If an organization believes in a product enough to sell it, then they should also utilize it internally [if they can] as well, right? When you are advising others to do something, the message is even more powerful when you are using those tools as well. UDig took this to heart and began looking internally for processes that could be good candidates for automation and started developing a backlog of potential use cases. UDig’s Intelligent Automation team worked with the Operations team to automate various processes to help eliminate some of the repetitive, manual, and often tedious tasks that are completed on a recurring basis. The team came up with two immediate use cases, building QuickBooks automations to reconcile benefits and expenses (automated reconciliation). The tools used in the operations automations are the same tools UDig uses when automating processes for clients.
Practicing what you preach can give you a competitive advantage in a few key areas:
- Build credibility with potential customers because you believe in a product enough to not only sell it but also use it internally.
- Be aware firsthand of the strengths and weaknesses of the product or solution from implementation to daily use based on your own experiences.
I spoke with our Chief Financial Officer, Susan Frank (SF), and our Operations team (OT) to get their thoughts on the impact of these automations and where they see the future of automation at UDig.
JB: Can you give me an overview of the processes that have been automated for your team?
OT: UDig’s Intelligent Automation team has helped us automate two monthly processes. The first revolves around the reconciliation of UDig’s various benefit bills that get uploaded into QuickBooks. We receive a bill from our benefit providers that we need to reconcile against the payment that was made in QuickBooks. These bills are typically listed by employee name and their specific benefit cost. However, UDig groups employees and payments by the different combinations of departments and office locations. Pre-automation, the operations team had to manually complete this reconciliation for medical, dental, disability, vision, and accident and critical illness benefits and then input this information into QuickBooks. Now, a file is created from the automated reconciliation and is left in a folder location for the team to update. They can now navigate to the file and complete the import.
The second automation completed for the operations team dealt with monthly expense reimbursements. UDig tracks expenses in two different systems – one that holds expenses such as recurring monthly subscriptions, and the other that holds non-recurring expenses such as travel, parking, meals, etc. Similar to the first automated reconciliation, these files contain data at an individual employee level and need to be grouped by the different combinations of departments and office locations and then uploaded into QuickBooks. Pre-automation the reports would be exported and sent to UDig’s accountant who would do this work and manually enter the information into QuickBooks. Post-automation, the reconciliation files are created and stored in a folder location to then be uploaded into QuickBooks.
JB: What benefits have you seen so far from these operations automations?
OT: The main benefit we have seen is time savings for our team. The process for each benefit bill from start to finish manually would take one employee about thirty (30) minutes. With five (5) benefit bills, that was a total of 2.5 hours of someone’s time monthly to complete. Now, all five (5) files are uploaded into QuickBooks within ten (10) minutes and multiple team members can simply take the produced file and upload it into QuickBooks. We also ran the risk of a delay in these files being reconciled timely, since a team member has to find the time to do it with their other daily tasks. Since the automation, the files are created the same day every month, and we just grab the file when we need it!
Aside from quantitative benefits, there are plenty of other benefits seen by the operations team from the automated reconciliations. The Intelligent Automation team was able to establish a solid understanding of the business workflow that had become a tedious and manual task for the team. Now, instead of taking time out of our day to manually reconcile spreadsheets, there is an automation that does the work for us. Team members can focus their attention on higher-value tasks.
JB: Where do you see the future of automation internally at UDig?
SF: I hope that we are continuing to automate tedious operations projects as much as we can and learning from our Intelligent Automation team what other companies are doing that are relatable. I think being a smaller firm, it is hard to visualize all the potential and capabilities out there. I want us to keep challenging ourselves to identify how we can continue to find tedious and repetitive tasks that we can automate so that we can spend our effort on the tasks that we enjoy (helping the company obtain its goals).
We have also learned the importance of understanding not only the current state of the process but how automation works. That way, if there is a change in the process or workflow, we are aware of how that could impact the automation and can communicate to make changes accordingly. I would love to continue automating as much as we can, even outside of the Operations functions.
JB: Why do you think automation is valuable for any organization?
SF: The highest value UDig has seen from operations automations that I think is valuable for any organization is the reduction in both the time spent on these repetitive tasks and the percentage of human error. With an aging workforce, a lot of the data entry and repetitive type jobs are not as desirable as they used to be.
If you can automate tasks employees do not necessarily want to do, and also uncover time, error, and money savings by automating, then you should absolutely do that. This will allow your employees to spend their time on tasks that are more valuable and challenging to them, increasing employee satisfaction.
Interested to learn more about robotic process automation (RPA) and how it can reduce operational costs? Try our RPA ROI Calculator and calculate how much automating your process could save your organization.