September 18th, 2018

Robotic Process Automation in Finance & Accounting

This article will explain in basic terms what Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology is, and its role in the accounting industry. We will see how RPA has advanced to streamline current accounting processes, and what to expect from RPA technology in the future.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

When people hear the words ‘Robotics’ they immediately think of either physical robots or mechanical arms that complete manufacturing jobs in factories. ‘Robotics’ today stands for Robotic Process Automation, this is an evolving method of technology used to automate high volume repetitive tasks. RPA is not a physical robot but a technology that can be used in a software solution that integrates directly with your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) system. This RPA driven Cash Application automation software can then be used to complete core finance processes in your Accounts Receivable (AR), Accounts Payable (AP) and Bank Reconciliation (Bank Rec) functions. It does this by working directly with your ERP and your Banks. It can then leverage and automate your invoices, remittances, bank accounts, banking files and even update your general ledger (GL).

How does RPA improve Financial processes?

In finance departments, when staff complete labor-intensive and repetitive jobs there is a lot of room for manual errors which could prove costly. Using RPA software to automate these tasks, leads to increased accuracy and reduces the risk of manual errors. RPA is used in Cash Application software to automate highly complex and labor-intensive financial processes. Historically, these financial processes have been manually completed by employees. With the benefit of automation, it now releases employees from these repetitive and frustrating financial processes, and allows them to focus on other high value functions. The use of RPA greatly improves productivity in finance departments of companies all over the world. It can lead to improved staff morale and a reduction in staff turnover. Financial processes that used to take hours can now be automated in a matter of minutes.

Will RPA replace accountants?

Some employees have the belief, or fear, that RPA is going to replace their jobs. A similar fear of what happened during the Industrial Revolution in the 18th century, when machines replaced most of the manual labor positions. RPA will not replace your finance jobs, but it will make employees working lives a lot less stressful, and much more efficient. Their daily roles will change slightly but for the better, as they will now have tools that will lead to increased job satisfaction. Automation will help eliminate the highly repetitive and boring tasks, so employees will be able to focus on other important activities in their department. Overall, this will lead to a much more productive and highly efficient finance department.

What we can expect from RPA in the future

The future is looking bright and RPA will develop even further. We are seeing now that a lot of the more progressive companies are embracing RPA technology. They can see the immediate value that it brings, with productivity and growth being two huge advantages over competitors. However, there are still a lot of companies which are undecided, or even refusing to debate the benefits of RPA technology. As history has shown us, companies that bury their head in the sand, will be the ones that get left behind. The best employees will not want to stay with companies that make them spend unnecessary hours on repetitive manual processes. Especially, when they could be working for a far more progressive company that embraces technology.

We are in the middle of an accounting revolution and RPA is the driving factor, combined with developments in Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML). What we do know is that the future has quickly become the present. Decisions that companies make on whether they implement this current technology, will most certainly determine their potential for growth and expansion in the future.

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