Robots And Humans: A Marriage Made In Heaven Or Hell?

Anders Liu-Lindberg and Mark Smith

Part 3 in the “RPA and AI in Finance” series, which examines the role that robotic process automation and artificial intelligence can play in finance operations

The robots are coming into almost every profession, a fact that by now we’ve accepted. That begs the next question:

“How can robots and humans work together for the most optimal result?”

There are no clear-cut answers at this point, since most people have only just started to feel the impact of the robots. But we can address it through the lens of one scenario.

Full end-to-end (E2E) automation is rare

In this series, we’ve been looking at examples from the accounting-to-reporting (AtR) process. Despite our argument that you need to look at automating your E2E process after standardizing it across entities, there’s probably still a need for a human element in the process. While some processes require no judgment calls and can be executed without any human intervention, that’s not always the case for AtR. Here’s why we believe there still needs to be a human touch.

  • 80/20 rule – Using robotic process automation (RPA) in a full E2E process within AtR is rare. And that’s a good thing. Maintaining a human element to the process benefits everyone. The robot doesn’t have the intelligence to make judgments (at least not yet), and that is usually required when preparing inputs for reconciliations, provisions, or journal entries. Expect 20% human work for the judgment calls and let the robot take the other 80% “non-value-added” processing activities.
  • Awareness of the process – Maintaining human involvement keeps the process at the forefront of the accountant’s mind. There might come a time when we realize we need to change the process or rethink how we are performing it.
  • Peace of mind – Having human inputs retains an element of control over the process, which gives you peace of mind knowing that your reporting will not spiral out of control. This is especially important during the initial stages of RPA. When things are stable, RPA can potentially take more of the process.

What we are really arguing is that humans should remain in control of the process, but leverage RPA to execute all standard non-judgmental processes. In addition, it will help the transition phase from human to robot that we’re not fully letting go.

It’s a win-win for everyone

What the robot will do is take the standard routine tasks, and you should be happy about that. Why? Because let’s be honest, no one enjoys doing them anyway. Of course, it will change job content for accountants across the world, but it doesn’t seem like the end of accounting, either. If you’re looking for input on what it means for your accounting career, take a look at “The Accounting Profession Paradox” series. It will help you create a career plan for navigating the times of the robot.

The next blog in this series takes a look at bridging the gap between RPA and artificial intelligence.

Learn how analytics and automation are shaping the finance function of the future in “Megatrends Reshaping Finance: How CFOs Can Stay Ahead For Competitive Edge.”

This article originally appeared on LinkedIn and is republished by permission.


Anders Liu-Lindberg

About Anders Liu-Lindberg

Anders Liu-Lindberg is the head of the Global Finance Program Management Office at Maersk and has more than 10 years of experience working with finance at Maersk, both in Denmark and abroad. Anders is also the co-founder of the Business Partnering Institute and owner of the largest group dedicated to finance business partnering on LinkedIn, with close to 5,000 members. His main goal at Maersk is to create a world-class finance function not least when it comes to business partnering. He is the co-author of the book “Skab Værdi Som Finansiel Forretningspartner” and a long-time finance blogger with 20,000+ followers.

Mark Smith

About Mark Smith

Mark Smith is chief accountant at Atlas Copco based in Prague, responsible for a team of senior accountants and lead of accounting and reporting processes for the UK companies. He holds a diploma from The Chartered Institute of Management Accountants.