It’s common for the finance and accounting departments to have the automation Center Of Excellence (CoE) housed within. These teams are often close to the back-office processes and are ripe for automation to streamline operations. Whether the automation CoE lives in a shared service or corporate group, the hub of the hub-and-spoke model often lives in Finance. After reaping the benefits of success in your finance-centric automation initiatives, there is likely a desire to continue the moment of the newly found successes in additional departments and business units, so let’s discuss the best way to go about expanding automation initiatives outside of finance and accounting.
Gain Support From Your Executives
If you find yourself ready to open an automation within the CoE and to other business units, it’s likely a good time to refresh your vision for the automation program at large. This means engaging the current executive sponsors and getting input on expanding. Between the champions, influencers, and decision-makers, there may be some politics to be mindful of (i.e., who gets to control and goodwill of the automations, who funds the programs, etc). Even with politics present, it’s still critical to align with the sponsor on expanding the vision of automations within the CoE and beyond the initial focus of finance and accounting automations. Gather their support by building a groundswell and ask for their support in engaging other executives to find the right people and teams to target.
After securing executive support, evangelize and educate as many teams as you can get access to. Schedule awareness sessions and overviews of the automation program with department leaders and ask for their direction on where you need to go next.
The benefits of automations under your belt are having actual ‘wins’ that you can share and show what success can look like. This can go a long way in establishing the program’s credibility to a new or skeptical team of the automation program. Don’t be afraid to be selfish (from the F&A point of view) and target areas that cause downstream problems for the finance and accounting teams. Think about the quality of purchase orders, materials, and inventory management. Think about how these things start and are the end-to-end processes that need automation and improvement that can help the upstream teams save time and the downstream teams with few exceptions and errors. Additionally, don’t exclude your process improvement and PMO organizations that funnel ideas to the CoE automation team based on their pipelines.
Begin Discussions for Opportunities on CoE Expansion
With this groundwork, you should be able to lay some data points around the ripeness of the level of interest and target more detailed discussions around opportunities. Re-engage with the executive sponsor and provide this feedback to gain additional access to the executives overseeing the newly targeted areas. Ensure they buy-in and support and ask them to include it as a strategic focus. One critical step often overlooked is ensuring that the non-finance executives are on board. This will help down the road when explaining what is needed from the business process owners and keep you ( finance’s automation CoE) off the hook for taking someone’s problem on as your own. Additionally, the funding question will need to be ironed out at the executive level… who’s paying for this? Something that needs to be answered early on and before promises to automation are made.
Launch Pilot Projects
From here, the path forward should be coming into focus and with the buy-in and support from the executive group, start looking for department-focused “pilot” projects. This approach can help the new teams understand what is expected from them, what automations programs can deliver, and what to expect from the automation initiative. From there, continue to follow up and push discussion or ideation workshops to build out the department-focused pipeline. This can then provide feedback to the executive group on the fruitfulness of further expanding the CoE’s automation program.
Let the Possibilities of Intelligent Automation Unfold
Breaking into other teams can take a bit of work, hand-holding, and ‘bringing the horse to water.’ But, to continue to realize the benefits of automation, is a direction that must be undertaken.
Throughout the expansion, communication is paramount. There will be multiple touches with the executive sponsor, executive teams overseeing the new teams being onboarded, and the department leader to evangelize, educate, and set expectations on moving forward. A lot of this may be repeated if multiple teams and departments are incorporated, so ensure you have strong content to tell the right story to the right audience. With these steps in mind, the CoE will quickly be overwhelmed with automation ideas that will start flowing in. Then you’ll have a new problem to solve, which do you do first? A good problem to have.
Take a deeper dive into expanding the automation CoE outside of finance and accounting by watching the webinar, “Automation Center of Excellence: A Powerful Lever to Expedite Your Hypermation Journey.”