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What exactly is higher value work?

A conversation I frequently have with accountants and controllers is around doing things more efficiently and effectively.

The prophets of doom and gloom suggest that the role of accounting, bookkeeping and finance staff in general are being rapidly undermined by things like RPA - Robotic Process Automation. To me it sounds like the same arguments that were presented when offshoring, outsourcing and Shared Service Centers took to the stage.

While I am a strong advocate for automation at every turn, and wherever it might make sense, I also recognise that for these technologies to be relevant and applicable they need to be attacking boring, repetitive and somewhat predictable stuff.

The algorithms and the engines continue to be developed and are becoming more sophisticated and perhaps one day they will genuinely be the instinctive first choice when companies have data to process.

In the meantime I promote automation as a way to free up time to engage in higher value work. All that good stuff like moving from scorekeeper to trusted adviser etc. Is this really true though ? What is that higher value work ? When you get that extra time by automating something what do you really do with it ?

Looking forward to your thoughts and comments

Answers

EMERSON GALFO
Title: CFO
Company: C-Suite Services
LinkedIn Profile
(CFO, C-Suite Services) |

Analysis and more importantly, client or supplier facing activities. The human interaction/relationship gets more valuable as processes are automated or digitized.

For A/R or A/P for example. You cannot underestimate a personal call (or for that matter a good professional relationship) to the other side's A/R or A/P or decision maker. A good relationship with the other side can collect that A/R even before the agreed upon terms. Of course, internal controls taken into consideration.

I have encouraged "coding clerks" to approach me and say, why are we paying for this much when we can do this or that.

Clinton Jones
Title: PM
Company: Winshuttle
(PM, Winshuttle) |

Yes, that's exactly what I was thinking.
My view is that actually there aren't enough hours in the day to even get through the "must do" tasks sometimes. More time means the ability to consider things a bit more.

There are always pieces of grunt work that suck away time and then if there are escalations or fire drills these mean even less time for "must do's"
this is why GRIR reconciliations languish, small or disputed debts remain uncollected and overpayments occur.

Also, things like the following
- 100% account reconciliations by the 5th rather than the top 10% by month end and 90% by the middle of the month or whatever your team KPI is become unattainable without extra time.
- Debtor reach out of 100% by the 20th of the month as opposed to "whenever"
- An inability to give more attention to treasury management and cash flow management especially for the leveraged org.
- No time for asset management and asset verification and evaluation

what else is there?

I guess in my mind the challenge is that with most bookkeeping functions continuing to be understaffed, finance is always in catch-up mode. Does automation mean they catch up or does it mean they simply are less far behind.

Topic Expert
Wayne Spivak
Title: President & CFO
Company: SBAConsulting.com
LinkedIn Profile
(President & CFO, SBAConsulting.com) |

clinton makes a very good statement (his last paragraph) "Does automation mean they catch up or does it mean they simply are less far behind."

More automation that is not managed, re-evaluated and authenticated/audited leads to accounting that is unsound. While automation saves time, it doesn't stop the responsibilities of control.

Clinton Jones
Title: PM
Company: Winshuttle
(PM, Winshuttle) |

Yes, as one of my colleagues said to me the other day. If you're going to hit the wall, you're going to hit the wall. Automation just means you hit it sooner rather than later - and hopefully not harder!

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