The future of telecoms is under threat, as Covid-19 and market forces hamper growth and innovation for businesses, large and small. As it becomes clear that the pandemic is here to stay, bringing with it new challenges and accelerating existing forces, businesses are under pressure to find new disruptive ways of working, to achieve the cost cutting and efficiency gains that are essential for survival.
Telecoms companies face three key challenges:
- Falling consumer sales: The worldwide market for smartphones is contracting for the third year in a row, with saturation occurring in Europe, North America and Asia. Businesses must prioritise innovation and develop new revenue streams in order to safeguard their futures.
- Fibre deployment on hold: The current halt to fibre deployment – estimated to last between six and 12 months – will create a big hole in future revenue for major telecom companies. It is also having devastating consequences for the small and medium-sized construction companies that implement these networks, with many now facing bankruptcy.
- Store closures: Covid restrictions have hit the high street hard, but also presented telecoms retailers with an opportunity, as more consumers look to buy online. Many firms are now in a race against time to improve their online sales processes and maximise revenues through digital channels.
Is RPA part of the solution?
At a time when telecoms businesses are exploring all avenues to reduce costs and improve efficiency, robotic process automation (RPA) should be a top priority, particularly in the finance function. Here are three of the key ways that RPA can streamline processes and deliver real bottom line savings:
#1. Purchase to pay
Boosting cashflow amongst small and medium-sized construction suppliers
The halt to fibre deployment not only threatens the survival of numerous small and medium construction firms, it could also mean the permanent loss of valuable expertise, impacting future revenues for the whole sector. Major telecoms organisations therefore have an important role to play in supporting their SME partners in managing their finances at this difficult time. Introducing RPA into their purchase to pay processes is one way of making a difference, by automating and accelerating:
- Purchase order receipt and validation
- Claim management regarding orders
- Invoice recognition and accounting
- Supplier payment
- Any required workflow
Ultimately, RPA enables large companies to process payments faster, significantly improving cashflow for smaller suppliers. In doing so, it is helping to preserve the fibre expertise that is vital for the future of the sector as a whole.
#2. Order to cash
Accelerating cash collections from customers
During a crisis, more than at any other time, cash is king. Yet, in too many companies, the order to cash process involves numerous manual treatments which can block validation points and claims, leading to a delay in payment collection and thus hindering cashflow. By using RPA in their order to cash process, telecoms companies can help to remove these blockages, by automating:
- Administration in user assistance
- Claim management
- Contract management
- Invoice generation and accounting
- Cash collection
With the RPA tools now available, businesses can accelerate cash collection and free up the funds they need to weather the current storm.
#3. Asset management
Automating fixed asset file updates
When construction projects fully resume, RPA can play a role in easing the transition back to normality, by streamlining the process of updating fixed asset files in financial systems. Asset management is currently a manual-intensive process, however if done incorrectly, it means that expenses stay on P&L rather than being transferred to the balance sheet.
By using an RPA powered virtual assistant, financial teams can automate fixed asset file updates, so that updated data is captured directly from an email and transferred into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This means valuable time and efficiency savings for financial teams.
At a time when telecoms businesses are stretched to the limit, RPA is a valuable ally for finance teams, with the potential to optimise treasury and free up time to focus on the strategic challenges they face. Firms that prioritise RPA technology in the coming months will find themselves at a competitive advantage to not only survive the current conditions, but also be ready to thrive when the market improves.
Next steps for RPA
- Get internal buy-in: Make sure your leadership team understands the benefits of RPA and where it can be applied in the business.
- Find an external partner: By selecting a partner you trust, you can significantly speed up your RPA journey.
- Build a business case: Collect quantitive and qualitative data on existing processes to prioritise those with the highest potential for savings. Run opportunity assessment exercises across a couple of departments to identify opportunities for automation.
- Set up governance: Define key roles, processes, KPIs and monitor delivery.
- Scale up: Continuously assess opportunities for automation and stay up to date with the latest technology that can drive efficiency savings.
For more information or to discuss how RPA can help your business, please get in touch with us below.
Written by Sébastien Ledent, Partner at Mazars, and Benoit Ollive, Manager at Mazars.