With all of the buzz around robotic process automation (RPA), it can be hard to sift through fact and fiction. One thing is clear – changes are coming to finance and accounting, and it’s important to understand exactly what those changes mean. The meaning of RPA can be unclear, so let’s explore what RPA is and what it isn’t.
1. Myth: RPA will replace humans
There’s always the fear that humans will be replaced whenever technology makes an advancement, and RPA is no exception. The reality is that while finance and accounting are changing, they will continue to rely on humans.
According to the U.S. Department of Labor, the finance industry is one of the most overworked industries and one of the few industries that is continuing to increase hours worked per week. Finance departments are wasting valuable time and resources by forcing their employees to do manual, repetitive, and mindless work.
These tasks are better suited for RPA because robots can work tirelessly and continuously without making errors. RPA shifts the daily workload away from mundane, repetitive tasks to work that is managerial and communication-based, opening up new opportunities for highly skilled accountants to add value to the entire organization.
2. Myth: RPA is only about cost reduction
While cost reduction is definitely a benefit of RPA, it’s not in the top three reasons for why businesses choose to implement RPA. According to a recent HfS study, the top reasons businesses choose to implement RPA include:
- Driving more predictability and higher process quality
- Speeding up the time it takes to complete the processes
- Freeing up staff to move to different projects
So, while businesses will experience the benefit of cost reduction, they will also gain many additional benefits, such as the ability to scale for growth.
Scalability is an invaluable benefit. Some industry experts like Leslie Willcocks, professor of technology, work, and globalization at the London School of Economics’ department of management, expect demands and workload to increase exponentially in the coming years.
3. Myth: RPA is expensive
Compared to traditional options such as business process remodeling or offshore/onshore manual processing, RPA is quickly becoming the preferred choice because of its relatively low cost and easy implementation.
RPA significantly reduces costs, increases efficiency, provides a superior customer experience, and dramatically reduces errors all within very short timeframes.
According to a PwC Global Operations Survey, RPA not only delivers benefits quickly, but ROIs of between 300% and 800% are common. While RPA does have initial implementation costs, it also provides rapid internal cost reduction and significant increases in ROI, making it a very appealing option for many companies.
4. Myth: All RPA platforms are created equal
Some RPA platforms are simply better than others. When searching for an RPA platform, it’s essential to ask two key things:
- How does this RPA platform work with my ERP system?
- Does this RPA platform enhance my record-to-report (R2R) processes?
As everyone knows, it can be tricky to add new software to ERP systems. Make sure that an RPA platform is not only compatible with your ERP system but can embed within that ERP system itself – this not only makes adopting the platform smooth but also significantly increases security.
Once you’ve found an RPA platform that will embed within your ERP system, make sure it also enhances your R2R processes. An RPA system should first optimize your processes in order for your company to realize the true value inherent in RPA.
5. Myth: RPA is a temporary trend
Don’t be fooled into thinking that the RPA trend will die. RPA is here to stay. Today, RPA is rules-based, and good RPA software will have exception management to minimize human intervention for issue resolution.
The future of RPA is intelligent automation with cognitive algorithms and machine learning. While strong RPA software available today can adapt to complex situations and independently correct errors, the intelligent automation of the future will be able to apply judgment and learning.
For more on this topic, read “The Hidden Value Of RPA For Finance.”
This article originally appeared in BlackLine Magazine and is republished by permission.