Companies have traditionally avoided making huge jumps in the finance department’s technology, and for good reason: companies live and die by the accuracy and speed of their accounting departments. But companies that fail to take advantage of the technological innovations and advancements that automation brings risk wasting the people resources they have on repetitive tasks with a high incidence of human error.
Hyperautomation, the next iteration of automation that speeds up data ingestion, sorting, and use of data, promises to speed financial processes—and it can be done without huge investments of time, technology, or money.
What is hyperautomation?
Hyperautomation is the set of strategies and software companies use to automate manual processes. The goal of hyperautomation is to eventually have the automation systems begin to discover and integrate new automation processes without human intervention.
By adding artificial intelligence (AI) algorithms to robotic process automation (RPA) systems, a company can eventually begin to automate the automation of processes, ultimately building the systems so that the automation then automates more automations.
How can hyperautomation be used for business finance?
Finance systems have long been ripe for less manual work and more automation. Invoices, RFPs, purchase orders, payroll, and timekeeping are all highly manual processes that haven’t received much in the way of innovative software these last few years.
Optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities have been among the biggest automation tools, but these require invoices to meet formatting standards that can complicate and lengthen the process. Payroll and timekeeping have benefited from advances in HR tools, biometric clock-ins, and even geolocation via GPS or RF tagging.
All of these tools that have brought HR and accounting processes into the 21st century have also begun to produce an outsized amount of data, of which companies are only using a fraction to perform the most basic processes. Hyperautomation can use the power of algorithms that build upon themselves to make use of more of this data to give companies a more precise picture of their financials with less direct oversight by accounting and human resources professionals.
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Successful hyperautomation starts small
Just like any successful software initiative, companies should consider how their current systems and processes can get them started before diving in to purchase new products. Many inventive and forward-thinking technology initiatives have crumbled under the weight of finding the right software. Instead, Ben Richmond, U.S. country manager at Xero suggests understanding how your current cloud software as a service (SaaS) solutions can help you automate processes.
Richmond says, “Cloud accounting software also allows users to create automated day-to-day financial tasks, as well as gain access to automatic bank feeds that can provide important financial metrics each day, giving the business owner a better idea of exactly how much cash is coming in and going out each day, week, month.”
He also points out that cloud accounting software like Xero directly integrates with other business tools, which helps the accounting, sales, and admin teams communicate critical data without much manual labor.
Hyperautomation requires change management
While your team can start small with the tools they have, hyperautomation is meant to be a long-term process that builds and improves upon itself. Implementing a hyperautomation program in the finance department should, therefore, be approached with a change management mindset that helps get the most out of people and data.
According to Kyle Tuberson, CTO of global consultancy firm ICF, “Companies should first establish the key objectives and outcomes they want to achieve. This could be increasing revenue, reducing operation costs, ensuring compliance or better CX [customer experience], etc.”
Establishing one or two primary goals of the project will help the department focus the efforts and reduce the urge to chase exciting possible side-projects in favor of achieving the minimal viable product (MVP) of the project.
Once those objectives have been set, Tuberson goes on, the company can identify how they will implement hyperautomation to reach those goals: “APIs for integration, orchestration and choreography, decision automation, document ingestion, UI creation, and conversational capabilities” are possible options.
“From here, companies should select technology that will achieve these key capabilities. This could be robotic process automation (RPA), business process automation (BPA), low-code app platform (LCAP), conversational AI, etc.”
As with any departmental or company-wide change, Tuberson suggests building a pilot, iterating on the design and implementation at a small stage, and rolling out to the entire company when many of the kinks have been ironed out of the design.
Potential complications—and solutions—of hyperautomation
For most companies, the promise of hyperautomation is overshadowed by the perceived complications of legacy systems, databases, and software with siloed information and messy data. This is especially true for companies who have acquired unfamiliar legacy data and need to integrate it into their financial system to get a complete picture of the tools.
The director of product management for RPA at ServiceNow, Kushang Moorthy, points out that the perceived complications of a patchwork of legacy systems and processes is ripe for the use of hyperautomation to fix.
Moorthy says, “Many of the systems financial teams deal with aren’t equipped with modern APIs, but we don’t necessarily need to fully change or replace legacy systems. We need to focus on automating mundane tasks and providing ways for finance teams to conduct integrated work across systems, leveraging tools like intelligent document processing, virtual agents, iPaaS, process optimization, machine learning analytics, low/no-code development, RPA, and more, which ultimately, when communicating and working together, results in hyperautomation.”
Hyperautomation is built through the layering of automations. When companies first implement RPA, it’s a low-level task that can make an incremental change to the processes of the finance department. But add low-code apps to that, and the benefits of automation begin to compound.
“This is the true benefit of hyperautomation,” say Moorthy “It illuminates new possibilities for linking automation technologies together for an end-to-end view of processes, while applying the right tool for the business need.”