Add value to your firm with process automation services
Technology is transforming the way we work by automating repetitive tasks and letting us focus on high-impact tasks and reduce costs.
For example, the A-Team Lending, a Californian mortgage broker, saved $30,000 in staffing expenses by using Process Street to streamline their onboarding and hiring processes. Similarly, Nelson and Murdock, Attorneys at Law, used Zapier to eliminate their need for administrative assistants.
While process automation software allows companies to increase their productivity and bottom line, it also provides accountants with the opportunity to increase their firm’s value by becoming business process advisors. In this article, we’ll discuss the steps you can take to become a process automation advisor and increase your firm’s service offerings.
Why accountants make excellent business process advisors
Accountants may have concerns about stepping into the role of process automation consultant to support their clients through this process appropriately. Many soft skills required of process consultants are also required of accountants. Good process consultants are great communicators and critical thinkers, and are familiar with many, if not all, of their client company’s operations.
As accountants, effective communication with clients is a necessity. Communication is paramount, as we combine our understanding of our clients’ financial capabilities with sharp business sense to resolve our clients’ problems. We are naturally suited to step into the role of a process automation consultant because we have the analytical mind and desire for consistency and reliability of data.
Defining the value of process management and automation for accountants
In addition to similarities between the required skills for accountants and process consultants, another critical question that I’ll address is that of relevance. As we embrace our role as advisors, the value of any new skills or service must be relevant to our core focus on accounting. In addition to saving time and money, there are other reasons why process automation is a logical service offering for accountants.
Operational stability and internal controls
Business process management is focused on determining the optimal path for achieving a certain outcome, and then standardizing the new process throughout the company. Standardized processes allow companies to ensure that workflows and outcomes are predictable, consistent, and accurate.
This aspect of process management is familiar to any accountant who assists their clients with internal controls. The intent behind setting up internal controls is to minimize wasted resources, improve accuracy, and ensure consistent compliance. Issues with internal controls, such as poor execution or an overly rigid design, can be mitigated by blending the discipline of process management with internal controls.
Advising and scaling operations
According to McKinsey, “[g]lobally, almost half the activities employees perform could potentially be automated using existing proven technologies.” Process engineering helps companies gain visibility into their current workflows, spot inefficiencies, and develop standard operating procedures. The result of process engineering is a lean and efficient process that allows companies to scale up or down as the market demands and operational needs change.
Advisory accounting uses available financial data to make future-oriented business decisions that improve a company’s future. Blending process management with accurate financial projections will empower you to provide immense value to your clients.
Identifying opportunities for process improvements
Since process automation advisors are tech-enabled business process consultants, a general understanding of business process management (BPM) and other process improvement methodologies is essential to succeeding as a process automation advisor.
To properly implement process automation, it’s helpful to understand the traits of automated tasks:
- Consistent input and workflow: Tasks with minimal variation in either their method or type of input may be automated. A practical example would be receipt entry for business owners.
- Human involvement is unnecessary: A common pitfall of over-enthusiastic process automation advisors is removing humans from critical processes that require manual review. Automation isn’t a cure for a poorly designed or absent process.
- Frequent occurrence: Automating processes that don’t occur can often decrease productivity and waste resources. An excellent example of a frequent and automated process is employee onboarding.
How to assume the role of process automation advisor
Stepping into the role of process automation advisor requires us to learn new skills, such as data modeling and business process methodologies. Ultimately, we must learn to deliver predictive insights that drive data-based decisions throughout all areas of their company.
Here are some tips on how to begin your journey into the world of process automation:
Learn from a mentor
If possible, scour your network of friends and acquaintances for people who are process automation advisors. Mentors will provide you with valuable education within the context of real-world implementations.
Commit to education and training
There are many business process management courses and training programs. Here are a few sources I found that may help you learn more about process automation:
- The Robotic Process Automation Academy: This company offers onsite and online training options for both individuals and organizations. Their most popular training option is a 28-day online course that helps you learn how to automate manual tasks throughout your company.
- UiPath: As a process automation software vendor, UiPath offers a training program that helps you learn how to adapt principles of process automation to various contexts.
- Udemy: Created by Bryan Lamb, this course introduces you to robotic process automation, and leads you into advanced applications in subsequent courses.
Experiment with simple operations
Once you’ve become familiar with the basics of process automation, look for ways to improve efficiencies within your firm or your clients’ companies.
For example, expense management can be automated using software such as Bill.com or Expensify. As you learn more about process management and discover opportunities for automation, you can build your firm’s tech stack and gain more time to add value to your clients.