First Consulting: Is RPA implementation going in the right direction?

20 July 2018

Many organisations are struggling to understand if they are succeeding with their RPA implementations and are asking questions such as; are we setting ourselves up for future success? Why aren’t we able to realise the benefits against the original business case?

Against the backdrop of these unanswered questions, Jon Nelmes, Partner, at First Consulting UK, says that many RPA initiatives are stalling in the face of unfulfilled business cases and a lack of clear direction on how to move forward.

First Consulting has recognised this challenge and has classified what they see as the three key dilemmas that organisations are facing as they attempt to navigate along their RPA journey.

Three key dilemmas

What can companies do about it?

First Consulting believes that organisations can rapidly establish whether they are on the right path to RPA success through the application of a clear and structured assessment approach. Combining the assessment with relevant business insight and a deep understanding of the organisation, helps identify how healthy the RPA implementation or portfolio is and signposts the key areas to address in order to realise the business benefits. With cross-sector market experience in RPA, First Consulting have developed a framework to help organisations to focus on what they believe are the essential areas: ‘Do things right’, and ‘Do the right things’.

An important aspect of any assessment is to be clear around the outputs and the recommendations that should be addressed in order to drive future success in RPA. Based on First Consulting’s experiences in this domain, they have identified a high-level set of insights that they recommend organisations target for delivery from the assessment.

How can an Assessment help

What should you seek to deliver through your Assessment

A range of approaches

First Consulting understands that RPA implementation is complex and that there are a range of approaches to achieving success, as well as many pitfalls to fall foul of. Measuring success objectively, and identifying improvements is a challenge across even the most mature digital organisations. Through the application of their RPA Health Assessment Framework and in combination with their RPA Discovery Tool; First Consulting can rapidly deliver an informed and targeted view of your RPA initiative, programme or Centre of Excellence, complete with tailored recommendations for enhancements at all levels of the organisation.

Related: Organisations are struggling to deliver the full benefits of RPA technology.

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Embracing technology can transform back office functions

24 October 2018

Organisations that successfully embrace technology can transform their back office functions, enabling them to operate more effectively and efficiently, while better catering to the needs of the business. Gillian Boston, Head of Business Consulting at global data management firm AutoRek, reflects on the tangible benefits that automation can generate.

Wherever one looks and in whatever industry sector that may be, some back office functions still appear to be operating in the dark ages. The reality is that many organisations are still reliant on manual processes and spreadsheets to fulfil their financial and regulatory obligations. In contrast, individuals do not think twice about booking flights on smartphones, using banking apps for personal finances, or shopping online. So why are some firms’ not embracing technology as readily when it comes to data management, reconciliations and financial controls?

Habitual work practices, perceived project timelines and costs, resistance or fear of change, and inexperience are some reasons why firms continue to support labour intensive processes and procedures. The average tenure of a chief operating officer (COO) is typically three years, which tends to discourage medium and long term planning that is needed for transformational projects. ‘If it’s not broken don’t fix it’ also springs to mind, but arguably these reasons are far outweighed by the benefits that automation brings.

The reality is that economic and competitor demands, increases in data complexity and volumes, continued speed of regulatory change and enhanced scrutiny from external audits are key factors that demand the effective and efficient workings of back office functions.

Embracing technology can transform back office functions

Over-reliance on spreadsheets

Regulators and auditors are becoming less tolerant of spreadsheets, and there are four very good reasons as to why this is the case:

·         Auditability – every data interaction should be date and time stamped against a user profile, which is impossible to do on a spreadsheet. The ability to go back to a point in time is a necessity – again challenging in particular if there are macros embedded in spreadsheets.

·         Automation – spreadsheets are wide open to manual intervention and user error. Macros can help to execute actions, but are typically poorly controlled and are only understood by the writer of the macro - in other words, macros are 'keyman' dependent.

·         Volume – spreadsheets have volume limitations and do not perform well as volumes grow. Key controls on workbooks that have thousands of rows and multiple columns with complex, poorly understood macros are not sustainable, maintainable or readily auditable. They will break at some point.

·         Version control – despite the reliance on shared drives, spreadsheets are prone to suffer versioning and multi-access issues. Couple that with spreadsheets being poorly backed up and existing on local hard drives, and again the susceptibility to the lack of control is magnified.

Quality, speed and flexibility – these are words that are not synonymous with manual, error-prone processes that often lead to the working of substantial backlogs.

Tangible benefits

It is however no secret that by embracing technology, employees can be redeployed to undertake more valuable work and they can learn new and increasingly important technical skills. What ensues is much more efficient and effective work practices, leading to growth in performance and an overall reduction in operating costs. From management of high volumes of data and reduction in fast-close processes to mitigation of operational and regulatory risk – robust automated solutions enhance controls and deliver efficiencies.

Integrity and validation of data, powerful automated reconciliations, workflow and case management, and timely and meaningful management information (MI) are all ‘must haves’ for sustainable and scalable solutions. Configured correctly, MI can be such a powerful bi-product supporting strategic decision making and the allocation of resources.

If people are continually faced with the manual amalgamation and consolidation of data from disparate systems, what individuals really need is transparency of data, good governance and robust audit trails to meet challenging reporting requirements. It is not unheard of that a process that previously took a week to complete, now takes little more than an hour from start to finish thanks to automation.

Embracing technology

There are countless headlines and articles on innovation in respect to processing, managing and working with data. 2018 is proving to be the year of RegTech, FinTech, digitisation, artificial intelligence, machine learning and technological revamp. The return on investment on an automation project is much quicker these days and as a result COOs are starting to act. The ability to replace tactical solutions with long-term strategic solutions, which take a more holistic approach to data management, stands firms in good stead and allows them to not only grow but to embrace the inevitable ongoing challenges of financial control and regulatory requirements.