Are you feeling that your Finance team are burdened with too much repetitive work? Do you want to free up your team’s time to concentrate on proactively driving your business forward? Would you like your team to do more but with less resources?

Your challenges are the same as those faced by finance leaders all over the world and for the last 30 years at HSO we have helped finance teams to answer those questions and become much more effective and efficient. Now the possibility of releasing the energy of your team by utilising robots to churn away at the repetitive transactional processing is here. Robotic Process Automation, or Robotic Accounting, is something you can now easily take advantage of.

When implemented well, Robotic Accounting is definitely much more Marvin (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) than Terminator – steady, reliable, boring, but constantly working for possibly billions of years until the end of the universe. It won’t try and take over the world, but it could transform your finance department into a thriving place, not one bogged down in unnecessary manual burden.

So how easy is it to implement? Well due to the Software as a Service (SAAS) model, the initial expensive capital costs no longer exist and we have found at HSO the long-term benefits on accuracy, completeness, timeliness, peak resource management, and risk mitigation can be easily proven.  It now isn’t about proving the cost benefit, it is more about the willingness to change and automate your processes.

Of course I am biased towards implementing the core ERP system first – with integrated sales, purchasing, logistics and finance processes – but a lot of the examples you will see below can be implemented without it. Nowadays Microsoft Appsource contains not only apps for Dynamics 365 ERP systems, but also Office 365 and the Power Platform tools can be built on top of nearly any database and connect with all the major applications out there.

Purchase Ledger and Expense Management

One of the biggest burdens in the finance team is the manual processing of the purchase ledger and expenses. Since standard Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) formats never caught on in many industries, the purchase ledger teams still receive a vast volume of invoices from suppliers by snail mail and email. Expenses in many businesses still rely on spreadsheets and re-keying. So, the remainder of this blog will concentrate on these ledgers’ processes and how to automate them…

Many of HSO’s customers use optical recognition software such as Readsoft Invoices, Medius, or Bottomline to pull-in emailed invoices, store the images, recognise the key data on the invoice (e.g. supplier, date, PO number, VAT, gross total) and perform matching within the software itself. These tools have sophisticated approval workflows inbuilt that now allow managers to approve invoices or match discrepancies using tablets, phones, or laptops. This frees up everyone’s time to concentrate on the exceptions and allows the perfect invoices (or at least those within your tolerances) to be processed onto a payment run.

For expenses, OPEX and CAPEX purchases there are many tools that can automate their processing, control, and approval. Microsoft have invested millions in their Power Platform tools that allow anyone who can use a vlookup in Excel to build and maintain their own apps and workflows for any process. Nowadays you don’t need a team of developers to build or maintain software, you just need someone with a bit of nous and the time and drive to build great apps.

For example, you can use PowerApps to build an app to register expenses or requisitions on phones, tablets, desktops; and you can implement integrated Flows to drive approval workflows out to managers on any technology. PowerApps is sophisticated enough to hold your expense policy and ensure what comes through for approval is within your own company guidelines.

At HSO we have even created Power Platform apps, embedded in the Dynamics 365 Finance and Ops ERP system, for the Purchase Ledger team to make frequent jobs easier such as resending remittances, checking the status of payments, and resending payment files.

Next Steps

Automating burdensome repetition, using PowerApps and Power Platform, is already being implemented by HSO’s customers, with large benefits. They are already reaping the rewards of their teams being freed up to concentrate on moving their businesses forward.

In the coming weeks I will be expanding on this blog to give more examples where automation can make large differences in Finance, such as using Artificial Intelligence to support your cash collection processes, automating your bank reconciliations, supporting budgeting and forecasting processes, and automating as much of your management reporting as you can.

So please don’t be afraid to give HSO a call and see if you can release your team’s energy!

By Adrian Blake ACMA CGMA, Head of Finance Consultants HSO