Process Automation - The benefits and realities for shared service centers

Read this eBook to learn more about Process Automation and the benefits and realities for shared service centers Research into shared service center managers using ERP platforms.

Who should read this report?

If you manage a shared service center for finance and accounting, customer services or HR and are considering introducing automation tools into your organisation, we think you’ll find the results of our survey helpful.

Our research shows that the automation journey is already underway for many, while others are considering where to start. No matter where you are along this path, this report is a resource for discovering the business processes that shared service center managers are prioritising for automation, and where they have got to so far.

The report also considers the many benefits of automation in the shared services center environment and how to ensure initiatives are a success.

About the report

For the purposes of this research, we worked with market research firm, Sapio to survey owners, directors, C-level executives and managers at companies with 1,000 or more employees, operating shared services centres in the UK & Ireland. 61% of survey respondents work for businesses with 1,001-5,000 employees, while 39% work for businesses with more than 5,000 employees. 62% of survey respondents are shared services centre managers, 19% are directors, 12% are C-level executives and 7% are business owners.

Why we conducted this research

Precisely Automate helps companies who run their business on SAP to digitise and streamline their operations. We were keen to find out the status of shared services centres’ automation journeys, driven by process and cost efficiency targets. We wanted to understand what manual processes shared service centres have begun automating and their future automation plans.

Key challenges for shared services centers

In large corporations, it is becoming increasingly common to find multiple business functions relying on a common shared services center. For functions such as finance or HR, the shared service approach provides a center of excellence for large businesses, with a national or even global reach. Our research shows that the key challenges currently facing shared service center managers focus on efficiency gains and cost savings:

In many shared service center environments, the key to making business efficiency improvements lies in effective data management. Improving data management not only contributes to reducing business transaction costs and improved efficiency, it is also a key driver for automation. A massive 96% of our respondents admitted they’re worried about the quality of their business data. Their concerns include:

The Automation journey

Many shared services centers have already begun their automation journeys and will be using automation tools to streamline the repetitive, rules-based business processes staff undertake in their ERP systems on a daily basis.

Nearly 80% of survey respondents said they recognise the need for digital process automation however, three quarters are yet to realise the benefits of automating many of their manual administrative processes.

Where are shared services center managers in their automation journeys?

76% are either piloting projects or are already using automation tools. Just 5% are yet to start on their automation journey or don’t see the
potential for it in their shared services center.

Automation technology can deliver tangible value to finance teams who regularly process a lot of data and face growing transactional volumes, without having to increase headcounts or costs. From accounts payable through to general ledger or journal entries, automation software can help speed up and optimise these processes.

“We expect RPA to continue to grow well over the forecast period as enterprises focus on automation and, especially, the importance of task automation…”
— Maureen Fleming, Program Vice President, Intelligent Process Automation, IDC.

IDC predicts the worldwide robotic process automation (RPA) software market will grow at a 49.3% CAGR for 2017-2022 to $3.7 billion

The benefits of Automation

Slow, error-prone manual data entry is the bane of many business departments’ lives. The monotony of these tasks not only leads to loss of productivity but also can also cause mistakes to be made as part of the data entry process.

The benefits of automation are wide-ranging and enable significant business improvements. Our survey respondents are currently experiencing numerous benefits from applying automation tools, including:

Over three quarters of our survey respondents are either piloting projects or are already using automation tools, with many experiencing a boost to staff productivity.

We asked shared services centre managers about the positive impact automation is having on their workforces:

Shared services centre managers are realising that when staff no longer need to perform mundane, repetitive tasks such as data entry, they can focus on more strategic projects and add greater value to the business. In addition to greater productivity and efficiency, organisations can expect improved data accuracy and improved compliance with internal and external procedures and regulations.

Barriers to Automation

Global research and advisory company, Gartner has estimated that by the end of 2022, expenditure on automation software, including RPA, would reach $2.4 bn. However, although the benefits of automating slow and time-consuming business processes are clear, some shared services center managers face internal barriers to adopting these technologies.

There’s a lot to consider when it comes to implementing new processes or ways of doing tasks that have traditionally been performed manually. Typically, the best approach is to gain acceptance through small wins that prove to the team that an automation solution can add value. To do this effectively, it’s essential that the right processes to pilot automation are chosen. The decision on which processes to automate should be made based on the advantages that can be delivered. In addition, objectives and metrics for success need to be set.

It’s vital that a single pilot for automation can demonstrate clear and measurable productivity and time saving gains. Automation initiatives need to be carefully planned and managed in order to generate the best results and to demonstrate the potential business value of this technology.

Successful implementation of Automation technologies

Introducing new ways of doing things to staff members that have been performing the same time-consuming task for years can sometimes be difficult. Some parts of the business may need convincing about the benefits automation technology can deliver, while staff members for whom data entry is a key part of their role, may be concerned that they’re going to be replaced by a robot.

3 Key priorities:

Reassuring staff that their jobs aren’t under threat has been a key priority for success. It’s important to highlight the opportunities which exist for staff to upskill or take on new roles which have the potential to generate greater business value.

Convincing the business of the benefits automation can deliver is also a key priority for success. 42% of our survey respondents looked for small wins with automation to prove its value to the wider business.

The importance of aligning business and user expectations in order for automation initiatives to be considered a success.

Summary of benefits

Of senior professionals working in shared services centres see the need for digital process automation and are either already using the technology or are piloting projects.

Believe that automation will help reduce the cost of the service according to the research, while 44% think it will lead to an increase in productivity and data entry accuracy.

“There are significant gains to be achieved by adopting flexible, agile automation solutions for shared service centers, particularly when it comes to consolidating and standardising high-volume activities.

The use of automation tools designed specifically for the movement of data into and out of ERP systems such as SAP, not only significantly reduces the time it takes to move data, but can also help free up staff to deliver greater value to the business and improve data accuracy and compliance.”

— Andrew Hayden, Senior Product Marketing Manager, Precisely

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