There Are Bots For That | Podcast | Episode 001

There Are Bots For That | Podcast | Episode 001

In this episode, I chat with Daniel Lawrence CEO at Bots For That.

Daniel has over 20 years experience in his space, holding senior positions in companies, such as Yahoo, Oracle and Coca-Cola, and having previously been plagued by a very heavy and stressful manual workload, Daniel decided to co-found bots for that in 2017, and is now determined to help free teams from the drudgery of the mundane and a manual, which can make us unproductive, ineffective, tired, and uninspired.

As CEO of Bots For That, Daniel is dedicated to improving how the workplace of the future can and should operate using technology to provide the best possible working experience for his clients, their employees, and their shareholders.

Audio Podcast Links

Please find the show notes below.

What triggered why Daniel does what he does now?

  • Daniel talks through his passion for carpentry
  • The measure twice cut once principle
  • What it used to be like working as an expense administrator for Oracle

What Daniel sees as challenges for modern day finance teams

  • Better, Faster, Cheaper
  • Closing the books quickly and accurately
  • Insights and decision-making
  • Internal and external factors
  • Attracting talent
    • Using the best technologies
  • Lack of motivation from cost-cutting initiatives

How does Daniel best advise people to find solutions to these challenges?

  • Too much information at our disposal
  • Not knowing where the real problems are
  • A bot that condensed 12 days work into 5 minutes
  • Lack of motivation to fix issues 'better the devil you know'
  • Acute awareness of issues within finance teams, but lack of time to find a solution
  • It nearly always involves an ERP systems or spreadsheets
  • Often revolves around a business change or growth

  • - The ESSA framework
  • Eliminate
  • Simplify
  • Standarise
  • Automate
  • The difficulties that come when trying to optimise in the current tense, rather than looking to the future
  • The need to approach things with a different frame of mind
  • The habit of over-engineering a solution to a problem that doesn't need it

The concept of Bots

  • Bots go deeper than just web-chat and support
  • Bots work similar to people, but also work very differently
  • Can work at a UI (User Interface) level, understanding screens, desktops and images
  • Can also work in the same way a computer does through the back-end via codes and API connections
  • Bots can be rule and logic based
  • Bots can be AI powered, smart/cognitive bots and learn from the data that they process and improve outcomes
  • Bots can read and understand documents and extract data
  • Bots can communicate and hold conversations with people or other computers to provide or receive instructions, or give insights and information beyond the obvious

  • Bots for finance
  • Accounts Payable
  • Full PO to pay automation
  • Parts sourcing and supplier maintenance
  • Supplier verification via companies house
  • Accounts receivable
  • Order to cash
  • CRM integration
  • Supply chain triggers
  • Posting and chasing invoices
  • General Ledger
  • Chart of accounts maintenance
  • Syncing across entities
  • Creating and posting journals
  • Automatically combining data from other systems before posting

  • Setting tolerances
  • Pattern recognition
  • Can also be applied to Tax, Treasury, FP&A
  • Few areas where bots can't be effectively deployed
  • All about freeing people up from the stuff they don't enjoy
  • Faster outcomes can make a huge difference

Automation, and looking at the bigger picture

  • Mac Automator
  • Automating simple routines on your PC
  • There is automation for everything, but you have to have an idea of how it's going to work first
  • Providing strategic guidance on how to think
  • The importance of re-thinking and re-imagining

Daniel talks about his experience of how much people fear being replaced by machines

  • Will we ever get to a world where we're sitting on a beach programming robots, and they're doing the rest?
  • Job loss is a common knee-jerk response
  • Bots aren't meant to emulate end-to-end processes, so don't always replace jobs, or at least not entirely
  • Daniel guesses that for the most part 25% of day to day processes can be replaced as a starting point
  • Nobody ever says they're 100% happy with everything that they do
  • There's also things we never get the time to consider
  • Generally just freeing people up from the mundane and repetitive
  • Some might use a bot to save the cost of hiring, as they'd be hiring for unrewarding jobs anyway
  • Others with automate so that the team can get on with the interesting stuff, like business partnering
  • It's also important to remember that jobs can be impacted by many things, not just automation
  • When we first got computers, they got rid of loads of paperwork
  • Then Lotus Notes, and Excel also replaced pen and paper, and calculators
  • And now there's bots
  • There's always going to be something that displaces activities within the professional environment

  • We're not good 'bots' as people, as we make mistakes and get fed up and tired
  • There are things that we're brilliant as as people, which are the things we should be freed up to do more of
  • We should get to the point where we're spending 80, 90% of our time on the things that really add value

Job satisfaction, the great resignation, and shifts in the legal profession

  • People don't want to be chained to a desk, working on stuff that doesn't add value
  • The great resignation indicates employees, especially young employees don't have allegiances any more
  • Does having good systems in place support employee retention?

  • The legal professional is going through a transformation
  • It's moving away from a hierarchy that might take 20 years for you to make partner
  • And it's moving to a model that involves a few partners and potentially thousands of lawyers on contract
  • You could be sitting on a beach in Hawaii, receive an e-mail, do your work, then go back to the beach

  • Bots in the legal sector
  • Contract Drafting
  • Source of funds checks
  • Other background checks

  • Finance and accounting could end up seeing a more distributed model
  • Where you only outsource for the work needed based on what's in front of you

Daniel gives an example of one of his bots

  • We want to make work better for, for everyone people, profit planet, but we want to do it one task at a time.
  • A great bot of finance and accounting is called 'The Accelerator'
  • It's a pre-configured bot that gives the user the ability to define variables in an Excel process
  • You select the file folder and location
  • Then set the variables for formatting, text, numbers etc
  • When they hit go, the bot goes off and does all of the complex stuff in the background and delivers outcomes pretty much immediately
  • Doesn't just apply to finance, can be used in HR, procurement etc
  • The outcome is having loads of staff experienced in Excel without having them

What does the future of finance look like?

  • Daniel's focus as CEO is on company vision, the people that are going to deliver it, and the numbers that come out the back
  • During team meetings the question is 'If you could only do one thing for the rest of the year, what' the one thing?'
  • Response is generally 'I can't just do one thing'
  • This is also a common response amongst accountants
  • In focusing on one thing, you also have to consider what you're going to give up
  • E.g I'm going to do excellent insight and metrics analysis,
  • Bots enable you to change everything, but also change nothing, as everything still gets done, you just might not be doing all of it
  • Technologies will always evolve, get smarter, combine with AI etc
  • The difference in technology in our personal lives compared to our professional lives is shocking
  • At home we have Alexa, Siri that we can ask to play music or search online
  • The workplace is lagging behind in comparison

  • In 10 years time we could be looking at
  • Access to smaller offices in more locations
  • More difficult locations that fully support hybrid working
  • Job rotation, more fluid roles where people are happy and more motivated
  • A more balanced working life
  • All being enabled by a greater level of automation
  • All the basic stuff is done by bots, leaving room for more human centric value added activities
  • 70, 80% of the routine, event based activities may be covered by bots
  • The books will be getting closed in real time
  • You will have a more forward looking focus
  • Finance business partnering will become more important and a more fundamental part of the management team
  • Late nights poring through data and spreadsheets could be a thing of the past

Book recommendations

  • What is the one thing that I can do that in doing it makes everything else easier or eliminates it altogether
  • The hedgehog concept
  • What can we be the best in the world at?
  • What are we passionate about?
  • What is our key financial metric?
  • Better before cheaper, revenue before cost, there are no other rules
  • The best strategy is the one you execute
  • The 80% rule
  • If something is 80% good enough, just do it, don't overthink / perfect it
  • Beliefs becoming thoughts, and thoughts becoming words

What app can't Daniel do without?

Where to find our more about Bots for That

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©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use

©2022 by Adam Shilton. Privacy Policy - Terms of Use