Business Bots: Robotics Process Automation in Finance and Accounting

Business Bots: Robotics Process Automation in Finance and Accounting

The Terminator is back! – Not really, but, stemming from artificial intelligence, robotics process automation is now a transformational tool driving the future of business and the digital ecosystem. It doesn’t actually involve physical robots sitting at desks, either — RPA enables software robots to mimic and automate business professionals’ repetitive tasks, allowing for redirected focus to value-generating activities and increased worker productivity. They are here to help you!

Acting as a virtual assistant, RPA offers a competitive advantage by spanning entire business functions, interpreting applications, analyzing data, and communicating across user interfaces. This versatility and scalability is relevant to a multitude of industries, including banking, financial services, insurance, utilities, and healthcare, so it’s no wonder this technology is being adopted by powerhouses such as Walmart, Deutsche Bank, EY, and AT&T. Are you next?

RPA is most applicable to operations that are high volume, manual, standard, and prone to human error. Because of this, it can bring value to the finance and accounting realms by streamlining accounts receivable and accounts payable, inventory management, invoicing, and reporting, among other core processes. By being well-versed on the intricacy of this technology, something we can help with, founders can make informed decisions about how to best leverage a tool like this for their business.

What are the benefits of RPA?

Pioneering business executives are adopting RPA for its promising potential to increase efficiencies, ameliorate business processes, and reduce costs with less investment. Studies and pilot programs on RPA provide numerical support for the technology’s financial advantages — the return on investment can be up to 200% within the first year of implementation with cost savings of up to 50%, pretty good right?

Robots can work round-the-clock and are devoid of human error, benefitting firm’s bottom lines. Automation relieves employees of tasks that bore them, transforming the job opportunities that are available. This improves employee morale and productivity and reduces customer pain points, leading to an enhanced service experience for everybody, including the robot!  

RPA eliminates the need for outsourcing, thus mitigating the risk of sending work to external parties and maintaining control and transparency to employees in-house. There is no need to hire additional IT members because RPA monitors the network and manages operational support when needed. Software robots work with existing applications, dispelling the need for custom software or a developer to integrate across systems. The insights gathered by RPA can be used to judge the effectiveness of current operations, forecast best practices for the future, and comply to regulation. Companies can even further upgrade their RPA tools with machine learning and language processing abilities, transcending the realm of both lower and higher-order cognitive responsibilities.  

Challenges of Implementation

Of course there are specific cautionary actions to take when trying anything new, especially when it has to do with robots – although we promise these robots won’t become self-aware and rebel. Mainly, to maximize the gains from RPA implementation, a company must have a clearly defined design and governance strategy. Prior to launch, leaders should collaborate with IT members for their technical expertise and knowledge of sound bot design. The launch of RPA should be overlooked by a project manager, and initial experiments with the bots should be performed on a controlled bottleneck to ensure that errors don’t creep into their systems, spreading throughout the organization. Once RPA is executed and scaled, project managers must carry out deliberate governance to ensure that the bots execute the correct processes and account for any changes in business operations. The installation of these bots is complex and costly, and a Deloitte study claims that a mere 3% of organizations have scaled RPA to 50 or more robots.

Firms should consider the holistic impact on strategy that a technology like this may have — many business leaders get too caught up in cost savings and profitability ratios, overlooking qualitative results like heightened customer and employee confidences. Employees will likely be skeptical of robotics due to its threat on the job market, so company leaders must find ways to show that their workers come first. The workforce must feel well treated if they are to contribute to a culture of change, automation, and innovation.

For long-term deployment of RPA, enterprises may create centers of excellence with staff who oversee the bots’ capabilities, work with various departments, and continually enact best practices to achieve maximum efficiency. Centers of excellence can be pricey, so leaders must do their due diligence to understand whether RPA is the correct technology solution for them.

An incoming data barrage and growing affinity for artificial intelligence provides an environment where RPA will become increasingly mainstream. Although a revolutionary automation technology with the potential to create value and agility in organizations, RPA requires a clear strategy for the utmost effect.

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