How RPA helped Thomas Cook optimize finance processes

Geeta Degaonkar, Senior VP Shared Services at Thomas Cook (India), shares the organization’s journey towards automation in the finance segment. 
 

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Thomas Cook India Group has seen tremendous growth in the last couple of years. This raised a need for consolidation and standardization of processes to deliver a better experience for multiple stakeholders.
 
"Not many shared services have been set up in the travel domain. However, as our company grew, there was a need for consolidation and standardization of processes to make sure multiple stakeholders receive the same experience. Thus, arrived the need for standardizing and consolidating the HR and finance throughout the group level" said, Geeta Degaonkar, Senior VP Shared Services, Thomas Cook (India). 
 
The Shared service department was incepted at Thomas Cook India Group around two years ago. It started by identifying the processes that could be shifted into the shared service setup. The clear cut response was to start with HR and finance as they are operational and administration services. The next step for the organization was to consolidate and standardise the services.
 
"The processes came from multiple units, which means they had their own unique processes as well. This meant that the efficiency could not be derived from consolidating the back end. So we standardized the processes across the entities to have one set of best practice," adds Degaonkar.

There were also several front end offices and processes which are unique to travel domain and customers, resulting in a lot of manual intervention in the finance department. Thomas Cook wanted to reduce this manual intervention through automation.

"We  realised there was a need for an operational back end that responds much faster, efficiently and accurately. We then decided to explore the benefits of robotic process automation (RPA). We started by doing a POC with Automation Anywhere and observed good results," adds Degaonkar.
 
Post the successful POC, the RPA was extended to more processes in the finance department. The organization took finance as a priority as it impacts customers and multiple busines stake holders.
 
Benefits
 
Degaonkar explained the benefits achieved by sharing the example of the refund process. "Today, customer expect a quick refund. Now with RPA we can reduce the response time to a great extent. These are the advantages from the customer’s side," says Degaonkar. Currently we have implemented it on critical reconciliations, which helps assess potential risk on open items in real time.

The company’s approach was an end-to-end analysis of the process, finding the best method to implement it and then optimizing it with RPA.
 
This has helped the organization predict the output of the processes, which has reduced the implementation time.“The critical aspects to consider for implementation is about effective Change management, allignment of the Senior leadership and Teams like HR and IT. We sanitised the various teams on what RPA is and how it can transform various processes  Thomas Cook India Group was able to go live with three bots in just three months,” adds Degaonkar. By June-July 2019, the organization plans to have 10 to 12 bots.
 
"The accuracy that we are getting is 100 percent. Our response time improvement in certain cases has been 30 to 40 percent. The people who have been freed up from the mundane tasks are now upskilled and contributing to the business side, shared services or innovations," added Degaonkar