South Africa has clinched eighth place as a top global offshore location for finance and accounting outsourcing (FAO).
This was one of the key findings in the 2017-2018 Global FAO Market Intelligence Survey published by research firm Knowledge Executive.
A total of 126 large enterprises in Australia, South Africa, the UK and the US participated in the survey and disclosed their finance and accounting (F&A) investment plans; pain points and challenges; skills, technology and service provider requirements; and favourite offshore locations.
South Africa’s significant rise is due in part to its high-end, specialised F&A skills and its ability to deploy the latest finance and accounting technology such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI).
The survey notes that RPA is being utilised to optimise and push through repetitive F&A processes. While there is uncertainty around RPA, 12% of respondents indicated that they would use RPA to replace mundane, repetitive F&A tasks while 25% will use RPA to automate entire end-to-end F&A processes. When looking at general technology deployment, up to 16% of respondents said that they would boost the deployment of RPA in the next year.
Deloitte says RPA is already saving companies substantial amounts of time and money. “In some instances, we have found that RPA is 15 times more efficient than humans and offers a 15% to 90% cost reduction opportunity depending on the characteristics of the function to which it is being applied,” says Francois Burger, finance and accounting outsourcing leader at Deloitte, who was one of the associate sponsors of the survey.
“However RPA is not a ‘once-off’ technology implementation but a capability that needs to be continuously managed. It is about redeploying human talent and letting the robots do what they do so well, which can free up finance talent to address activities that are less repetitive and add more value.”
WNS says robotics offers more accuracy at faster speeds; companies can scale with more volume-based transactions and with little increase in cost.
“We foresee more companies investing in robotics and using it as a key differentiator for routine-based tasks. But you need a short to medium RPA plan in order to be effective,” says Alicia Kistan, senior GM: shared services at WNS, also an associate sponsor of the survey.
“Technology is and must be seen as an enabler – and there are so many repetitive and transactional-based F&A functions that can be automated,” Kistan says. “These include invoice processing, accounts receivables, journals and general ledgers. This can evolve into business analytics that are rules based and generate better insights and accurate outputs.”
The survey also revealed that advancements in business-process-as-a-service (BPaaS) and accounting-as-a-service (AaaS) would drive greater outsourcing opportunities and investment plans.
“Companies are looking at innovation and how to utilise new technologies and cloud-based services from their F&A providers to drive efficiencies and quality of service. As-a-service and subscription-based F&A solutions are rapidly gaining momentum,” says Deloitte’s Burger.
Kistan agrees, saying that the big theme is around transformation. “CFOs are looking for value creations from their outsourced partners. They want to streamline F&A services by investing in technology to make them more seamless and efficient. Ultimately, the focus is on improving productivity and unlocking business insights through data analytics and incorporating the use of intelligent tools or robots.”