James Stackhouse and Paul Armstrong discussed the Finance Process Automation Journey that Autoglass undertook.
During the webinar, hosted by ICAEW, James and Paul went into detail on the Autoglass Finance Process Automation journey, from the first thoughts of automation, all the way through the process to the selection of ITESOFT, and the planning of the project delivery.
Simon Alsop, Head of Business at ICAEW, introduced the webinar with a background on both the presenters. He advised that the audience could contribute to the webinar by asking questions at any stage, and by participating in several Poll questions. James started the webinar by talking through the key numbers that Autoglass were experiencing with manual processing . He mentioned that there had been no investment into the finance function for a long period of time, that the AP clerks within Autoglass were receiving invoices from multiple channels, and that each invoice was being handled in a totally manual process. “Some of these problems may sound familiar, all of these are “not untypical” said Paul.
Conversation moved along onto the first Poll question which looked at whether the audience had yet made a decision to automate their finance process.
Q: Has your business made the decision yet to automation their finance processes?
Looking at the results from the audience, it shows that 45% of the audience are just starting out their finance process automation journey, whilst a further 10% were already automated. A further 45% had either never looked, or failed to justify the investment. These figures fairly closely echo other recent survey results. Starting a project to automate, especially for large organisations will involve a reasonable commitment to research and evaluation to discover what will work best for you, but also the provide an answer as to most efficient way of progressing.
This graph highlighted the 2018 priorities of CFO’s, from a survey conducted by PWC in partnership with DFCG. The graphic shows that performance management is considered the most important priority for CFO’s to provide added value to the business lines. This can best be achieved by obtaining key data, and using it digitally. In terms of process optimisation, simplification and standardisation are the two actions that are most common. Optimisation is aided with the emergence of new technologies to make it possible to perform background low valued-added tasks far more efficiently.
The third poll looked at the involvement and interface between departments, for the digitisation projects that had taken place already.
Q: If your company has implemented automation within Finance, was this part of a wider business project that involved digitalisation?
The results were fairly surprising, with 47% of the audience organisations not including other departments in their automation projects. Some 38% did involve them. , and then James spoke about the valuable project benefits Autoglass gained from involvement with other departments.
Autoglass began their journey in 2015. James was concerned that the AP clerks were working manually and he wanted to improve their working experience, so he began searching for a solution that would suit the business. At this stage, from various conversation James and his team had with colleagues around the business, they collectively came to the conclusion that they needed to procure a PO system before they digitalised their invoices. In late 2016, Autoglass were ready for their finance process automation journey to begin.
Based on his prior engagement with other departments in the organisation, James went to market with a number of key product capabilities they needed. They selected the supplier, involved the legal team and then procured the solution.
James, what would you do differently if you were going to orchestrate a finance process automation journey again?
He started by saying that most projects have their up’s and down’s, but there were three main points that he could mention specifically.
- Ensure that there is effective communication and collaboration between involved departments, and make sure that if external IT providers are required, get them on board as soon as possible in the process.
- Include an AP team member deep inside the project, as this would have smoothed a number of issues and improved communications.
- Understand prior practices and tasks, before trying to change them. Having a clear starting point and finishing ideal of the processes involved would avoid a number of delays and misunderstandings.
The project is going live imminently, and has already provided benefit to Autoglass.
Processes are now mapped, communications and collaboration between departments have improved, with deeper understanding of coordinated activities increasing general efficiency. The procurement system and processes are working well, which will feed in better quality information to the AP team.