Going Big with Small Automation for Tax

Going Big with Small Automation for Tax

By Dom Megna,Partner, PWC And Justin Femmer, Partner, PWC

Dom Megna,Partner, PWC

Small Automation has exploded over the last year

Several years ago, we began the work of digital upskilling at PwC, focusing on our people and systematically upskilling our clients through Digital Academies. Recently, over the past twelve months, the use of small automation has increased significantly. Here’s what we’ve found in working with our clients on data and process automation.

Automation has proven to be quicker and easier than expected when using the new small automation approach.

Small Automation - What is it?

‘Small automation’ is a rapidly expanding trend that enables increased emphasis on quality of data and technology-enabled processes. This new approach allows organizations to respond quickly to needed process enhancements with the fast implementation of flexible solutions—not easily accomplished by enterprise technologies. A critical characteristic is that Finance and Tax professionals can perform this automation themselves; therefore— with less incremental budget, time, and reliance on IT—‘small automation’ can generate targeted ‘quick-wins’ efficiently. This automation has the potential to transform the business, bringing to scale the automation discussion for larger enterprise-wide buy-in.

"Tax is a specialized function with complex needs. Hands-on training and a focused look at the ways small automation can quickly streamline tax activities are necessary"

As mentioned, small automation is driven by the business end-user, working to enhance his or her processes, and it can be easily scaled over time. Small Automation’s self-service tools fall into three key categories:

Extract Transform Load (ETL) tools automate time-consuming, manual tasks, allowing users to create reusable workflow designs with outputs for analytics and reporting.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) automates repetitive tasks across desktop applications and across multiple systems via software ‘bots’ that replicate a user’s workflow.

Analytics & visualization solutions create dynamic and interactive analytics and visualization of data for analysis, sharing, and decision making.

Companies expect one-offs but are experiencing a tidal wave of wins with a significant return on investment (ROI).

What are the benefits of small automation?

Justin Femmer, Partner, PWC

Companies are experiencing measurable value from supported small automation.

• 50-75% reduction in time on legacy manual, data-driven processes

• Fast return on investment (ROI) in the first year through quick wins and immediate results with relatively low investment upfront

• Shorter cycle times and more accurate/timely processes

• Leveraging data to derive higher value to the organization truly

• A catalyst for holistic process improvement initiatives and staff upskilling – a new way of working

Examples of how PwC has helped clients gain efficiencies with small automation:

1. A Fortune 50 technology company automated its tax account reconciliation and roll-forward process, saving 1,500 hours per year. The company also deployed a training program on self-service automation tools for the benefit of key tax and accounting professionals who drove additional automation savings of 6,000 hours within six months.

2. A global technology company automated a significant number of close financial sub-processes within a two-month sprint (impacting accounts payable, accounts receivable, forecasting, planning, and tax), saving 2,000 hours of total time and reducing the overall time to close. In subsequent small automation sprints, the company saved an additional 5,000 hours.

3. A multinational energy company, engaged in integration of a significant acquisition, combined and automated its legacy and new target company processes resulting in savings/ synergy capture of 50%.

Wins in Tax have become a catalyst for larger enterprise-wide consumption and buy-in.

Not only is small automation gaining popularity in Tax, but its success is generating interest in other functional areas. After all, the data that Tax needs is generated by sources across the enterprise, including Finance, HR, Payroll and Planning. The ability to leverage small automation more broadly improves collaboration and synergies across functions.

How to get started - Upskilling academies are more successful than anticipated.

PwC identified the need for digital upskilling of our clients several years ago and developed the Analytics & Automation Academies in response. Our 2-day programs consist of a mix of hands-on exercises and case studies, which enable participants to be proficient in using self-service, small automation tools. The demand for digital upskilling has exceeded our expectations. Over the last two years, 5,000 participants from 500 companies have attended one of our academies and, after academy training, workshops are typically held to help clients identify and prioritize data and process automation opportunities.

Since Tax is a specialized function with complex needs, hands-on training with a focused look at the ways small automation can quickly streamline tax activities are needed. After a two-day academy and several workshops, our clients are ready to tackle simple automation projects on their own— and, other functions are jumping on board. Tax is leading the charge to transform the organization, in significant ways, with small automation.

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