F&A processes are normally both time-consuming and error prone. Could automation of the processes be a silver bullet then? Not exactly, automation of finance simply has no value unless it creates business outcomes.
Daniel Vetti, Enterprise Services Director, Cognizant, clarifies: "Let me explain what I mean. With hundreds of F&A customers in the Nordics, and 800 local resources delivering value, Cognizant is the regional market leader within this sphere. When I talk to clients about automation, I focus on outcomes such as improving operational efficiency and speed, better decision-making and improved compliance. Our experience is that we can help improve cost or free up capacity with 30–50 percent in accounting processes."
However, there are some obstacles on the way to getting there. Automation might actually increase costs if you don’t remove input factors.
The common pitfalls
Most companies normally struggle with the same issues. Typically, we see that initiatives often start from the top, putting pressure on the organization while the value remains unclear. We also see that there is too strong a focus on tech and that physical processes are just being replicated. There is also a lack of willingness to secure new skills, paired with a lack of acceptance for time-consuming change management.
Our advice? Start by asking yourself if there is a business case for it. Spend 4–6 weeks making sure to understand the business case and look at levers. Also focus on re-imagining the whole process, infusing new competencies, and articulating the outcome you want to achieve.
"HSB saved 60 000 hours per year by automating workflows. The average processing time per invoice has gone from five minutes to 45 seconds."
HSB saved 60,000 hours
Are there any good examples of successful F&A transformation? "Yes indeed. Vic.ai is a company that digitally transforms F&A processes with intelligence and autonomy to improve productivity, decision-making and ROI," says Aditi Charnoubi, Chief Growth Officer at Vic.ai, as among their clients is the Swedish real estate giant HSB. The company processes around 1.5 million invoices every year, a cumbersome task that included multiple systems and extensive manual work.
As HSB wanted a modern platform that could manage straight-through processing without relying on purchase orders, it turned to Vic.ai for help. HSB came on the platform in October 2020, and saves 60 000 hours/year by automating workflows. The average processing time per invoice has gone from five minutes to 45 seconds.
Pre-trained AI model
How does it work? Invoices are uploaded to Vic.ai, where AI ingests the documents and codes them for accountants. This allows HSB’s accounting team to quickly validate data instead of wasting time manually entering it into the system. The platform initially used historical data to pre-train the AI model. When the AI model got confident enough in its ability to read invoices, it started validating data for the accountant with zero touch. This level of accuracy, allowing HSB to maximize resources and free up time for accountants, was accomplished in the first full month on the platform and has now achieved 98 percent AI accuracy over the last two years.
If you’re curious to learn more about Cognizant’s F&A practice, please visit our Finance & Accounting section on the web.