Robotics & Automation 2019

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R O B O T I C S & A U T O M A T I O N 14 Ultimately, it is the CEO who will decide how far and wide RPA can go in a business, and there are plenty of opportunities to make a big difference for the organisation. According to Danilo McGarry, automation and transformation executive, a successful RPA pro- gramme can cut operating costs significantly, improve operational efficiency, increase the volume of work the company can take on and improve the work-life balance for employees. "The CEO can utilise RPA as a fun- damental transformational tool which could give them a significant competitor advantage," says Mr McGarry, who currently manages the advanced automation programme at UnitedHealth Group. But there are also obstacles asso- ciated with automation adoption for CEOs, particularly as it can change Chief executive what teams fundamentally do and how they work. "CEOs face the difficult challenge of knowing how to set the right expectations at board level in terms of targets for savings for the year; a significant RPA programme can affect the share price of a company," says Mr McGarry. "They also have to make aggressive enough decisions in terms of provid - ing big enough budgets for RPA pro- grammes while also being cautious that it is a relatively new type of pro- gramme; getting the balance of risk versus reward is crucial." Howard Williams, director at Parker Software, believes CEOs have the challenge of ensuring the use of robots in business is not just to balance the books. "Finding the automation sweet spot of increasing productivity and efficiency, without losing ethical ground will be a challenge in the years to come," he says. For years, there has been a lot of talk about robotic process automation (RPA), but this talk is slowly translating into substance. So as boards begin to take the tech seriously, what opportunities and obstacles do C-level executives face when it comes to adoption? C-suite buy-in: automation isn't an automatic success The share of finance professionals adopting RPA is expected to surge from 38 per cent to 86 per cent in the next one to two years, according to The Hackett Group. And yet, it may seem unclear what the exact benefits of automation are for the function. Vanessa Keating, directory of finance advisory at The Hackett Group, says the indirect benefits of automation are not described widely enough for finance, which can negatively impact adoption, and many face the obstacle of not know- ing where to start. "It can seem overwhelming and many have to prove cost-savings from day one, which can impact their way of approaching automation stra- tegically," she says. For example, selecting an easier automation implementation could help the team to learn how to go through the automation life cycle, but it may not deliver the high return on investment a more complex pro- cess would, influencing their prior- itisation and roadmap development. But there are plenty of opportu- nities for CFOs when it comes to adoption. Raymon van Viegen, CFO at Onguard, says the time saved on manual activities, such as chasing up debts, means CFOs are "able to focus more closely on the bigger-picture issues, as well as those accounts that are in greater need of their attention". Ms Keating says organisations will need to optimise their investment: "This means co-ordinating across digital and human workers to make the most of both, which is the most important factor to consider within the smart automation framework. Finance is in a great position to be a leader in this space." Chief financial officer B O A R D R O O M Sooraj Shah 1 2

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