Australian audit, tax and consulting firm RSM Australia is now over 100 years old. However, the firm is keeping its sights well and truly on the future with a move to implement automation and AI technologies in recent years to improve the experience of its employees and its customers.

RSM Australia’s Chief Digital Officer Paul Joseph tells TechRepublic how the firm’s implementation of UiPath has resulted in significant efficiency gains and cost savings. It is also engaging a multigenerational workforce in more fulfilling and less mundane work.

What problem is RSM Australia solving with automation?

RSM Australia’s pursuit of automation began with a desire to create better experiences for over 1,800 employees. The firm wanted to give time back through smarter and more efficient work so employees could spend time doing more fulfilling tasks and gain a better work-life balance.

Employee town halls and Gartner workshops were conducted to shape the technology strategy.

“We adopted a whole-of-firm approach to that innovation,” Joseph said. “Every member of the team, from interns right through to the executives, had a voice in shaping the strategy and it was all about that technology evolution and journey we’re embarking on.”

SEE: The top IT trends Australian organisations are preparing for in 2024.

32% of project work that came out of its initial round of employee engagement workshops was robotic process automation. Joseph said RSM’s customers also expect the firm to be utilising the right tech platforms to maximise efficiency internally to deliver better service.

Automation and AI expected by graduates

There are expectations among graduates that employers will be up to speed with technology, Joseph said. Graduates joining in February 2024 have been exposed to artificial intelligence tools like ChatGPT for 14 months, while next year’s cohort will have been using AI for the majority of their degree.

“They are entering day one at RSM expecting a sophisticated level of technology adoption in the business so that they’re not expected to do mundane tasks and repetitive tasks,” he said.

What automation solution did RSM Australia choose?

RSM adopted one robotic process automation platform, but was unable to achieve traction as quickly as it desired, according to Joseph. This led to the firm’s decision to “fail fast” and shift to UiPath, which provides a business automation and AI platform for business transformation.

UiPath is being used to automate a number of processes in the business. It is integrated into its API and business, from infrastructure and document and content management systems to data gathering via online forms. “The whole ecosystem is working together,” Joseph said.

What are some of the use cases for automation so far?

Automation has been applied to a number of use cases across RSM Australia’s business.

Conflict checking during the client onboarding process

Automation is now part of RSM’s conflict checking process, an essential part of onboarding new clients. Automation is able to provide analysis and remove mundane procedural tasks in the process, as well as manage risk by having a dedicated process for client onboarding.

Automated filing of client communications with the ATO

The firm has improved, via automation, the filing of client tax returns and communications with the Australian Taxation Office. This has resulted in a considerable amount of time saved for its workforce, allowing staff to apply their cognitive skills to higher order client service delivery.

A source of labour for time consuming data enrichment

The firm has been able to conduct projects using its ‘digital worker’ as a source of labour. This includes a data enrichment project which — after being programmed by an RPA engineer — ran 24 hours a day seven days a week for a number of weeks while the engineer was on leave.

How has RSM Australia benefited from automation?

Employee adoption of automation was faster than expected across RSM’s multigenerational workforce. Figures supplied by RSM show automation with UiPath has led to a number of benefits, including efficiency gains, cost savings, jobs growth and employee satisfaction.

  • RSM saved AUD $350,000 (USD $230,000) through efficiency gains in the first year.
  • Savings rose to AUD $4.2 million (USD $2.8 million) in the second year of RSM’s automation program, and the company is on target to achieve a total of AUD $6 million (USD $3.9 million) in savings in the current year of the program.
  • In the last January-March calendar quarter 2024, the firm calculated that it had saved approximately 6,500 hours of work across the firm, which was worth AUD $1 million to its bottom line (USD $ 661,000) when calculated at a “conservative charge-out rate.”

RSM has been able to offer graduates tools, skill sets and training attuned to new workplace technologies. For older generations, intuitive automation has bridged the gap by running back end processes and giving them deeper data insights and analysis more quickly and easily.

What has helped RSM implement automation in the business?

Standardisation and structure

RSM’s enterprise document management and content management systems, implemented a decade ago, provided the necessary standardisation to support the rollout of RPA. It supported the codification of workflows through creation of rules and removed possible complexities.

The application of Six Sigma

RSM mapped its processes before undertaking any coding for automation and applied Six Sigma methodologies over those processes to remove any deficiencies. This allowed RPA through UiPath to be applied to efficient processes and avoid codifying inefficiencies.

Process design documentation

Process design documentation, or PDD, is used in RPA at the solutions design phase. RSM said the PDD was an important foundation for developers during the software design lifecycle, supporting their ability to go away and codify processes the business wanted to automate.

Measuring and demonstrating success

The success of the automation rollout depended on being able to measure success to establish credibility early on with the business. Joseph said RSM knew what to measure, and provided those measurements, enabling it to gain buy-in for the automation of further processes.

How is RSM planning to capitalise on automation in the future?

RSM Australia believes the combination of automation and AI will be “really powerful” in the future. With automation as the ‘muscles’ and AI as the ‘brains’, the firm believes the two technologies could provide a multiplier effect on business benefits over time.

Employees to suggest new automation and AI use cases

The firm has started a citizen development program that enables employees to create innovative AI-driven tools that they can immediately apply to their roles. This sets RSM Australia on a continuous path of innovation driven by employees across the business and at all levels.

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Automation with AI will save time and provide insight

At present, the firm is working on using automation to do the procedural part of ingesting document sets, which can consist of hundreds of documents, and using a bespoke AI model to extract meaningful insights for its team. Joseph said it is already yielding “exciting” results.

RSM Australia can stay ahead of changing regulations

RSM Australia expects AI-powered automation will help it keep pace with — and even a step ahead of — emerging regulatory requirements facing Australian organisations, such as new mandatory environmental, social and governance standards and Digital Identity.

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Subscribe to the Daily Tech Insider AU Newsletter

Stay up to date on the latest in technology with Daily Tech Insider Australian Edition. We bring you news on industry-leading companies, products, and people, as well as highlighted articles, downloads, and top resources. You’ll receive primers on hot tech topics that are most relevant to AU markets that will help you stay ahead of the game. Delivered Thursdays