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The last decade has radically changed how businesses collect and analyze the data that drives everything from revenue projections to customer interactions. At the heart of what many call “the fourth industrial revolution” is automation, which is moving beyond basic data entry to include a wide range of responsibilities – and transforming how organizations respond to competition, risk and opportunity.
“We’ve seen companies take processes that used to take weeks and using automation and reduce it to minutes,” says Rich Clayton, Oracle’s vice president of analytics.
Finance teams are often leading the automation charge. In a recent survey conducted by Oracle and the American Institute of CPAs (AICPA), 44 percent of agile finance leaders said they have implemented robotic process automation – rules-based programs that capture and interpret information – while 12 percent of all other finance leaders have taken meaningful steps toward this level of automation.
“Robotic process automation is the first step toward advanced analytics,” says Jack Berkowitz, vice president of products and data science for Oracle’s Adaptive Intelligence Program. “It covers many of the back-office tasks that have been the domain of outsourcers, but that is only the start.”
Automation isn’t just about saving time and minimizing errors on routine tasks. It’s a necessary step in analyzing data quickly and effectively to better engage with customers, negotiate contracts, understand performance, identify talent and more.
Here are five areas where organizations should up the ante on automation.
- Going beyond the numbers to gain insight into financial performance. Accounting software and enterprise solutions have transformed how companies create budgets, track income and expenses, and reconcile accounts. But increasingly, companies are turning to automation to help them provide better and more timely context about performance.
“For a typical large company, a filing can require input from hundreds of people,” says Clayton, adding that automation can help companies generate and manage narrative reporting, thereby offering greater insight into the quality and sustainability of financial results. “This streamlines a critical stage in reporting.”
- Customer engagement in real time. Automation in customer service has come a long way from the old – and often frustrating – phone tree. On the contrary, automation is enhancing the customer experience throughout the lifecycle of a purchase, whether it’s making recommendations for products or services, offering updates or alerts, or streamlining customer service by providing a single view of the customer and her transaction history.
From the perspective of the organization, this translates to higher conversion rates, more repeat purchases, improved customer satisfaction and, ultimately, more informed business decisions.
- Contracts, procurement and logistics. Automation, when used in conjunction with an ERP system, can have a profound impact on how companies manage their supply chains, make procurement decisions and negotiate terms with suppliers. “We look at this as a progression,” says Clayton. “Once automation is in place, companies can use machine learning to optimize freight, payment terms, working capital, and more. We’re working toward embedding this into our ERP system so that the insights are right there.”
“Oracle is working on a broad range of automation applications, including for renegotiating contracts,” Clayton says. “By managing costs and orders in a predictable way, companies can take a more proactive approach to managing their supply chains and renegotiating contracts.”
- Employee benefits, retention and recruitment. Automating repetitive tasks, recurring transactions and benefits administration, among other things, frees up time for human resources professionals to focus on more high-value responsibilities, such as developing talent, implementing training or managing key-hire recruitment. At the same time, automation can help HR teams improve every stage of hiring, from identifying the best candidates to streamlining onboarding.
- Compliance and risk management. Automation is revolutionizing how companies think about risk by analyzing vast amounts of data and spotting potential problems in real time. “This is really the next level in compliance enforcement and evaluation,” Berkowitz says. “It offers an efficient way to analyze patterns and make predictions.”
Automation is more important than ever, as companies deal with ever-changing regulatory landscapes. Now, organizations can quickly analyze and adjust for changing regulations, and apply different rules across different jurisdictions, both domestically and globally. Explore the various ways your organization can automate within finance and other LOBs to streamline your processes, save time and money and gather data that can give you a competitive edge.