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A digitization project redefines processes for a big-box retailer

Situation

Creating a digital team behind the scenes

A big-box retail chain with thousands of locations throughout North America has been working on a sweeping digital transformation. For the company, it's been a multiyear effort to create a seamless digital customer experience. A top objective has been to empower the finance and accounting controllership team with automation and analytics tools and techniques, enabling them to move away from legacy, manual processes toward efficiency and a competitive edge. The goal: a digital overhaul focused on individual team members that allows them to design and access their own real-time, automated views of critical information so they’re able to play a more strategic role.

Prior to the retailer’s current digital transformation efforts, leaders had worked to transform enterprise applications, but the upgrades were not reaching every corner of the business to fully meet the needs of the high-growth company. They started over on a project-by-project basis, modernizing each area as they progressed.

The controllership was the next big opportunity. Management historically relied on time-intensive, manual spreadsheets but was aware of the opportunities automation techniques could provide.

The dream outcome: each associate on the controllership team would be empowered to independently imagine and execute new ways to get efficient with data—a concept PwC calls “citizen-led automation.”

Solution

Modernizing internally with automation

The retailer launched a pilot to build 20 automation workflows for the financial controllership team. For inspiration and training, PwC applied its BXT way of working, combining business strategy (B), experience design (X) and immersive technology (T), and 175 controllership staff members attended PwC-led courses for hands-on experience.

Business

Eliminating manual tasks to create a more tech-enabled future

The company needed proof that citizen-led automation would work—and fast. Leaders were eager to reduce the time teams spent on manual tasks so they could contribute to the company’s future in new ways. A sprint included exploring potential methodologies and possibilities, which created the energy and engagement necessary to move quickly from planning to action. Functional leaders identified their most painful manual processes and then mapped workflows, creating the basis for successful rebuilds. PwC helped perfect what was needed to manage everything from lease accounting to ERP daily payment reconciliations. The teams created momentum. In just six weeks, they built automations for 20 processes. Robust testing and refinement led to wide adoption of the new workflows.

Experience

Simplified processes lead to new possibilities

The retailer’s controllership team huddled with PwC to design and test new processes, deep-think solutions and compare notes.

Employees began to understand how new workflows could simplify their jobs and were active in refining the workflows to create a better digital experience and improve efficiency.

PwC-led programs armed the controllership with new skills and opened their minds to new possibilities. Employee morale, engagement and productivity grew, and teams were thrilled to present their workflows and celebrate their successes and contributions.

Employees jumped at the opportunity to use Innovation hub, a PwC product which serves as an ideation platform teams can use to log and track ideas while providing analytics to the finance team. In just three weeks, employees logged over 250 digitization ideas.

Technology

Citizen-led automation: Intuitive software for the controllership and tax teams

The retailer leveraged the know-how and assets offered up by PwC’s technology automation delivery team to ramp up its tech transformation.

The effort focused on gaining experience and delivering results, leveraging Alteryx, a platform that allows end-users to automate data intensive work, obtaining automated insights and analytics for faster business outcomes, supporting the business case for modern methods.

Alteryx was complemented by ProEdge—a PwC product that enables digital upskilling efforts across organizations—to give employees opportunities to learn how to build their own automations.

The company also became an early adopter of PwC’s self-service marketplace of curated digital assets, including pre-built automations for its controllership and tax teams. This has helped the company with its digital transformation and inventory.

Results

Setting the stage for a new digitization mindset

In a matter of weeks, the retailer was able to introduce capabilities that could remove thousands of hours of manual processes per year. Additionally, the company enabled faster decision-making with more robust and current data. More importantly, it set the precedent for the controllership team to begin a full “citizen automation” mindset shift.

As an example, reconciliations of payments in the core ERP platform were done daily in a manual, spreadsheet-managed process. Leveraging Alteryx and the cloud data platform, this process was automated from taking approximately 1,000 hours on an annual basis to minutes via the Alteryx automation.

In a short trial of only six weeks, the company moved from planning to action, increasing employee productivity and morale for 100% of use cases identified by process champions. The team extended its efforts through an additional phase of work to achieve the following results in a matter of months:

20,000+

hours saved annually—with over $8 million projected cost savings over three years

39

use cases were automated, shifting the focus of the finance team from data prep to analytics review; 250 more use cases identified for automation

90%

of automations enable leaders to make faster decisions

“The big-box retailer’s digital transformation inspired citizen-led automation within their financial controllership team. This new way of working empowers associates to reimagine how they work, which results in faster decisions, complementing the enterprise-led IT initiatives already in process.”

 Andy Ruggles
Partner
PwC

Learn how PwC and Alteryx helped simplify processes that lead to new possibilities

Contact us

Andy Ruggles

US Data Automation Partner, PwC US

Kevin Pennington

PwC Principal, PwC US

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