Published on in Financial ServicesDigital Transformation

At Fujitsu’s London HQ, finance leaders came together to discuss how to start their automation journey and fast forward the pace of accelerating RPA. Here we share their advice, challenges, and experience.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been around for much longer than we often realise; it began being used in the automotive production line in 1970. Since then, it’s evolved to tackle much more complex elements of the value chain. And now businesses are truly beginning to realise the potential of RPA. But research has also shown that despite this recognition, the implementation and scaling of robots is limited.

So what is holding organisations back?

If implemented correctly, RPA promises increased efficiency and long-term cost reductions by automating repetitive tasks that often hinder professionals from concentrating on the bigger, more valuable aspects of their role. This is well-suited for the financial sector in particular because teams are often dealing with high volume and low variance work.

Most financial departments recognise the need to incorporate RPA into their workplace. Some 77% of business leaders said technology projects are critical to their business growth, according to a recent survey. However, while the benefits are easily acknowledged, gaining the buy-in to implement RPA is a lot harder; 47% of survey respondents from recently commissioned Fujitsu research found driving buy-in for an RPA programme a challenge.

This was echoed during the discussion at Fujitsu’s recent finance RPA roundtable in partnership with UiPath. Attendants were all in the early stages of implementation and were navigating the challenges around employee buy-in and strategy.

Gaining buy-in from staff

There’s some fear around the workforce being replaced by RPA. This has caused friction and hesitation toward the implementation of RPA technology, often without staff really considering the benefits it could bring them. However in reality the replacement of staff isn’t a repercussion of RPA implementation, and it’s not something to worry about. RPA simply enables the worker to deliver more value-adding work.

Sylvain dal Vecchio, CFO, Fujitsu Belgium says the way a business leader presents the idea of RPA will significantly influence the success of their reception. This is something he recently experienced when introducing RPA to his finance team. He decided to refer to RPA as ‘digital assistants’. This presented RPA as something that was secondary to employees, which alleviated the sense of threat. It also developed a sense of ownership among the staff, resulting in an employee who began referring to RPA as ‘her assistant’.

Husna Heesambee, director of RPA Functional Architecture at UiPath said she had similarly dealt with hostility from hesitant financial teams. However, by demonstrating the technology in practice, staff quickly warmed to the idea that they could eradicate the tasks that prevented them from doing the real work they’d been hired to do.

She also said the successful implementation of RPA in his experience had actually led to more employment opportunities, rather than headcount reduction. RPA had improved the enterprise’s efficiency which had increased the amount of opportunities to work on tasks which can only be completed by someone with the expertise of a financial director.

Sylvain echoes this, having seen his team grow by 100 employees since the implementation of RPA.

Attaining the right approach

Ascertaining the right approach for RPA can be difficult when starting out. And most of our roundtable attendees were at a stage of deciding how to balance the short-term with the long.

  • A short-term focus needs to reside in securing a strong business case by bringing in ROI in the early stages. To do this, leaders in finance units need to target the low-hanging fruit.
  • A long-term focus needs to look ahead to the future of scaling. This means collecting insight to inform a foundation that will allow the programme to evolve.

Husna says she’s seen businesses make the mistake of only going for the low-hanging fruit before finding it’s all dried up and they’re stuck without a workable scaling plan. While it’s good to get stuck in and create momentum around the programme, our survey found 44% suffer from buyer’s remorse due to just having a short-term focus such as this.

Others find themselves at the opposite end of the spectrum. They spend so much time deliberating over the right approach that the programme never gets off the ground.

At Fujitsu, we’ve seen both of these business scenarios play out. And in each case, an unbalanced approach has resolved a second loop of the RPA implementation circuit. The roundtable agreed – in moments of uncertainty, it was best to consult a provider that could work with them to reap the benefits of RPA in a way that is unique to the finance team.

The Digital Transformation Centre is designed to work with organisations on business-level challenges. Find out more about how the programme can benefit your RPA implementation.

 

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