Behind the eight ball with ASC 606 compliance
It’s always something. For the past few years, a leader in the data management industry has been engaged in an extensive business transformation designed to help their customers transition to Digital. This effort was the number one strategic imperative for the company, and they were making excellent progress across multiple fronts. Along with this, the reality of complying with the new ASC 606 revenue recognition standards became a significant challenge. The deadline was Q1 2018 and they were way behind. ASC 606 compliance combined with the complexity of the ongoing transformation project - this created the perfect storm for leadership and management to address.
While the company had set a realistic timeline for achieving 606 revenue compliance, the project fell behind due to an unexpectedly large volume of data (the company chose to do a full retrospective recast), the high number of validations and some technical complications. Even with significant expansion of the team devoted to the project, it did not seem possible to meet the deadline.
“The client’s openness to innovating through business process intelligence and automation enabled a collaboration that has been especially productive and rewarding for all of us.”
Increasing capacity and accuracy with robotic process automation (RPA)
The company’s executive management had a long-standing relationship with PwC across multiple functions and called us in for advice. Together, we agreed on a bold unprecedented move-- solve the problem with new technology. It was the best shot at making the deadline. With the support of specialists from PwC’s risk assurance and advisory services, the company used robotic process automation (RPA) to expedite the timeline and assist with validations.
RPA uses software robots (or “bots”) which replicate a user’s workflow. These are typically repetitive tasks performed by an army of data entry resources along with analysts in support. This is very time-consuming and inefficient. RPA had been used before (with PwC’s guidance) to help the company in other areas to increase the capacity of its team and to cover more risk testing. But this had never been done before in the context of ASC 606. That said, RPA technology had been validated by PwC’s Intelligent Business Center of Excellence and assessed to be a good fit for this accounting use case, in collaboration with the technical accounting leads, the Quote to Cash business ops team and enterprise technology specialists.
The team began the project by testing small use cases and selecting a revenue recognition software management program. We then deployed three bots (affectionately named Wall-E, Ava and Ava-2). The three bots turned out to be a game changer. PwC teams collaborated closely with the controller and revenue director to implement the solution, which both accelerated the timeline and allowed for the transition from a 25% testing scenario to close to 100%, significantly improving the quality of the data.
From 12 weeks behind to 2 weeks ahead
Wall-E, Ava and Ava-2 ran efficiently and flawlessly in the background. The project—three months behind before deployment of the bots—was completed two weeks ahead of schedule. One of the bots has provided additional capabilities, as well, and is now used for month-end close, compressing cycle time from three weeks to three hours. PwC has also collaborated with the CIO to address new opportunities for RPA and machine learning to improve functions across the enterprise beyond finance, including processes associated with the company’s legal department and professional services operations.
“This was an opportunity to leverage a powerful new tool in a way it had not been used before,” said Stig Haavardtun. Romit Dey recognized the client’s role as well “The client’s openness to innovating through business process intelligence and automation enabled a collaboration that has been especially productive and rewarding for all of us.” The client acknowledged the success, and appreciated how PwC came together to bring 606 accounting expertise, with business operations and RPA enabling technologies.
And one final note. Our client was understandably grateful to Wall-E, Ava and Ava-2 for all of their hard work and dedication on the ASC 606 project. Each bot was awarded their own digital employee ID as a token of appreciation.
To learn how you can innovate through business process intelligence and automation in your industry, visit www.pwc.com/us/tmt