Talking to your clients about Digital Transformation
Digital technology, from the smartphone in your hand to the robots on the production floor - and the automated systems that support management – are changing every aspect of business these days.
Your clients are probably changing the way they work to embrace existing digital technology, and looking at the next generation, which may include Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Artificial Intelligence (AI) Cognitive Processing and Advanced Analytics.
They may mean lower costs and fewer staff required while delivering improved effectiveness, smarter and more strategic business decision-making, and better customer experience. It's not just a matter of robots on the production line any more, and neither is the automation of the back office just some new fad. Currently, clients spend valuable time on transaction-oriented activities. By automating them, staff can be redeployed on work that actually creates value – whether it is increasing productivity, driving innovation, or simply spending more time improving the customer experience.
As an accountant, you are also a trusted business advisor to your clients. What can you tell them about digital transformation when the ask you about the financial implications of this new approach to business?
Save 40% of finance costs
The latest research suggests that your clients may be able to cut finance costs by over 40% through comprehensive digital transformation, including full technology optimisation.
The findings show savings across many areas, from procurement, HR and IT to customer service and marketing. Digital transformation means new levels of efficiency, and can bring operational cost levels down to parity with - or even below - those of top-performing benchmarked organisations.
The potential is vast. RPA, data capture and other technologies can now be considered as proven, and companies are starting to make moves beyond eliminating repetitive administrative and transactional work and explore the potential of digital systems in other areas. Risk management, fraud identification and forecasting of things like commodity pricing, are all possible applications and mean that clients can make smarter decisions, improve their cash flow, manage and reduce their risk, and streamline their supply chain.
That 40% figure may be only the beginning.
Who is doing it?
The reality is that many finance teams in the larger organisations already have smart automation and digital transformation plans.
- For example, Vodafone has automated its procurement operation and cut procurement costs by about 20%. What’s more, their purchase orders are perfect, without the 25% error rate that was increasing costs previously.
- Oil giant Shell has created an analytics network made up of 1,600 people who can now optimise the ordering of spare parts, not only delivering millions of pounds in savings for operations across the world but using machine learning to build expert systems to predict failures in compressors, valves and other crucial oilfield gear.
- IBM has built a Cognitive Support Platform to simplify support for more than 7,000 products across 170 countries. Not only does this prioritise cases and manage workloads of valuable support engineers, it has introduced chatbots to resolve issues online – removing the need for human intervention altogether in a growing number of cases.
But, of course, all these are giant corporations with the resources to make the investment in costly new systems and, in some cases, to develop the systems themselves. Things are more challenging for smaller businesses, as many of your clients may be – but the rewards are just as real.
So, what are your clients doing?
The automation revolution and digital transformation are coming to SMEs and smaller corporations, thanks to the availability of off the shelf software solutions and specialist support from resellers specialising in the sector. Those who have run pilot programs to try and automate more labour intensive transactional activities may have reported success, and see the potential of rolling out new technology answers. But only a minority are currently using these technologies to make a significant cost impact on end-to-end processes.
So the question you should be asking is - just what is holding your clients back?
There could be several answers:
- Not knowing where to start may be one factor - there may be off the shelf solutions, but clients may not know where and how to find them or the specialist consultants who can help implement them.
- Finding staff with the appropriate skill set can be a serious challenge - those who do have the necessary skills may in short supply and command a salary premium, although freelance support from contractors may be available.
- A multidisciplinary approach may be essential - to put together an innovative digital project, technology and disciplines from across AI, analytics and automation may all be required.
- Managing the transformation itself may also be a problem - careful planning is required if new digital solutions are to be dovetailed with existing working processes.
- Accurate opportunity assessment is also essential - some processes and issues are much more suitable as a starting point for digital transformation than others.
- Finding an expert implementer to integrate technology from multiple vendors my be essential – and much more difficult than picking a single large technology vendor and moving forward.
However, the biggest problem of all may be that of cost. The potential and the benefits are understood, and business units across organisations are eager to ‘go digital’, but finding the funding for a complex digital transformation may be a problem for your clients.
How can you help?
Clients will often turn to you, as their accountant, when they have identified a need for funding and are looking for the most cost-effective finance deal to provide it.
For something like digital transformation, finding the most cost-effective source can be a problem, as many lenders will still be in the dark about the potential. Fortunately, at Rangewell we can help.
We are experts in business finance. Not only do we know all the different types of business funding available, we know the lenders who can offer the most competitive rates, and those who may be the most appropriate when the challenge is out of the ordinary - which many lenders may see digital transformation as being.
We can partner with you to help find the funding your clients need. Whether your clients need business loans, Asset Finance, Growth or any other kind of finance - when your clients are ready to transform their operation and need your help to secure the funding to turn their digital plans into workable reality, you can simply turn to us for the solutions they need.
Not only are all our services free for you to call on as an accountancy partner, but we also make no charge to your clients. In fact, we may be able to pass commission from lenders on to your practice.