CIO50 2022 #26-50 Paul Joseph, RSM
Over the past 18 months, RSM's chief information officer and director operations, Paul Joseph has driven a digital transformation program encompassing several innovations that deliver technological solutions to business problems.
Dubbed ‘RSM One Way’, its focus has been on streamlining internal processes across all offices and staff in Australia, with the tax and auditing consultancy’s entire practice migrated to the cloud.
“This enormous undertaking fundamentally changed many of our day-to-day business operations,” Joseph tells CIO Australia, adding that it reaped $450,000 in savings in the first six months alone.
Among the digital jewels in the crown, he and his team created ARTIE, described as RSM’s new ‘digital worker’ Named after IBM machine learning pioneer, Arthur Samuel, ARTIE is part of a digital workforce made up of robotic process automation (RPA) bots.
Joseph stresses that rather than being about replacing workers with automated machines, ARTIE has led a marked improvement in employee satisfaction at RSM.
“ARTIE augments our human workforce, reducing their workload by taking on mundane work that is often tedious,” he explains. “This reduces negative factors like stress, burnout and frustration. Instead, our workforce can focus on more important activities that add value to our clients.”
Another chatbot called RAMI was created to answer questions surrounding the COVID stimulus packages, and made available to clients via the website and also internally to staff who were supporting clients around the country.
The program of digital transformation has also led to better and more consistent experiences for all of RSM’s customers, regardless of where they’re located.
“Over the past century, RSM have cultivated strong ties in regional Australia,” Joseph explains.
And now with the company fully embracing the cloud it’s able to leverage its strong geographic footprint, and deep pool of knowledge and expertise.
“Digitisation has unlocked that talent pool, making it accessible to all our clients. Now, clients in remote areas can access additional services previously only available in capital cities,” he says.
Joseph emphasises the importance of ensuring technology delivers real value to clients and the wider business. And throughout COVID that has often meant applying technology to solve real business problems
Chief amongst them was staff retention and attraction, which was starting to have negative impacts.
In response, Joseph and his team undertook to develop ‘customised automation apps’ that would supplement RSM’s workforce, providing resilience in the face of mounting staffing issues.
“This would further enable us to ensure a smoother and more consistent client experience regardless of location,” he says.
The pandemic also brought into sharper relief the lack of integration and consistency between myriad processes and systems that had been allowed to growth unchecked over several years of string organic growth.
“The lack of consistency between offices resulted in many inefficient practices," he says.
Now, he’s adamant that one of the five strategic priorities of RSM’s 2024 Business strategy “to build and embed digital capabilities, driving efficiency, growth and competitiveness” is being successfully delivered.
“We want to ensure technology is always part of the conversation. This is part of our focus on people, process and technology”.
It all comes down to the importance of ‘weaponising the workforce’, Joseph adds.
He cites as an example how, say 20 years ago, if the company’s accountants needed a spreadsheet they would have come to IT to build it for them. Excel has of course been introduced since then, with staff all trained up on how to use it.
“Now we focus on the next level of tools to support business processes and on equipping our staff with the knowledge and understanding to be able to effectively and efficiently utilise these,” he says.
But there are no big bang fixes, rather digital transformation is an iterative process.
“There will always be another area to improve, or specific problem to fix [but] the more you put in place capability around change, the more rapid the transformation, and results, can be seen in your business”.
Further helping with the transition, Joseph and his team are currently running digital transformation workshops across all lines of the business, to help identify areas for improvement.
“These have generated hundreds of ideas around client experience, digital process improvements and workflow automations”.