For a large finance department where everyone is very busy and working long hours, a dictate to take on responsibility for coding bots to automate hundreds of processes may trigger a bit of resistance.
Still, gaining knowledge about robotic process automation programming, maintenance, and tracking — as a needed first step toward being able to take full advantage of the next generation of intelligent automation — is the top strategic priority for the finance team at KPMG.
The Big Four accounting and professional services firm is about 55% of the way toward achieving an initial goal of creating 200,000 hours of workforce capacity savings. And the importance of that mission is not something that CFO David Turner plans to let his charges overlook.
“Freeing up the time is a challenge,” he allows. “But my view is that very quickly we’re going to be in a world where, if you don’t have skills in robotics and the related technologies, you will be obsolete as a finance person.”
Turner says he’s actually been surprised by the pace with which his team is embracing the change. At the same time, people being what they are, some may be less enthused.
“Some lean in to change, aren’t frightened by it, and in that context are learning robotics to make themselves more productive,” he notes. “Others won’t take advantage of the training we’ve made available to everyone and won’t spend the time and energy to learn robotic capabilities. What will happen for sure is that we’ll seek to have two of the first kind, and suggest that the other one move on.”
It’s essential to grow such expertise in-house, Turner stresses, because there’s little of it available to recruit from outside.
Among the initial 200,000 saved hours, about half will come from finance and half from other areas the CFO organization. Those include customer help desks, management of resource deployment for client engagements, and customer interfaces for managing continuing professional education in conjunction with the firm’s many training courses.
Creating internal efficiencies, while important, may not actually be the primary reason why automation is such high-priority item for KPMG. The firm, of course, offers automation management services to its large client base.
“If we get out at the leading edge of this and train as many people as possible — in sales, too — we hope to be able to use ourselves as a showcase for our advisory practice,” Turner says. “So we can say, look, this isn’t just something we’re telling you can be done.”