Case Study : Transforming finance / Siemens
Siemens is a German technology company that performs electrification, automation and digitalisation activities in nearly all countries of the world....
Case Study — Siemens
Siemens is a German technology company that performs electrification, automation and digitalisation activities in nearly all countries of the world. They supply power generation, power transmission and infrastructure solutions as well as automation, drive and software solutions for industry and of medical diagnostics solutions. The company currently employs around 379,000 employees and reported revenues of €83 billion in 2018.
The Siemens finance function operates a shared service model, with delivery centres supporting regional teams around the globe. There
have been huge changes in the technological landscape in the last decade, and a range of digital solutions have emerged with the potential to improve cost management, efficiency and collaboration across the company’s finance team.
We spoke to Angela Noon, CFO of Siemens UK, about the finance transformation programme.
Finance transformation at Siemens is part of a wider organisational transformation that has been running for around six years. Following a digital roadmap, early initiatives focused on areas in which robotics, artificial intelligence and business analytics could remove transactional tasks from finance teams.
The company’s strategy is centred on creating a strong technology infrastructure that can overcome the connectivity limitations of legacy systems. This includes upgrading enterprise resource planning and customer relationship management systems to enable further digitisation of processes across the organisation. Skills development for the future workforce is also critical to success.
Developing the digital worker
Siemens’ shared service centre in northwest Europe has focused heavily on high-volume low-complexity tasks. An early transformation initiative used robotic process automation to sort and analyse high volumes of data, create automatic journal vouchers and email them to cost centre managers. This effectively created a ‘digital worker’, granted the same logins and access rights as a human worker, to carry out repetitive processes.
The initial focus was on repetitive tasks, such as sales-order processing, procurement activities and payroll queries, aiming to reduce the transactional workload of employees. Soon the scope grew to encompass more advanced use cases for robotics, AI and analytics, and it became clear that the digital worker had a lot more potential. For example, Cash Collection has seen a significant improvement in efficiency following the introduction of its Cash Collection Management Tool which enables Collection Strategy automation, Workflow and Low Complexity No-touch Collections. By combining Chatbots with Process Bots, the time for query resolution is significantly reduced, leaving skilled employees to tackle exceptions and complex cases.
Siemens introduced around 30 digital workers into the finance function to work on processes such as month-end close. Recurring journals are fully automated, with digital workers checking logic and ensuring that values are correct before posting the journal.
Recognising workforce concerns over the impact of automation, Siemens developed a suite of future-focused ‘digital accountant’ roles and job descriptions. These digitally enabled roles do not exist in today’s organisation but are expected to become an important part of the business over the next five years. This approach has helped realise future business and professional needs, enabling individuals to recognise gaps and tailor their own skills development.
Recognising that cultural change is crucial to transformation, Siemens uses an internal communication platform for peer-to-peer sharing of learning and best practice. Shortfalls in digital literacy across the company are being addressed through a series of online training modules. This includes a digital leadership class that focuses on change and the future world of self-managed teams.
To encourage digital development and home-grown innovation among those with more advanced digital skills, a finance hackathon was set up to explore new ideas and inventions. This resulted in the Board funding the development of two new finance applications.
“The people side is about communication, communication, communication. The cultural change and bringing the organisation with you is really important. So, tell your people what you’re doing, why you’re doing it, why it is important.”
Angela Noon, CFO of Siemens UK
The use of robotic process automation created significant efficiency savings around reporting processes by removing the low complexity roles previously carried out by entry-level employees. This frees up time for more complex and stimulating tasks, resulting in higher engagement among trainee accountants.
“We found out we were creating 8,500 reports a month, using trainees and graduates to sift through them, print them out, make sure they got to the right place. We have robots doing that now.”
Angela Noon, CFO of Siemens UK
Digitally enabled transformation resulted in faster delivery timescales for month-end closing, saving three days from reporting procedures. Improved analytics allow Board packs to be produced quicker and more efficiently.
Error rates for high-volume low-complexity work have reduced, creating cost savings across the company. Digital transformation across the business has saved Siemens an estimated £4 million, with the finance element responsible for around £900,000.
Siemens’ guiding principles to transformation success
• Cultural change is paramount — tell people what you’re doing and why you’re doing it.
• Recruit early to fill skills gaps if you can’t fill them internally.
• Be bold and embrace change.