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From workshop to reality - what is RPA and how can you use it? Part 2 of 3

In the previous blog post, we got to know the mostly peaceful, but sometimes a little choleric, CFO Olle, who in his quest to reduce accounting errors decided to look into RPA, Robotic Process Automation. In today's blog post, he makes the case and also encounters a situation where he finds unexpected benefits from RPA.

Nothing to lose

After reading up on RPA and being shown how to build a simple workflow using Microsoft Power Automate, Olle realised he had nothing to lose. Although Olle could sometimes (or rather quite often) be perceived by his colleagues and peers as somewhat conservative, he never hesitated to try new things that he thought could make his life or business more efficient. It was this mentality that led him to have both a robotic lawnmower and a robotic vacuum cleaner at home, and to make frequent use of online services to have groceries and other basic goods delivered to his home. At the same time, Olle could be scathingly critical of things that he felt added no value, "meaningless fluff" as he used to call it, and this included everything from pyramid schemes to expensive designer clothes.

The problem is not always the obvious one

The obvious flow that Olle first wanted to start automating was this one of people misposting invoices. To help colleagues get it right, Olle had developed a comprehensive Excel spreadsheet several years ago - a guide to every conceivable accounting question. The problem was - as with many guides - that it was under-read and under-used. Now Olle hoped that this RPA could somehow help him get his colleagues to keep the books right. However, after analysing with his RPA advisor what the finance department spends most time on, he realised that this was not where the problem lay. After all, it wasn't the mispostings that were stealing most of his time, and with the new invoicing system, many invoices could be auto-posted.

Find the real time thieves!

However, what took up a lot of Olle's and the rest of the finance department's time was getting out reports to monitor the company's billing to its own customers in the past month and to make forecasts for future months. This in itself was a fairly straightforward task, consisting of extracting a monthly report from the finance system showing billings by customer. Olle and his colleagues used to sort this by largest account as they never got to the bottom of the list. Then they would look up the largest customers, one by one in the CRM, and get the sum of the business opportunities. In case the invoiced amount of the previous month and the business expected to be closed in the coming month differed too much, Olle would take an extra look and sometimes even consult the responsible sales person to make sure that nothing had been missed and maybe take an extra credit check in case a customer who had not done much business before looked like he was going to do a lot more business from the company in the coming month.

Integrating the Finance system and the CRM system with each other seemed more advanced than sending people to March (at least for a stressed-out finance manager), but using the UI Flow feature of Microsoft Power Automate (UI=User Interface), Olle was able to record a work sequence himself, clicking through the previous month's report in the Finance system and then searching for each customer in the CRM system and extracting the value of the business opportunities entered. The result was an Excel file ready for him to review and analyse, and best of all, because he had recorded the work sequence, the RPA tool could repeat the steps whenever he wanted - while he went to a meeting or had a coffee himself. It took him a while to build the flow, but he quickly figured out that he would save that time at the next turn of the month when he needed to produce the forecast report again. The advantage of building it himself was that he got the benefit of the flow instantly.

The phones were ringing. Proud as a rooster of the flow he had managed to build almost entirely by himself, Olle answered with unusual joy, but the smile quickly faded. It was the company's CEO and a close friend of Olle's for many years, who announced that she had suddenly been hospitalised after feeling dizzy and now had a serious diagnosis from which, firstly, it was not entirely certain that she would recover without complications, and even if she did, she had already decided not to work any more in her life. She ended the conversation with the words, "Now you take the helm, Olle. I trust you!".

More useful than he had dared to hope for

Olle, who you will have understood by now is a very responsible person, had great confidence in the company and the management and board trusted him completely. Despite his concern for his close friend, it was natural for him to take on the role of acting CEO now that the regular CEO was no longer available. But at the same time, he realised that it would require significant re-prioritisation of his time and focus. How would they now manage the important forecasting work? But wait a minute, he had just built an RPA workflow that saved several days of work each month! Maybe this could be more useful than he had dared to hope! While he was thinking that, a colleague of his poked his head through the door with a worried look on his face. Three new managers had started in the past week and now they needed certification and training in the financial system. At the same time, the month needed to be closed and there were an unusually large number of invoices that had not been accounted for on time. Olle sighed and thought that this RPA tool would probably show what it could do.

Follow the exciting continuation in the next blog post! Would you also like an RPA advisor to help you find your biggest time stealers? Listen to AddPro's webinar to hear about how AddPro helps our customers get started with RPA!