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Four Ways to Use Bots to Increase Efficiency in Your Organization

Your business needs technology to run. The evolution of business means that repetitive processes like managing payroll or invoicing which were once done on paper can now be done by employees using applications. The next logical step is to automate those processes so that the employee can focus on more cognitive, meaningful tasks.

At Apps Associates, we have seen customers implement bots to assist with manual, repetitive tasks that drain their employees’ resources. Automating these tasks with bots has drastically increased productivity and efficiency, and also improved employee satisfaction. When employees are freed from these burdensome and boring tasks, they are free to take on more meaningful, challenging work. This leads to happier employees and a happier organization.

Not only have we implemented bots for customers, but we have also implemented them in our own internal teams – streamlining tasks for Finance and Information Security among others. In this article, we’ll share four ways that bots can help streamline tasks for your organization.

This article is based on the Let’s Talk Tech podcast – listen to the episode here.

What Can a Bot Do?

When we refer to a bot, we’re referring to a piece of software that sits on your machine and performs tasks that a human would at a keyboard. Imagine this example: an employee must enter data from a paper invoice or document into a computer system. The employee must log into multiple different systems, execute various processes in those systems, download a report from each, and merge those reports into one finalized document to share with the leadership team.

Every step of that process can be done by a bot. What may have taken that employee the better part of a day to complete can now be done in a few minutes. The employee is freed from their boring task, and able to work on more cognitively challenging, value-driven tasks.

There are no limits on where a bot can work, either – we’ve deployed bots in Excel, Outlook, SharePoint, financial systems, Adobe products, and the list goes on. All it needs is a login and a password, and if you show it the navigation bar, it can do all those tasks for you.

Four Tasks to Automate With Bots

1. Payroll 

Posting payroll is an important – albeit tedious – process at any company. Obviously, people need to get their paychecks on time! This process can benefit from a bot in two ways: reducing the time to complete and reducing the margin of error. When a bot is involved, there’s no “fat fingering” of keys, transposing numbers, or any other human error.

Apps CFO Jill Quintiliani decided to implement a bot in her department after watching an employee search a 50-page PDF document for one number. To start, she had her team perform the task exactly as usual and had our Business Integration and Automation team screen record to capture every step.

The steps included:

          • Convert PDF to CSV
          • Excel manipulation (Text to column, V Lookups, etc.)
          • Produce CSV output in journal entry format
          • Log into the financial system
          • Post journal entry

This process typically took an employee around 60 minutes to complete. With a bot, it was complete in 5 minutes – 90% faster!

2. Contracts and Agreements 

Another task that the office of the CFO decided to automate was contract scanning. Previously, an employee would review each contract to highlight and isolate important clauses like insurance or indemnification so that they could evaluate the contract.

A third party even pitched us AI software that would highlight and pull out those clauses that are important to us. Rather than spend the money on another software, our BIA team got to work on creating a bot for this task.

The general steps include:

          • An employee adds the contract to a particular folder
          • The bot scans the document for key phrases
          • The bot highlights those clauses for employee review

It’s important to note here that we do not – and would not recommend – let the bot interpret those clauses. That is still a task for a human, but now that human doesn’t have to spend hours combing through thousands of pages for what they need.

3. Security Access Controls 

Apps Associates is a services company, and we take the security of our data and our customers’ data very seriously. Our governance team has rigorous processes in place today utilizing a ticketing system, including a process related to employee status and notification.

The current process includes:

          • Daily security access review
          • Daily email with all changes
          • Ticketing system for employment changes
          • Approvals

Kim Nicolosi, Director of Infosec and Corporate Governance, decided it would be ideal to take this one step further and create a notification system at the tail end of this process so that all affected employees would be aware of the status change. For example, notifying a project manager that a delivery resource is no longer with the company so they can adjust their project plan and notify the customer.

Now, the bot we implemented will:

          • Receive and read the daily email
          • Identify the relevant associate
          • Identify all customers that the associate worked with
          • Identify the project manager and supervisor via email

This process has made it incredibly simple for the governance team to communicate changes across an organization of more than 1,400 employees. To make it even better, the bot includes an email template that the project manager or supervisor can use to notify our clients – adding one more layer of efficiency.

4. Large Data Import & Manipulation 

As mentioned, Apps Associates is a services company; we create solutions for our customers every day. Sometimes we’ll implement bots like those we mentioned above, but this example is something that we created to make our implementation and migration projects simpler for us and our customers.

TJ Gladwell works as an Oracle ERP Financials Architect assisting our clients with their implementations. We’re often working with various forms of data – conversion, migration, cleansing, and transformation at some level. The accounting team at the customer is typically responsible for bridging the gap from the old system to the new one. This can include mappings for their chart of accounts, asset locations, sales reps, and other enterprise configurations.

This can sometimes be thousands of rows of data and hundreds of cells that need manipulation within Microsoft Excel. Not only was this tedious and time-consuming for our customers, but it was prone to errors that could slow down implementation.

TJ had the idea to create the AppsMap Bot to address this situation. Apps Associates works with our customers to identify all the necessary fields from the source and target systems and extracts the data from the source system. Then, using Excel functionality, the bot creates the mappings to the new system.

The AppsMap Bot can handle 1-to-1, many-to-1, 1-to-many, and many-to-many mapping logic. The bot interprets the mapping rules supplied at the onset and produces the ready-to-load system-formatted files.

To ensure accuracy, we also built a validation mode into the bot, which saves additional time where the newly mapped values are compared side by side to the source data in a separate easy to read, excel, spreadsheet. So before even loading the data into the local cloud, our clients can verify with 100% accuracy the map data and repeat this step until it’s 100% correct.

Bot Virality 

The four examples above are just the tip of the iceberg in terms of bot functionality. One thing we’ve noticed while implementing these internally and at customers is that they tend to catch on – quickly.  As soon as one department hears that their coworkers are saving hours of time on tedious tasks, they will want in on the fun. At Apps Associates, we’ve seen this first-hand as teams from finance, accounting, and governance all piggy-backed off one another to create their bots.

Which tasks are best suited for bots? 

When implementing an automation strategy, we recommend starting small. Look for repetitive processes that your team has been completing for at least six months; this is about the amount of time needed to understand all the intricate steps associated with the task. To get the most ROI, we suggest looking at repetitive, high-volume, error-prone tasks. You may have to intersperse manual intervention in some of these processes, as with the contracts example above, but you can still gain efficiencies over 80% of that process – that makes a real impact.

Adding or maintaining human intervention in these processes also helps build trust within your employees. We understand that hearing ‘bots’ can be scary to some – they immediately assume they will lose their job or be replaced. That’s rarely the case – we always recommend deploying bots that can help enhance our own job functions, freeing individuals up for more critical thinking and meaningful work.

Bots and the Importance of Change Management 

Some people may be resistant to change, which is to be expected, but you can mitigate those fears with change management, training, and education. Think about the emotional impact on your team members – share examples of how this will help the employees be better at their jobs, free them up for more critical thinking and meaningful tasks, and improve their value to the organization.

Communicating with the team upfront about why you are automating, what efficiency you intend to gain, and how the individuals’ jobs will be positively impacted is essential to success. Remember: happy employees equal a happy company!

Hear It Live

To hear more about this topic straight from the experts, listen to our podcast recording here.

Ready to start your automation journey? Let’s connect.