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Rewiring the Workplace

Rewiring the Workplace

Transforming corporate functions

Stephanie Terrill

National Leader, Management Consulting

KPMG in Canada


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"The way we work is changing. Now, more than ever, technology is triggering an evolution of corporate and business functions, and that's reshaping our roles in the workplace and our capacity for change."

​Disruption is everywhere. We see it in the wide-spread shift to cloud-computing, the adoption of extreme automation, and the use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to take over diagnostic tasks that used to be done by humans. How far up the chain bots will go is yet to be determined, but the disruption is happening now. Driving this disruption further is a growing desire among organizations to use data from multiple systems to generate insights into consumer trends and behaviors and, in so doing, better predict financial results.

Digital disruption is about more than new tools and processes. I recently sat down with, Cleve Pohl, Applications Sales Manager at Oracle, to discuss. Cleve says today's business leaders are taking this time to evaluate where technology fits in within their long-term objectives: "Organizations are taking a step back and asking themselves where these technologies fit in with their values, their goals, and customer expectations."

"Corporate and business functions – such as procurement, finance, IT, and human resources – represent the very heartbeat of an organization. Significant investment goes into these functions to ensure a business is running smoothly. With evolving technology and changing customer expectations putting pressure on companies to transform their businesses, these functions represent an opportunity to play a strategic role in that change."

Embracing automation

​A number of corporate functions are primed for technological implementation. Topping the list are processes within organizations which can be simplified and governed by rule-based automated systems.

For example, offers Cleve, "Consider how much time someone in the accounts payable department spends chasing down data. They are out there tracking down who the invoice belongs to, who approved it, and what project it's associated with. That's taking precious time and resources to ask the right questions let alone obtain the answers. If you can automate this and let machine learning do the legwork, you can free up those people to do more meaningful work."

"By automating high-volume, repetitive, and rule-based tasks, organizations can free up capacity to more strategic functions (e.g., talent management and sourcing)". Moreover, there's an advantage to the fact that machines require less supervision and oversight than large processing teams, thereby leaving management to focus on external factors and lift the performance of their business."

KPMG is no stranger to the benefits of automation. Our team has developed tools for both the finance and supply chain processes that identified areas for RPA (robotic process automation) opportunities. These are areas that will not be automated by Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) and are low hanging fruit to begin the RPA journey early. In one instance, we found a process in Accounts Receivable that required eight manual steps and took an average of 15 minutes to complete. Through RPA, we got that process down to no manual steps and an average time of five minutes.

Disruption across departments

​In the age of disruption, no department will be left untouched. The adoption of automation, machine learning, and cloud computing will impact everything from HR to finance, and procurement to the entire supply chain structure.

And according to Cleve, you can add maintenance to the list:

"Where Oracle is spending a bulk of R&D over the next year is around blockchain, AI, and field service maintenance. We are getting to the point where you can run your tablet, open the camera function, point it at a piece of machinery and instantly see everything you need to know. Through this augmented reality technology, you can obtain information on that equipment's complete maintenance history, where its parts came from, which are under warranty, and all the hands that have touched it."

It is these kinds of technologies that will enable organizations to better capture information on the life cycle of assets and avoid bottlenecks and other preventable issues from occurring due to unforeseen maintenance problems. Using the power of technology to detect issues before they occur is not only cost efficient, it frees up resources for other work that can drive the bottom line.

Setting the pace of implementation

There is no right recipe for technology implementation. Determining one's pace of transformation will depend on several factors, including how fast they need to move within their specific markets to remain relevant, to which there are several external factors that will inform that decision on their digitization roadmap.

Beyond this, however, is an even greater need to gauge one's internal capabilities. Oracle Cloud can be implemented in half the time of the traditional on-premise ERPs and in a phased manner. You don't have to do it all at once anymore; you can pace implementation by geographic region, business sector, or functional segment. There are a lot more options available now.

On the road to implementation, Cleve adds that it's equally critical that all stakeholders are involved in both the design of one's digital roadmap and the implementation process: "When you talk about incorporating any significant piece of new technology or process into corporate office functions, you need executive leadership on board. In the past, technology has been something you assign to your IT group and leave them to it. Today, you need clear business owners to own the entire process."

The workforce of the future

​It's a new day for doing business. As technology continues to evolve corporate functions, the workforce of the future will become smaller and include talent with more judgment, insight, and analysis skills. Meanwhile, the workplace of the future will be one wherein non-strategic routine transactions have achieved efficiency and have been weened out substantially, and employees will continue to gain greater access to the real-time data they need to be more effective in their roles.

Disruption will also redefine traditional C-suite roles, Cleve adds, explaining, "The boss is going to change into the role of an exception manager. If they're on the manufacturing line, they're going to be there looking to resolve errors and not necessarily to see if everything is working correctly. And with automation and machine learning, 80% of the invoices are going to flow through the organization without being touched. Those leaders are only going to be looking at the remaining 20%, which are going to be the really big, complex transactions."

"As for those in the Chief Information Officer chair, they have a critical role in bringing awareness to what technologies are out there and select the right tools for the organization. That said, disruption needs to be treated as a core business opportunity to exploit and be used to pull ahead of competitors."

Blazing the trail

"Digital transformation can be daunting. Done right, though, it's possible to streamline corporate functions, freeing talent and working capital to do the things to grow one's business."

Here's where it is critical to design an effective digital roadmap based on rich analytics and market insights, to take corporate functions to the next level.

Transformation on this scale isn't something you need to do alone. We've seen this disruption first – hand, and we know how beneficial it can be to get it right.​

© 2020 KPMG LLP, an Ontario limited liability partnership and a member firm of the KPMG global organization of independent member firms affiliated with KPMG International Limited, a private English company limited by guarantee. All rights reserved.

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