Client: Boston Scientific
Our Role: To help the company explore how RPA could increase the speed and accuracy of corporate tax processes, while reducing the amount of time, and overtime, spent on manual tasks.
Industry: Pharmaceutical and life sciences
Manual processes resulted in missed opportunities
Boston Scientific was facing an all too common problem. Corporate tax and finance teams were inundated with manual tasks and working long hours, especially during peak processing times. With manual processes, too much time and effort were devoted to resolving and validating scenarios that fell outside of expected results. More importantly, the company's tax and finance professionals were spending excessive time on repetitive tasks, which kept them from leveraging their expertise and experience in strategic thinking and planning. Retaining talent was becoming a challenge. How could the company improve corporate tax and finance processes to enhance efficiency and empower their people to engage in more value-added activities? Was there a strategic way to turn around turnover?
“With the Center of Excellence in place, we’re looking at ways to leverage our experience with RPA and consider broader automation opportunities and additional technologies.”
The automation journey begins with business relevance
When Boston Scientific’s Vice President - Corporate Tax saw robotic process automation (RPA) in action at a PwC Tax conference, he realized that “digital labor” might help address critical business challenges the company was facing. RPA, an intelligent automation technology, is software that can be programmed to automate rules-based tasks, such as data entry or routine tax calculations. A team of professionals from PwC’s Tax, Advisory and Emerging Technology practices came together to help the company explore how RPA could increase the speed and accuracy of corporate tax processes, while reducing the amount of time, and overtime, spent on manual tasks.
Guided by PwC’s BXT (business, experience, technology) approach, the first leg of the intelligent automation journey was to evaluate opportunities for automation in the corporate tax function. With specific processes clearly identified, the PwC team worked closely with software partner Automation Anywhere and the Boston Scientific team to build and test the bots. They started with just a few processes, adding new ones incrementally as the bots’ effectiveness was demonstrated. Our pilot and apprenticeship activities included collaborative efforts to build the first bots and train staff how to use the RPA tools. PwC teams created and delivered the customized training curriculum, Automation Anywhere provided the library of software code and Boston Scientific teams worked alongside them both to build the bots.
After a successful pilot phase—the bots had demonstrated they could reduce manual task time by as much as 85%—the company opted to scale their efforts to the rest of the finance function. They also sought PwC’s help in setting up an RPA Center of Excellence (CoE) to support the scale-up effort. With a clear understanding of both the significant benefits, as well as the challenges, associated with creating and implementing RPA, the CoE will help identify and implement processes suitable for automation business-wide (such as developing toolsets and training materials and designing governance models) to drive strategic value going forward.
“It’s exciting to see tax and finance professionals embracing RPA as part of a larger strategic vision that can impact the whole enterprise.”
Bots crush the timeline with an 85% reduction in time spent on manual tasks
The numbers tell a powerful story about automation’s impact on the company: 20 complex tax and finance processes across ten systems were automated, reducing at least one task that took 12 days to complete to just six hours. The bots are now saving 3,900 human hours annually, an 85% reduction in time spent on manual tasks. With automation, there has also been a significant reduction in “exceptions” requiring intervention. And the company achieved these efficiencies without increasing headcount.
These metrics tell a story about people as well. With 1,100 human hours eliminated from peak processing periods and a measurable reduction in manual task time overall, the bots have supported better work/life balance for corporate tax and finance professionals. They now do less overtime, and are free to focus on more valuable work. The Vice President - Corporate Tax now oversees the RPA CoE and automation across the finance function. The company continues to roll out additional bots, as part of its evolving intelligent automation ecosystem.
To learn about PwC's automation perspective and discover how to reinvent your business, visit pwc.com/automation.
Partner, Tax Reporting and Strategy, PwC US
Intelligent Process Automation Leader, PwC US
Director, PwC US