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Robotic Process Automation:
What RPA’s Rapid Growth in Popularity Means for Finance and Accounting


Posted on October 5, 2017 by Liang McIntosh-Yee

Robotics Process Automation Trends in the Accounting and Finance Industry

Automation is the best method to make your business more competitive today.

When leaders realize that they can scale operations at minimal expense using software, they usually buy in immediately, pushed by the demand to remain competitive. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is especially popular for business operations since it can handle the basic and mundane administrative tasks required to run a business.

In recent years, RPA has gained attention as one of the top instances of artificial intelligence in use today. One study found that business processes are still outdated, with two-thirds of professionals surveyed admitting they rely heavily on spreadsheets for their financial efforts. Unfortunately, this comes at a cost, since only 20 percent of those surveyed said they are satisfied with their current account closing process.

With those survey results, it’s no surprise that automation is especially popular in finance and accounting.

Here are a few ways RPA will change finance and accounting functions in businesses in the coming years.

Reducing Cost

Organizations face increasing pressure to save money while also increasing productivity. In previous generations, this would have been impossible, but RPA has made it easier. There are many cloud-based solutions available for a monthly fee, allowing businesses to reduce salaried staff and move paperwork through much more quickly.

It’s important that businesses maximize their ROI when implementing these solutions, primarily through setting a strategy rather than deploying a solution blindly.

Improved Customer and Vendor Relationships

In addition to cost and efficiency, RPA also speeds up processing time, which lets businesses better serve their customer base. When an accounts payable invoice takes a while to process, vendors can get frustrated, causing an interruption that can delay the service or products that companies, in turn, supplies to their customers.

Errors and slowdowns in issuing billing invoices can also create friction with customers, potentially leading them to choose to go with a competitor. When operations run smoothly, employees have the support they need to best serve their customers. As a result, that business will be seen as a well-oiled machine that can be trusted to stand behind the work they provide, which is a bonus for a company that hopes to grow.

Workers will need to adapt

We have to face the fact that countries are going to lose jobs to robotics. The only question that needs to be answered is which country will create and own the best robotic technology and have the infrastructure necessary to enable it.

Workers will still be needed. However, as technology evolves the automation will change the type of skills people will need in the workplace.

This also holds true for finance and accounting, with experts urging businesses to always ensure a human is available to oversee RPA processes. Whether conducted by humans or software, accounting errors are not completely unavoidable and they can be costly.

Businesses can suffer significant financial losses from only one of these errors, as well as reputation damage that costs them for many years. In addition to assigning personnel to the task, businesses should document their processes so that each employee has a guide to follow.

RPA is an important force in the way businesses manage their finance and accounting operations. By understanding the difference it can make in the way they process invoices and gather payments from customers, companies can position themselves to remain competitive.

Moving forward, RPA will become an even more important part of daily operations, with businesses required to automate in order to win customers and grow.

“So what should we tell our children? That to stay ahead, you need to focus on your ability to continuously adapt, engage with others in that process, and most importantly retain your core sense of identity and values. For students, it’s not just about acquiring knowledge, but about how to learn. For the rest of us, we should remember that intellectual complacency is not our friend and that learning – not just new things but new ways of thinking – is a life-long endeavor.”

Blair Sheppard Global Leader, Strategy and Leadership Development, PwC

Read more about the impact of automation and the workforce of the future.

Read related robotic process automation posts.

An Overview of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Busting the Myth: Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
The Benefits of Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

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