Never Fear, Only Embrace the Opportunity Automation Creates in Finance
At a time 640,000 existing jobs might be cut, a finance professional was asked, “Software and automation are doing all the accounting work. What do you do?”
Photo Credit : careersinpoland.com,
A few years back, I went back to my school to meet my teachers. My favorite accounting teacher Sridhar sir had an interesting question for me. He asked me what my role was as a finance professional in my company given that ERP was deployed. “Software and automation are doing all the accounting work. What do you do?” he asked. I explained tirelessly that automation could only do so much and knowledge workers like I were required.
That innocent remark remained in my mind and I have thought about it many a time in my career – How do humans remain relevant? As I go through my every task, every day, I challenge myself, “Can it be automated?”
Automation is the next big opportunity in my domain, broadly speaking, Business Services; specifically speaking, in Finance. The finance domain has over several years been broken down into various process horizontals creating a value-based pyramid of roles. ERPs are the glue between process horizontals creating an end-to-end enterprise process. Companies in an attempt to become more efficient continued to centralize the bottom of the pyramid jobs and offshore them to the cheapest locations having the adequate skills.
Automation, especially Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is sweeping the pyramid even further by taking roles at the bottom of the pyramid. RPA companies are providing platforms which a company could use to let “Software Robots” do any repetitive, rule-based task notwithstanding multiplicity of the steps. In many processes that do not require judgment, one could automate the entire process using RPA platform. This helps the company in 2 ways:
1. Better efficiency - Improving cycle time, improving productivity
2. Better effectiveness – No errors, more control, no attrition, no holidays, and works 365 days a year
RPA is at a nascent stage of its maturity as a technology vertical. However, this industry vertical is growing fast – some predict the RPA industry to reach 8.75 billion dollars by 2024.
RPA is becoming ubiquitous in India given that most low skilled, manual intensive roles were offshored or outsourced to India. Global companies are now looking at the next wave of efficiency and effectiveness gains to remain competitive. These companies are forcing their Indian offshore/ outsource partners to adopt RPA. They want error free output, faster cycle time at a much lower cost that they know RPA can deliver.
Indian companies will be pushed to adopt RPA by their customers, partners or just themselves to stay competitive. At a time when India is struggling to create jobs, the RPA wave is cannibalizing those efforts; it’s killing existing jobs in the BPO industry. Companies like Accenture have an internal mantra – BPO is dead. Wipro, Infosys, TCS all have reduced their forecast of future hiring as they look to gain existing efficiencies by deploying RPA within their enterprise. Some estimates suggest that around 640,000 existing jobs will shrink by 2021 in India.
Companies will have to move on and learn how to use their existing employee’s intellect and keep them battle ready for higher value added jobs. This would mean developing all employees over a period of a few years to ensure that they all keep moving up the value chain - focus more on strategic and value added activities. This would help the company position these employees to mid/ high complexity knowledge jobs. Many companies including mine have shown that higher complexity tasks/ roles can be performed effectively from India. This would in turn ensure stickiness with customers/ partners and improve margins too. Companies would need to redesign their entire process maps with end customers in mind utilizing existing ERP and Business Intelligence tools all stitched with RPA capabilities.
Research is ongoing in cognitive, machine learning and Artificial Intelligence to enable automation of complex task and activities.
Automation is the next big opportunity – embrace it!
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house
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