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Digital Transformation for Private Equity Firms: Robotic Process Automation

November 25, 2019
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Studies continue to show that the most significant driver of portfolio company value is a focus on operating efficiency. Duff & Phelps, McKinsey, EY, and others, have all reaffirmed the principal by their own focus on process efficiency, digital transformation, and better allocation of their human capital. Fundamental to all of these is the ability to streamline and eliminate the errors in core business processes and functions.

Among the ways firms and their portfolio companies are pursuing these efficiencies is by using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate their most manual processes, which are typically prone to error, and/or high volume. This technology helps to accelerate information processing and ensures accuracy, which then allows portfolio companies to streamline operations and hit their projected returns year over year.

The following areas are targeted for robotic process automation because they have the dual advantage of creating value while maintaining a low technology cost barrier:

  • Automating your call center to keep it lean and agile
  • Automating finance operations

Automating your call center 

Businesses that have one or more call centers are one of the key areas to benefit from RPA. In the context of a call center, RPA is used to reduce call times by automating many of the common activities agents need to perform. These are typically situations that are best for “attended” bots, which are initiated by a human.

An example of how to design a call center automation use case is by creating one view of the customer for call agents. In many call centers, agents relay on multiple systems to view different customer data and make changes.

When a customer reaches an agent, the agent begins a profile search on the system where customer information is stored, including customer profile, order status, order number, pending support tickets (if any), and shipment identification. The agent must simultaneously interact with the customer while going from one system to another (e.g. Customer Relationship Management, Enterprise Resource Planning, and billing systems).

In this scenario, a bot can be used to query the data in all of these systems and quickly retrieve the information needed to provide timely, relevant answers to the customer. By automating the application launch, mouse clicks, and field entries, and loading a detailed customer profile from multiple systems, RPA eliminates the need to switch between various applications, both reducing the time the agent takes to access the information and virtually eliminating the possibility of providing the customer with incorrect information. This improves customer service while reducing the average time per call.

Likewise, in many cases, a call passes through different agents until an issue is resolved. When call centers are automated using RPA, one agent can harness a wealth of data to satisfactorily assist the customer. It is also worth emphasizing, that RPA facilitates the integration of different systems, which helps all agents to keep track of the progress on a specific problem, without having to monitor every application. By using RPA in call centers, a complete customer profile (with details from previous interactions) can be loaded with a single click.

Bots can also be used to perform customer updates across a variety of systems. Typically, agents must navigate through various applications to update information across multiple fields, which is not only tedious but also prone to error. Frequently, they are entering similar (or sometimes identical) information into multiple screens. The bot can be used to take the information one time from the agent, and automate the updates across all systems and screens, as necessary. In addition to reducing call times, this gives agents time to upsell or inform customers of new products and services available to them.

Automating finance operations 

Robotic process automation can also be harnessed to create efficiency in your finance and accounting operations. Balance Sheet Accounts Reconciliation is another example where RPA can bring great value, and on a monthly basis. For instance, a bot can download bank statements from different bank portals and then compare the information in the general ledger. In addition, the bot can follow certain patterns where there are discrepancies. 

The bot can be designed to:

  • Download bank statements from each bank portal
  • Run transaction reports out of your general ledger and/or treasury systems
  • Perform transaction-to-transaction reconciliation in a spreadsheet
  • Upload the spreadsheet to your close folder or, if the system exists, attach it to the task in your close management tool
  • Send exceptions and the backup to the exceptions to a designated close accountant
  • Auto-certify and close tasks that reconcile completely

The example mentioned above can also apply to billing data, employee data management, issuing refunds, creating invoices, data migration, report preparation, and updating financial models that require information from different data sources.

The ultimate goal is to get financial results faster, with fewer errors, and with less manual effort. RPA, especially when combined with other specific tools, can accomplish all of these. You can start now, without needing to dramatically transform the underlying ERP or accounting systems, since RPA sits on top of the existing systems landscape. This adds value for your operating partners, portfolio company executives, and boards because they can make better decisions, faster, with lower back office costs.

Let’s Get Started! 

Our Rapid Automation Assessment takes 2-4 weeks. You will have a full software budget, a consulting budget, hours requirements, preliminary designs for 3-5 automations, and a tactical roadmap to roll out these automations within 90 days.

From there, we can train your resources to continuously discover automation opportunities and assist in developing a Robotic Process Automation Center of Excellence, so you can take full ownership of the solution internally.

Please visit our Robotic Process Automation Services website by clicking here.