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The Future is Automation, The Future is Cloud

The Future is Automation, The Future is Cloud

September 4, 2017

Automation is Not AI, But it is the Future

A glance at the findings from Deloitte’s Automation Report, surveying UK’s accounting leaders.

Written by Tim Hooper, Xledger UK

Deloitte UK spent several years (starting in 2014) surveying clients and accounting leaders about their intentions toward automation. The resulting The Robots Are Coming, as a piece of research, reveals how financial ‘automation’ has influenced the corporate landscape.  According to Deloitte UK, the only strategic priority higher ranked than automation was ‘continuous process improvement.’

Automation through cloud

In Deloitte’s survey, 15% of respondents called cloud computing a prominent tech goal. Data quality only received 10% of the vote, Social Media 2%. Archiving and documentation came in at second to last, with 3% identifying it as their area of emphasis. Cloud computing has the future on its side.

Deloitte’s report noted 36% of respondents plan to automate through cloud computing, while 13% see robotic process automation as ‘the right path’. Yet according to the survey, 71% of respondents plan to fully automate through their current ERP system.

However, just 8% of respondents identified implementation of a new ERP system as a high technological priority. Survey author Richard Horton insisted, “Some leaders and organisations are suffering from ERP fatigue, which is preventing them from embracing new technologies.” Are executives experiencing ERP fatigue? Or do they view ERP as the hope for automation?

The Role of Automation

The survey’s respondents associate ERP with the ability to automate, so much so that 71% plan on automating through their current ERP system. Of course, without access to Deloitte’s raw data, we cannot determine how many who plan to automate through ERP have an ERP system suited to automation. Being rational actors, respondent executives will wait to authorise additional spending until they have exhausted the limits of current resources.

When pain points do grow intolerable, these executives will find that the most highly automated systems live in the cloud, where economies of scale allow providers to update and innovate with ease. Thus, we can expect that the ERP market will see a massive surge in cloud adoption over the next five years or so.

Rule-based finance processes will be the first automated

According to this survey, the top 4 processes perceived as ‘ripe for automation’ are:

  • accounts payable (91%)
  • travel and expenses (55%)
  • fixed assets (36%) and
  • general ledger (27%)

In the UK alone, Deloitte found, organisations can still automate more than 50% of current finance roles. Yet this does not mean that finance departments will soon resemble an assembly line. In the cloud computing world, ‘robot’ refers to a macro or computer program—not, as Horton joked, ‘walking, talking auto-bots.’

Read the full Automation report from Deloitte UK.

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