TFF #002 - 3 Levels of Automation You Can Leverage Right Now
Read time - 4 minutes
Welcome to another edition of the Tech for Finance Newsletter where you'll learn 3 levels of automation that you can start leveraging right now.
The levels are:
Automation that makes data capture more efficient
Automation that speeds up an existing process
Automation that replaces an existing process
1/ Automation that makes data capture more efficient ⌨️
The questions to ask here are. 'What external data am I trying to capture?', and, 'What internal data am I trying to capture?'.
Whether you're onboarding a new supplier, or seeking internal feedback, a form or survey might help you.
Supplier Onboarding - Convert a manual checklist led by a person / excel / word document into a form the supplier can fill out themselves.
Internal Request for Information - Instead of e-mailing you, send people a form to fill out with a set of useful questions that make it easier for you to provide a useful response.
Internal / External Feedback - Create a survey that's sent to internal or external customers to get feedback on the work you've done as a continuous improvement exercise.
Forms - Microsoft Forms, Google Forms, Jotform
Surveys - SurveySparrow, JotForm, Typeform
Looking to take this up a notch? What about a customer or supplier portal? This is likely to be a more expensive solution, but solutions like the ones that Gatekeeper offer may be worth a look.
Just search for customer/supplier/vendor portal software on your favourite search engine.
And if you're looking to learn more about the results of implementing a customer portal, check out the Tech for Finance Podcast where we interview Rob Partridge on How Building a Portal Transformed his business here.
2/ Automation that speeds up an existing process ⚡️
The questions to ask here are, 'Where am I spending most of my time?', 'Which of my processes aren't connected that could be?'
Whether you're looking to connect workflow between two systems, or complete routine tasks in less time, an integration platform, or AI might help you.
Excel - Use ChatGPT to write Excel formulas for you.
Payroll - Take time-sheet entries and create them as Excel rows for processing
Corrections - Use AI to detect outliers in transactions to reduce time spent correcting data
Insight - 'Chat' to business intelligence tools in natural language to surface insights
ChatGPT - This is big, I'll be writing an entire newsletter on it next week, but for now you can sign up for free here, And you can find a video of someone using it to write Excel formulas here.
Microsoft is also due to invest in OpenAI, so I wouldn't be surprised if it makes its way into their business applications in the next 6-12 months.
Integration platforms - Microsoft Power Automate, Zapier, IFTTT
Note - I downloaded IFTTT on my phone years ago and got into an automation hole... you have been warned!]
PowerBI - More info on the natural language Q & A feature here.
Looking to take this up a notch? More and more AI is being built into the ERP platforms that you might already be using already:
Sage Intacct - Uses AI to detect 'outliers' to speed up corrections and approvals processes. More info here, and video here.
NetSuite - Uses AI to allow finance and procurement professionals to enhance cash-flow predictions using past payment history. More info here.
SAP - Is using their analytics cloud for predictive analytics, and building AI into their ERP solutions, more info here.
[Side Note] SAP Business One's roadmap includes a Carbon Footprint Management that will support ESG, more here.
Dynamics Business Central - Uses AI to pull information out of e-mails to automatically generate quotes, orders or invoices from Outlook. More here.
3/ Automation that replaces an existing process 🤖
The question to ask here is, 'What processes will there never be any value in a human carrying out?'
Whether you're looking to remove the manual keying of data, or completely remove repetitive tasks, RPA and AI might help you. Examples
AP Invoices - Completely replace the need for a person to manually key AP invoices using OCR
Expenses - If people are still submitting via spreadsheets, have a bot collect the data an upload to your finance system
Payments - Instead of manually uploading payments to your bank, submit them straight from your finance system.
Onboarding - Use RPA to help you create onboarding guides in minutes instead of hours, or in-app walkthroughs when your team start using your systems for the first time.
OCR - Nanonets (Only one I found where you can start for FREE)
RPA (Robotic Process Automation) - Techfoce.ai (FREE low-code RPA for personal use)
Note - I'd recommend signing up, if only to have a look at the art of the possible as it can get a bit complex. Have a look at the templates, or just have a look at the below videos:
User Documentation here
In app walkthrough here
Looking to take this up a notch? If you've a bit more budget to spend, check out companies like Tipalti that not only do the AP Invoice OCR, but they'll also do the direct to bank payments as well (double bubble).
And if you're not wanting to build your own RPA processes using tools like Techforce and want some help instead, check out Bots for That and listen to my interview with their Owner Daniel Lawrence where him and I talk about bots in a LOT of detail here.
NOTE - I am not yet affiliated with any of the tools I've referenced in this e-mail.
1/ Look to forms and surveys to help you gather quality data and seek constant feedback from your customers and peers on how to improve.
2/ See whether using an integration platform to connect your system or using ChatGPT as a personal assistant could help speed up your workflow.
3/ Leverage OCR if you're not doing so already, and look to new and creative ways to use RPA & bots to replace processes where there is ZERO value in a person doing it.
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