Remember that time you were swept of your feet and it seemed like there was barely been a moment to do what you knew you should have been doing – being more client facing, developing our people and working on the business?
If that seems a lot closer than a distant memory for you, you’ve probably been having to work longer or perhaps you’ve recently hired more staff (whether onshore or offshore).
Increasingly, professional services are taking advantage of a third, less obvious, option. Yes! There is a way to grow your practice without adding new team members or putting in ridiculous hours, even if you’re facing reduced capacity. You’ve probably already guessed from the headline of this article – that it starts with robots.
Robotic Process Automation might sounds like something out of a science fiction film but it’s really a lot closer to home than people realise.
It’s a growing trend which is currently being heavily utilised by the big end of town. The likes of Deloitte, Accenture, PWC, all have departments specifically designed to deliver these robotic solutions to their teams.
What does RPA actually mean? Well, it’s about taking a process which is otherwise performed by hand, and automating it by the use of clever software tools which can be designed to perform any repeatable task.
When you put your thinking hat on specifically to identify opportunities to automate systems – it’s amazing how many things we’re doing that really there is no longer a need to. 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 potential.
But the most significant automation for the accounting and financial planning industry we’ve seen of late?
Well, it all started in our own accounting practice. We had one area in particular we knew we wanted to cut time on – and that was the annual report compilation process. You know when the accountant has finished the job, but then someone has to go through every entity within a family group, locate financial statements, tax returns, special reports… collate it all, insert dividing pages and the like.
We actually had the director of our accounting practice jump on the tools a few years back and do that process himself and he was blown away at the time it was taking us – we calculated it to be about $300,000 worth of capacity a year.
Of course – this is one of those repeatable processes that has to happen – every day, week and year.
So we created our own robot, FuseDocs, to take care of the compilation process – so that our team could focus on what matters – and now we can literally complete a compilation – creating the electronic report packages, even a separate package just with documents for signing, literally at the click of a button.
FuseDocs started with annual report compilations – but the more we work with firms and just challenge them on those repetitive processes – so many more applications for automation are coming out of the woodwork – super compilations, client engagement documents, management reports.
Automating that process has given us time to up skill our receptionists and client service assistants to take care of more data entry and coding, rather than spending time compiling these reports – which in turn has freed up the productive team members to either focus on those important client relationships, up skill themselves, or create and implement new service offerings or other internal efficiencies. The positive externalities from automating just one task are much greater than the initial time saving!
We shouldn’t be concerned about robots and automation taking over tasks like this – it’s what they’re good at, taking care of things behind the scenes, and that leaves us more time to work on what we’re good at – more than 300 hours for the average firm INFACT – to work with our clients.