Microsoft Copilot Magic: How Sunrise Tech Streamlined Accounting

Jun 3, 2024

Sunrise Technologies adopted Microsoft Copilot for their accounting department, automating manual tasks and drastically reducing time spent on them. This integration streamlined operations, saved hours weekly, and highlighted AI’s capability to improve efficiency and productivity in business processes.

Sunrise Technologies, a prominent player in the technology sector since 1994, has once again demonstrated its innovative prowess by successfully integrating Microsoft’s AI-powered assistant, Copilot, into its accounting and finance department. Known for its ethos of "implementing great ideas," Sunrise serves a diverse clientele, including manufacturers, distributors, and retailers, and relies on the Dynamics 365 ecosystem, including Dynamics 365 Finance and Supply Chain, CRM, Power BI, and Office 365, for its internal operations. The company launched a case study that details how Sunrise's deployment of Copilot has automated several manual processes, significantly saving time each week.

Sunrise's leadership team was keen to explore Microsoft Copilot's potential internally before extending its capabilities to their clients. Heather Essic, Chief Administrative Officer at Sunrise Technologies, noted, "We’re always trying to see if we can do things internally to then extend out to our customers." The finance department emerged as the ideal starting point for AI-driven automation, given the repetitive nature of tasks like invoicing and timesheet verification.

As part of its biweekly invoicing cycle, Sunrise requires its consultants to submit timesheets and expense reports at the end of each billing period. These submissions are then verified by the accounting team before generating invoices. With over 200 consultants, this process was labor-intensive, consuming up to eight hours per billing period on tasks such as emailing consultants to correct errors or reminding them to submit their time.

Kayla Rogers, Accounting Manager at Sunrise, initially struggled to see how AI could be practically applied to their billing tasks. "I knew very little about AI and Copilot before we went down this road," she admitted. Her colleague, Tonya Cottingham, shared this skepticism, unsure how a computer could match human judgment.

Rizwan Ahmed, Sunrise’s Director of Product Management, collaborated with Tonya, Kayla, and Heather to create a solution using Copilot Studio, a platform that allows users to build conversational AI models or "skills." Rizwan observed the accounting team’s workflow to identify areas for automation. The process of reviewing, updating, and approving timesheets was a prime candidate for AI intervention.

"Rizwan did an outstanding job of meeting with us and understanding where we were spending time looking things up," Heather noted. Remarkably, the entire project came together swiftly. After just two days of observation, Rizwan and his team, using Sunrise’s agile project management methodology, designed the solution. In only 20 days, Copilot was operational.

Rizwan equipped Copilot with 14 prompts to fetch information from Dynamics 365 Finance and Operations, CRM, and Power BI, facilitating the review and approval of time entries. The solution, dubbed “Sunrise Copilot,” was accessible via Microsoft Teams, making it easy for team members to use.

The impact was immediate. "It was a game changer for us," Tonya remarked. Tasks that previously took up to eight hours were now completed in about ninety minutes. Kayla and Tonya could now review, approve, and send emails about consultant timesheets directly within Teams. "We used to have to manually figure this out in Power BI, cross-check in CRM, then go into Outlook, write the email, and now, we can do it all within Teams," Kayla explained.

The success of Phase 1 inspired the team to expand Copilot's capabilities. "After Phase 1, we started to realize the potential of what we could see and do," Heather said. Phase 2 included prompts for common customer queries, such as open invoices, customer balances, rates, and project team members. "Phase 2 is really exciting because it allows me to quickly look up things that took me several minutes," Heather added.

With Sunrise Copilot fully integrated, the accounting team has embraced it as an essential part of their workflow. Team members praised its ability to save time and deliver quick answers.

"My favorite Copilot feature is its ability to tell me what line items are on an invoice," Heather shared. "I used to have to look in F&O at project invoices, find the customer, match up the invoice numbers…and now it’s just right there in Copilot for me."

Tonya appreciated the streamlined timesheet feature. "Being able to see the time entries and details without moving between screens is a huge time saver," she said.

Kayla enjoyed the natural language interface. "I like being able to talk to it like it’s another coworker," she said. "It’s smart enough to figure out the answers I want even if I say something in a different way."

The accounting team at Sunrise now believes "the possibilities are endless" with Copilot. For Sunrise executives, this project not only boosted efficiency but also provided valuable insights into how AI can add real value to an organization.

"I think about customers of ours who are looking to enable Copilot in some way, and aren’t sure where to start, and our team felt that way too," Heather noted. "Starting with something small and simple was a big benefit for us because it does feel a little overwhelming at first, but our experience with the timesheets was a win."

For those considering a Copilot project, Sunrise’s end users offer practical advice: "Look at your processes that are the most time-consuming because of the number of clicks and think about what Copilot can speed up for you," Kayla suggested.

Tonya emphasized the importance of understanding the business workflow. "Think about your work step by step. What do you do to get from point A to point B to point C? You know your processes, and Copilot can help you complete those processes more efficiently," she advised.

Sunrise Technologies' journey with Microsoft Copilot highlights the transformative potential of AI in streamlining business operations and enhancing productivity, setting a promising precedent for future implementations.

To read the full case study, visit:

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