In a previous role, I worked as a finance director in the construction sector. What was I most amazed to see during my time there? Despite having integrated financial systems, most of the processes were manual. This was further compounded by the approval processes layered on top. For example, manually entering purchase invoices than having to wait for authorisation while the managers were away from the office. At Microsoft, I discovered how digital automation can reduce these paper-based processes, streamline operations, reduce errors and give faster results. Moreover, it can join up different legacy and modern systems and processes, reducing silos. Your finance team can be more agile. Let’s take a look:
Intelligent automation to streamline operations
A McKinsey 2019 study found that 60 percent of all occupations have at least 30 percent of activities that could be automated. Intelligent automation is the combination of three key factors:
Digital Process Automation (DPA): Lets you automate workflows between applications and services, sync files, get notifications, collect data, and perform other common tasks across modern cloud services.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA): Turns manual tasks into automated workflows by recording and playing back human-driven interaction with legacy on-premise software systems. You can program RPA to run unattended, accelerating automation of high-volume, repetitive tasks or automate cumbersome or repetitive processes while still allowing for human intervention.
AI: Integrate AI models into workflows with a low or no-code approach.
Using automation in finance to streamline operations
Together, these three factors combine to build automated workflows across all the apps, services, and on-premise legacy systems at the same time. Bridging DPA, RPA and AI into Power Platform makes it possible to create secure and compliant automation in your construction firm.
What happens when you use automation to take over manual time-consuming processes? You can free your financial team to focus on higher value work.
Automation can streamline operations and processes, such as invoicing. You can also use it to predict or view insights in real-time. You can also connect silos across your whole firm, giving your whole organisation a single source of truth.
Collecting intelligence at a larger scale will lead to better services and streamlined operations. This will lead to greater value driven, and increased agility.
For example, when connecting your finance data to your supply chain you forecast labour and product needs. This helps you make predictive and real-time decisions. As a result, construction projects are delivered quicker. You can also react quicker to external circumstances.
Grow with agility and resilience
Automation is a long-term strategy. You do get quick wins when you streamline operations and workflows – can you imagine how much time I would have saved in my finance role? But when connected with AI, it can help uncover and create new efficiencies in the future.
The important thing to remember about automation is that it amplifies our work. It lets people focus on strategic work. The Total Economic Impact of Power Apps, a commissioned study conducted by Forrester consulting on behalf of Microsoft in March 2020 found that employees were saving almost two hours a week from automation.
Construction firms have a lot of different needs, especially between different teams and on-site frontline workers. By giving everyone the tools to do their jobs smarter and faster, you can be more agile and resilient.
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About the author
Simon worked in practice for seven years before moving into the commercial sector as Finance Director of a global Industrial Pumps Business, mainly focussed on the oil and construction sectors. Simon then moved into sales of ERP Software. He now has over 25 years’ experience of selling ERP, with over 500 successful implementations – many on a global basis – across multiple sectors. He focussed primarily on construction, professional services, and field service industries, but also assisted many in the distribution, manufacturing, education and non-profit sectors.
Simon has now been at Microsoft for over three years and has brought his considerable ERP experience to become Sales Lead for Dynamics 365 Finance & Supply Chain Management in the built sector.