Returning to work with digital workers: a message for CFOs

This morning, my firm, WonderBotz was asked to contribute to a discussion hosted by The CFO Leadership Council. The sponsors of the New York City chapter are comprised of service and technology experts. We gathered together to share the work our firms have been doing to assist CFO clients with the surge in operational demands experienced as a result of Covid-19, and how best to prepare themselves and their organizations to reopen New York. We discuss how finance leaders should be learning about and leveraging finance & accounting process automation across their departments.

WonderBotz provides digital workers so that organizations can maximize their human capital investments and use technology to create measurable business outcomes. Over the last month, my conversations with CFOs have centered around the intense pressure on their P&L and the subsequent operational challenges, so I was able to share how WonderBotz is leveraging digital workers, or robots, to help CFOs handle operational surges in a cost-effective way.

When an organization is faced with a wave of demand, unusual to their operations, there are three options:

  1. Let the work pile up
  2. Stop taking the work (turn off phone, shut down website)
  3. Or…add more people

The first two are very hard, especially when clients are counting on you to maintain delivery and you need to keep your business going. The last, adding more people, can be expensive – both for the cost of the people and the drain on leadership in managing a newbie team. In New York, what we will see is that with layoffs and furloughs, there may not be a comparable workforce coming back to complete the tasks from before the crisis.

Here’s where digital workers and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can help. For those new to RPA, its software that performs work the same way an employee does their job. The beauty behind these seemingly “short-term” efficiency gains, is that they can continue in operations beyond the pandemic. This is where we have been helping our clients in the last couple months – finding ways to absorb the surge by deploying a digital workforce and iteratively recalibrating their operations to anticipate the “new normal.”

There are three things to know about digital workers that can help demystify the idea of adding this capability to your organization. Firstly, and probably the most important thing for our finance friends to note is that Robots quickly add value. Robots can be deployed in less than 90 days and have very high payback rates. A typical process automation can have a payback within six months but a quick-hit tactical automation, such as data entry from a form, can payback in a few short weeks. Over the last month, one bank reported a 500X increase in SBA loan applications from PPP. It’s important to note, that is 500X the volume, not a 500% increase in volume. They simply could not process it all and left their small business clients underserved and unhappy. This is a tangible example of where a robot could have quickly been deployed to avoid this hurdle and would have provided their clients with comfort and responsiveness during these challenging times.

Secondly, Robots are proven. Many have already blazed the RPA path before you; especially as it relates to finance and accounting. Robotic process automation is not novel for over 62% of the Fortune 500.  Digital workers and finance & accounting process automation have been around for more than 10 years and are secure, safe, and trusted. Heavily adopted within all major financial firms and institutions, we have been assured of the compliance and security scrutiny this technology has undergone. It can be used across any organization and has several applications specific to finance. One client I shared about has been aggressively automating its consolidated reports to give management access to focused data needed for decision making. Our ReportBotz+ solution sitting atop of Blue Prism will persist in their organization long after the initial deployment and will save them hundreds of thousands of dollars year over year.

Last, but certainly not least: Robots are easy to deploy. This morning I shared about another recent CFO conversation where a client was concerned about automating a process without having completed their data warehouse project. After a quick Robotic Tutorial, he was able to understand that the Robots would not need a data warehouse because they can access the system directly, and they also do not have the memory limitations humans do. The other common misconception is that a large IT overhaul must be in place to receive the RPA operating model; through the pandemic, we have been able to deploy robots on a laptop connected to the org network. One healthcare company we know temporarily ran seven desktop computers in the back of his office though out the last month or so.

Today’s discussion was dynamic and every sponsor brought a wealth of knowledge that was very helpful for our CFO community. I think we all realized that now is not the time for overthinking or convening rigid steering committees to get a few automations off the ground. It’s about acting in a timely manner to receive the value quickly. My team chuckles, but I’ve used that analogy that we need to see “dirt flying out of holes” as it relates to the benefit of a digital workforce. Everyone at WonderBotz is ready to help you jumpstart your finance & accounting process automation journey, for today, and the brighter tomorrows ahead.