Ten tips from award winning accounting and financial planning firms on how to get started using Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) might sound space age and futuristic, but it’s already become a staple technology in leading edge professional service businesses – and it’s something award winners have in common.

Australia’s most innovative accounting firm and both the Fortnum Financial Principal Practice of the Year and Operational Excellence winner are all taking advantage of RPA to streamline and automate their administrative functions to create capacity in their client facing and support teams so they can focus on business growth activities.

The platform that O’Connells OBM, Dobbrick Financial Services, and Stratus Financial Group are all utilising is called FuseDocs – it’s a program designed specifically for professional services to automate high-frequency repeatable tasks. The primary example of how the industry is using the RPA solution is to automate the preparation of client report compilations (think annual financial reports, tax returns, statements; as well as Statements of Advice, Product Disclosure Statements and so on).

While automated report package compilations are an easy option for professional service businesses looking to take advantage of RPA, the breadth of repetitive processes FuseDocs is programmed to handle continues to expand and now includes automating the creation of personalised client checklists (like those used at Tax Time), client engagement documents, audit-ready reports, and management reports.

The barrage of technical jargon can be overwhelming for practice managers and executives, but Adam Dierselhuis, Director of O’Connells OBM, the Accountants Daily 2017 Innovator of the Year says that actually implementing and taking advantage of robotic process automation doesn’t have to be difficult.

“You don’t have to be revolutionary or world changing to be innovative and to create new opportunities. As in our own experience – innovation really is about incremental changes and shifts in the way we work – and it starts with simply asking the question – is there a smarter way?” Adam says.

Adam is a firm believer that businesses should be creating time to develop new products or services, enhance the client experience, and experiment with new approaches to marketing.

And it’s a sentiment echoed by Ryan Dobbrick and Irma Bantjes, whose businesses both took out top awards at the Fortnum Financial Annual Awards recently.

“What makes robotic solutions like FuseDocs so great is that they save us so much time and are so simple. Anyone can use these programs and get the same result every time – so our administrative team can now take over SOA/ROA preparation and we can get our Para-planners working on value-add activities,” says Irma, Practice Manager at Stratus Financial Group.

“As business leaders, we need to care more about creating opportunities for our teams to be able to do those value-add activities – it will benefit our firms as much as it will benefit the individuals that make it all happen,” says Ryan, director of Dobbrick Financial Services.

We caught up with the award winners recently to chat about their experiences with technology, and here are their top 10 tips on how to get started with Robotic Process Automation

  1. If you’re wondering where to start innovating, get frustrated. Take the time to sit with your team, understand what’s really happening in your engine room, what processes and systems are driving your team crazy.
  2. Get others involved. If you don’t have time to jump on the tools yourself, get your team to list out their most time-consuming tasks. If they’re happening more than once, they can likely be automated (or at least elements can be).
  3. There’s nothing wrong with starting small. Automation doesn’t have to be hard – it could be as simple as implementing an excel report hooked up to your database, or using auto email alerts– two simple solutions that have huge time-saving potential.
  4. Nominate a champion. If it’s everyone’s responsibility, it’s no ones. So nominate a process improvement champion to lead the research, implementation, and execution of the project. It works best if this can be a person who will use the program in some capacity.
  5. Bring your team on the journey. It’s natural for people to be sceptical of change – even when you’re trying to make life easier. Your process improvement champion needs the full support of your directors and/or practice managers to make sure fear and resistance to change is minimal and act as early adopters so that people don’t back pedal to the out dated system.
  6. Integrate. To make the most of robotic process automation, it’s important to consider how this process/project fits with the larger business process. Consider the triggers you might need to rely on and map out what needs to happen before and after the automation.
  7. Create a plan. Once you’ve decided what processes you want to work on, and you understand how that fits into larger business processes, work with your process champion to map out a plan with deadlines and targeted outcomes.
  8. Measure the Outcomes. Take down details of what the process looked like originally – recording time taken, dollars spent, team members involved etc. Once the process has been fully automated and implemented (and there are no bugs!) establish the real benefits, including what activities the resources have been diverted to; this is important not only from a project evaluation perspective, but to demonstrate to the team the value of automating business processes.
  9. Improve, then improve some more. Processes are constantly changing, so make sure to constantly revisit the processes and tasks you’re automating, understand the impact on your team, and look for new improvements and ideas to further automate or enhance the experience.
  10. Get the right support. Get help and input from an external expert who can guide improvements, facilitate the technical components, and/or make recommendations for custom or off the shelf solutions that can help your team and business make the most of the opportunities Robotic Process Automation has to offer.

Interested in how your team can get started with robotic process automation? Register your details below for a complimentary discovery session, or drop me an email at melissa.voss [at] smarterbusinessprocesses.com.au and let’s kick around what processes you could automate.

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