Life Sciences Accounting & Reporting – Mind the Process Data Gap to Win in 2021 and Beyond

The 17th annual Life Sciences Accounting & Reporting Congress brought together the who’s who of industry leaders to share insights and help navigate the year ahead. From addressing top-line regulatory actions to discovering solutions for industry-wide challenges, the can’t miss event offered technical education coupled with organizational growth strategies. Hopefully the top-notch faculty and industry experts will be back in-person in Philadelphia for next year’s event.

I participated in an “Ask the Expert” panel with PwC’s Michelle Lee, Deloitte’s Temano Shurland and SAP’s Robert Jenkins to discuss practical applications of today’s technologies to finance and accounting, as well as insights on scalability towards tomorrow’s digital breakthroughs to transform accounting and financial reporting.

Two items from the news caught my eye as I was preparing for the session. First, you had Microsoft announce they will be giving away their low-code Power Automate application free with Windows 10 — which has one billion monthly active users according to some estimates. And second, The New York Times did a major story on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology which signaled to me the tech is truly mainstream now. Given the audience (and I could not make this up if I tried), the article was titled, “The Robots Are Coming… for Phil in Accounting.”

Looking at the modern finance agenda, it is safe to move beyond the automation talk track of the past few years and explore what’s next and how to get there. Transformation is still top of mind. Everyone is trying to do more with less, leverage new technologies, enhance compliance, improve experience, be more data driven and any of the other targeted outcomes.

What is worth considering is the miserable success rates of major change programs. 70% of digital transformation projects fail, wasting $900B annually. Just 14% of companies have seen sustained and material performance improvements from their transformation programs. And finally, one more statistic, only 1% of organizations have their processes sufficiently under control to realize the full potential of digital solutions.

It really makes you wonder why programs can still get funded at all. I can only think that the potential risk of doing nothing is even greater, and it is seen as a long-term threat to the viability of the organization.

 So what can be done to get better faster?

We’ve been taught over the years that project success relies on people, process and technology. But the shift to a more digital-first approach over the past decade has broken the golden triangle of people, process and technology.

There has been way too much emphasis on technology as the answer to our company’s problems. And that has been at the expense of the people and process dimensions. Technology was seen as the easy button. Go buy a new platform and everything will be better.

I used to regularly conduct technology assessments. In at least 8 out of 10 assessments, where I was brought to explore what was seen as a technology problem. The companies had acquired the right software for their business. The root cause of the problem was actually a process issue or training/people issue that was not addressed properly. But the team was always convinced there was a technology problem.

But it is more than just too much focus on technology. And this is my final point. The biggest obstacle to complex, large-scale change is the lack of detailed knowledge on current state operations.

Companies need to evolve to win the market – and that’s probably more true today than ever before in the current environment. But they truly don’t understand how they operate on a daily basis. They have limited process understanding; they don’t know how their applications and data interact, and they don’t really understand what their customers expect.

And if you step back and think logically, it’s pretty obvious. It’s really hard to go from Point A to Point B if you don’t know where you are actually starting from. Everyone wants to get to that magical future state, but you need to understand current state first.

Before embarking on a major initiative, for it to be successful, a company must map its processes, its systems and its experiences. Today, that necessary level of operational intelligence just does not generally exist in most companies and on top of that it has been traditionally very difficult to obtain, but that is starting to change with emerging technologies which I’ll get into deeper in the break out session.

Most people are probably familiar with manual process mapping and conducting time-motion studies with consultants or business analysts. There are technology alternatives to make this process cheaper, faster and better.

Your Checklist to Answer, “Should We Automate That?”

Every enterprise is under pressure to accelerate growth, find efficiencies, increase productivity, and do it all while working remotely. Customers are also demanding more speed and greater value at less cost, while suppliers want streamlined invoicing, delivery, quality control, and other processes. It’s pushing your digital transformation efforts to their limits, especially as more of your internal stakeholders assume automation is as easy as flipping a switch. 

Process automation is a highly-efficient, high-ROI, and proven tactic for digital transformation. But you can’t just assume every process is ripe for automation. Before selecting a process for automation, you must understand that process in great detail. What are the inputs and desired outputs? What are the expected steps? What are the actual steps taken by workers? Which systems and data are involved? What would an ideal process look like? And that’s just scratching the surface. 

To help you answer questions and guide your process automation efforts, we’ve developed a new checklist: Should My Enterprise Automate That?

This checklist helps you create an enterprise-wide strategy for successful process automation. It’s built on a foundation of first discovering candidates for enterprise process automation in a fast and efficient manner. Then, it explains how deep, granular process data is needed to decode and document the intricacies behind how your business actually works. Finally, it provides a guide to determine which processes are ideal candidates for automation and how you can track, measure, and ensure the success of every process automation effort. 

Should My Enterprise Automate That? is an automation-centric checklist to align your process automation goals with the realities of your workplace operations. The checklist covers four key areas of enterprise process automation exploration:

  1. Process complexity
  2. Mission criticality of target processes
  3. Key success metrics
  4. Importance of detailed process documentation

Download this new infographic-style checklist today and get started on your path to successful enterprise process automation. 

Elevate Human Potential With Innovative Automation on the hello, Human Podcast

Our podcast, hello, Human, features the leading builders, explorers, and warriors of AI. Together, we investigate how they’re putting AI to work to transform enterprises and make sustainable progress on automation, privacy, business disruption, human-bot teaming, and much more. We strive to make each episode intelligent and engaging, with the ultimate goal of improving your understanding of the opportunities AI can bring to your business and our world.

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Episode 7 - Elevate Human Potential With Innovative Automation
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