One of the world’s largest insurers needed an impartial assessment of which of its finance processes were good candidates for automation and which were not. Protiviti helped senior leaders identify and prioritize the most meaningful process improvements—resulting in significant savings.
The considerable gains in machine learning and system automation technologies have increasingly empowered organizations in their pursuit of efficiency. For many, this aspect of digitizing business operations holds great promise to go beyond simple cost reduction by improving processes that create competitive advantage. Though they’re not new concepts, in just the past 3 years robotic process automation (RPA) and robotic desktop automation (RDA) have become much easier to implement and are increasingly attractive because of their changing affordability.
In particular, many organizations in the financial services sector are looking with fresh eyes at RPA and RDA as a more dependable, secure, and less expensive alternative to business process outsourcing.
In late 2015, the IT leaders of one global financial services firm had embarked on a significant cost-cutting push and identified several internal business functional areas ripe for transformation. The organization quickly ruled out the possibility of outsourcing these functions—particularly treasury, tax, and investment accounting—namely because the tasks in each were complex and the risk too high to hand off to another firm.
Having just completed a major effort where it deployed new enterprise resource planning (ERP) software throughout its offshore centers, this global leader had attained a strong understanding of its IT infrastructure and processes. Building on this foundation, senior leaders within the IT and finance departments concluded that targeted automation through RPA and RDA could improve efficiency and reduce costs.
The company struggled to determine exactly which processes were the best targets for automation as well as where the return on investment on robotics systems would be greatest. Getting these answers was complicated because the robotics software providers they were working with were not operations experts, they were salesmen. When called upon for advice, the providers recommended automating all processes, regardless of the current cost to the organization or the degree to which human judgment was required to complete the task.
The leadership team needed help evaluating the different types of robotics software tools and where deployment would secure the greatest impact and return. To help make this determination, they wanted an objective partner—and they recognized that robotic automation providers themselves were not the place to seek sound advice when choosing from among the many available robotics solutions.
In November of 2015, the company called on Protiviti to assess and identify opportunities within their finance functions to save money through the use of robotic automation. The team began by mapping dozens of end-to-end processes, identifying opportunities to streamline them through the application of automated solutions. High-volume, time-consuming tasks that were routine, repetitive, or highly transactional were identified as the best targets for automation.
With strong documentation and process controls in place from the previous ERP software implementation, the way was paved for strong robotics automation in those areas where the potential for outsized return could be proven. By January 2016, Protiviti had completed the assessments and delivered an implementation road map with recommendations for which RDA and RPA tools would best suit the client’s needs.
Robotic automation is particularly well matched to the finance function since it is relatively straightforward for a person with a finance or accounting background to learn how to use and update best-in-class robotics software. Also, when chosen well, robotics software can interact seamlessly with existing systems, does not require significant IT support, and is much more intuitive than running an SQL program.
As a result, the client’s own staff was able to make informed decisions on how best to implement the robotic automation of choice, increasing efficiency and providing the potential for significant savings in several areas. Furthermore, the new standardized processes permit more precise monitoring, reporting, and control.
Robotic automation plays a key role in the company’s strategy of using technology to boost efficiency and streamline cost; now with informed decisions, the finance organization is in their sights.