It has started a public consultation on business adoption of e-Invoicing for this reason. The Business eInvoicing Right (BER) initiative’s goal is to increase the adoption of e-Invoicing among businesses. With several Asian countries (Indonesia, Japan, Taiwan, and South Korea) already making e-invoicing mandatory and others moving in that direction, this could encourage further nations in the APAC region to follow suit.

Immediate Results Of Automation

1. Visibility 

Once a solution is live, teams can use it to develop and maintain a single source of truth for any given workstream, project, or process. This is one of the most noticeable immediate results. The employees now have access to the data they require to finish their work on time or even earlier thanks to the solution. Documents do not easily disappear because of this visibility, and staff can keep track of who last worked on them, where their progress is right now, and their status.

2. Lower Carbon Footprint 

Another immediate effect would be that everything is now digital and paperless. Businesses use a lot of paper every day, whether it be memoranda, tax paperwork, reports, spreadsheets, or reports. By substituting digital papers for physical ones, business automation enables them to save money and cut down on waste. 

The content is kept safely via the cloud and is available from anywhere with any device, so it not only saves paper but also really makes it easier for everyone in the organization to access and use the information. Businesses can reduce their paper usage, which advances the sustainability mission by requiring fewer trees to be cut. The carbon footprint of the company will be reduced as a result.

3. Increase Productivity

Employees in an automated setting have more time, freedom, and resources to devote to strategy, research, and technology rather than physical labor. This results in a significantly greater percentage of employee productivity. Because automation eliminates so many pointless time-consuming chores, workers are better able to concentrate on jobs that bring value, which leads to improved productivity at work.

Challenges In Supporting A Hybrid Work Model

1. Effective Change Management

“Working remotely or having a hybrid work model is actually doable despite a lot of scepticism,” says Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker

Employers still anticipate their workers to return to the workplace in the post-pandemic environment. It is merely a result of a refusal to let go of the established workplace culture from pre-COVID times. Because hybrid work arrangements give employees more freedom and would be beneficial to their well-being, most businesses in the post-pandemic landscape choose to continue with them. 

Senior employers, however, hold a different opinion. Despite the effectiveness of remote work during the epidemic, several businesses still have plans to encourage employees to fully return to the office. Hence why Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker, believes that effective change management is key to getting people, especially the senior management, to accept a hybrid working model.

2. Supporting Digital Literacy

Being able to send an email or type using a word processing application was once considered to be proof of digital literacy. Knowledge employees, who might utilize particular software at work and need to be proficient in how to use it accordingly, were mostly required to have this talent. But the expression has substantially changed. Today, being digitally literate means possessing the abilities necessary to succeed in a culture where internet platforms and mobile devices, among others, are used more frequently for communication and information access.

Digital literacy is becoming a mindset, not just a practical requirement. Employees are expected to quickly acquire any technology that comes with their employment in the modern workplace, as well as adjust to always evolving tools and methodologies. Additionally, it is expected that employees will strategically leverage technology, from utilizing personal mobile devices to utilizing collaborative workflow programs.

Companies who do not promote digital literacy training in the workplace may find that a large number of their employees are submitting their resignations because they are overwhelmed and frustrated trying to keep up with the most recent technology or business software. Because of this, giving staff digital literacy training will aid in their adjustment to a hybrid workplace.

Positive-sum Growth In Supporting Long Term Growth

Esker believes that positive sum-growth creates a condition where everyone in the company ecosystem benefits. The outdated “when I win, you lose” mentality is ineffective in today’s competitive economic environment. Companies can lay the groundwork for long-term growth by automating their customer service and financial operations. With Esker’s positive sum-growth approach, businesses may become more sustainable and contribute to the fight against global warming by automating their processes to use less paper and produce less carbon.

Automation will help businesses increase employee satisfaction and motivation because content workers contribute to a successful business. Esker’s technology makes it simpler to draw great people to your business and keep them there. Additionally, businesses will see a gain in value overall. Companies will be the one thing every client wants — a firm that’s simple to do business with — by filling the gaps in their process that might sour relationships with the O2C solution portfolio.

Recommendations When Starting On An Automation Project

1. Have The Right People Involved

“First and foremost, you need to select the team that’s going to deliver your automation project,” says Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker.

The project does involve automated technology, but you need the right people to use them and move the project along. Choose a central, cross-functional team to lead the initiative. Although the business can lead a process-driven initiative, you will also require assistance from IT and Operations. The most effective individuals at bringing about change and transformation are those in the IT, operations, and business process specialist roles. By having these people onboard, the company can experience a smoother transition in automating their processes. 

2. Budget 

“Do not compromise on budget,” says Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker.

It’s crucial to comprehend the full financial impact of an automation project. Make sure the service provider is open and honest about any fees related to the automation project. This is done so that project selection can be prioritized to optimize value. Leaders can then figure out which projects give the most advantage from a time and processing perspective. 

Leaders will also be better able to appreciate the benefits of relieving staff members of mundane work so they can concentrate on jobs that call for original thought and problem-solving. Calculating the productivity and economic benefits of an automation project will require knowledge about the cost in terms of both time saved and compute resources.

3. Management Support

“Do not just talk the walk but walk the talk as well,” says Charlie Cheah, Director, Sales & Services, Asia, Esker.

What does that mean exactly? There are a lot of leaders out there, according to Charlie, who do not genuinely use automation and digitisation for themselves. On a corporate level, the corporation does automate, but on a personal level, they still choose conventional techniques like filing and paper documents. Essentially, executives need to set an example by automating and digitizing their own work operations. It is ideal for senior executives to set similar goals for themselves if the company’s goals include going paperless.

4. Measurable Benchmark

Clearly defining what success looks like before starting an automation project is the most crucial stage. This is a crucial indicator where the business should be able to quantify, identify, and comprehend the economic benefit of automation with ease. For instance, an insurance business might seek to raise operational first pass rates or claim automation rates from 55% to 75% during the given year. This specific example makes it easier for teams to understand how to gauge the benefits of the automation project right away, keeping them on task and laser-focused on their intended objective.