There Are Bots For That | Podcast | Episode 001
Updated: Aug 12
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
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
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
Full PO to pay automation
Parts sourcing and supplier maintenance
Supplier verification via companies house
Order to cash
Supply chain triggers
Posting and chasing invoices
Chart of accounts maintenance
Syncing across entities
Creating and posting journals
Automatically combining data from other systems before posting
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
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
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
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?
You can consume books and knowledge a lot faster that way
Daniel listens to a combination of paid for titles as credits, as well as consuming the Audible unlimited titles that come 'free' with the subscription as well
Favourite audio book is 'Windswept and Interesting' by Billy Connolly
Mention of Billy Connolly's Tour of Scotland
Where to find our more about Bots for That
Daniel's personal LinkedIn Page - https://www.linkedin.com/in/danielbotsforthat/
Bots for That Company LinkedIn Page - https://www.linkedin.com/company/botsforthat/
Bots for That Company Website - https://botsforthat.com
Get in Touch
Wanting some one-to-one guidance on how to leverage technology to support your ambitions, or just want help demystifying the complex world of software and systems?