How To Make Robots Part Of The Finance Family

Anders Liu-Lindberg and Mark Smith

Part 1 in the “RPA and AI in Finance” series, which examines the role that robotic process automation and artificial intelligence can play in finance operations

Automation in the finance function is a given. It’s inevitable. It will come. Likely it will take away someone’s job. Likely it will have a negative emotional impact on the finance team despite the benefits it brings along. The question is: How do we overcome all this and make robots part of the finance family? This is particularly important when the robots span multiple teams that might have different views on welcoming the robot. We’ll discuss this theme in this new series on robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI).

When change is coming, what’s the best thing you can do?

When there’s no way around the change that’s coming, the best thing you can do is to embrace it. But of course, it’s important first to understand the change. Some people might be more receptive to it than others, and just because you had a few initial successes doesn’t mean everyone will accept it. Let’s consider one scenario.

One team has successfully rolled out a robot that now executes part of a process. However, to gain scale, it needs to cover the end-to-end process, which also comes with a few process redesigns. That means that other teams will have to follow the new process and abandon their own for the robot to be successful.

We all know that implementing best practices is hard, let alone implementing a process that someone else forces upon you. In this case, what can be done to successfully roll out the robot across the end-to-end process?

  • Encourage participation. Involving all relevant employees in the discussions and brainstorming sessions makes it much easier to get buy-in. Involve people from the beginning rather than after all design choices have been made.
  • Deliver on promises. Missing milestones in RPA implementation projects will make the change-management process much tougher! Of course, if the robot doesn’t appear successful, you’ll have a challenging time convincing anyone else that they should use it, too.
  • Keep it simple. Don’t overcomplicate meetings and presentations when introducing RPA to your staff. Be clear and concise, and emphasize the benefits the audience can expect. RPA at the core is quite simple, and if you communicate that, you can also mitigate some of the irrational fears associated with it.
  • Provide hyper care support. Successful change management doesn’t end on implementation. There will be bugs and issues to solve. Make sure there are resources to help employees after changes have been delivered. Don’t simply let go at the end of implementation. The skeptics only need a small breakdown to tear the whole project apart. You need to be able to jump on every little issue that occurs to carry the changes all the way through.

The worst thing you can do is simply to ignore the emotional response that’s bound to come from an RPA implementation on an end-to-end process. Everyone goes through the change curve, and just because you’re ahead of it doesn’t mean that everyone else will go through it at the same speed as you.

It’s time to welcome the robots

Change is coming, as it always does – now just at a greater speed. You will face challenges when trying to take the change to others who have not experienced it yet. However, by taking an inclusive approach, where you listen to people’s concerns and make them a part of the process, you’ll face much less resistance. You will then find that people welcome the robots to the family and become excited about all the things they now have time to do. Isn’t that great?

We would love to hear about your experiences with RPA. Please send us a message so we can also learn from your examples.

The next blog in this series will tackle the issue of RPA standardization.

For more on this topic, please read “Are You Ready for Robotic Process Automation?

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.

Anders Liu-Lindberg

About Anders Liu-Lindberg

Anders Liu-Lindberg is the head of the Global Finance Program Management Office at Maersk and has more than 10 years of experience working with finance at Maersk, both in Denmark and abroad. Anders is also the co-founder of the Business Partnering Institute and owner of the largest group dedicated to finance business partnering on LinkedIn, with close to 5,000 members. His main goal at Maersk is to create a world-class finance function not least when it comes to business partnering. He is the co-author of the book “Skab Værdi Som Finansiel Forretningspartner” and a long-time finance blogger with 20,000+ followers.

Mark Smith

About Mark Smith

Mark Smith is chief accountant at Atlas Copco based in Prague, responsible for a team of senior accountants and lead of accounting and reporting processes for the UK companies. He holds a diploma from The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.