The 6 ways RPA adds up for finance

robotic process automation

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Art Sarno outlines why robotic process automation could bridge the gaps traditional automation solutions can’t address in your finance landscape.

If you’ve ever visited a large candy production facility like Mars or Hershey’s, you can appreciate more than just the chocolaty scent and taste. It’s an incredible experience to watch millions of candy bars being made, coated, wrapped, packed, stacked and shipped. The process is automated, scalable and transparent with integrated quality control. Employees spot-check, but don’t pack boxes; they operate machines, but don’t hand-dip candy bars.

Now compare those highly optimised candy factory operations to the current automation state of your finance operations.

It’s likely that some of your financial processes are automated. The Cognizant Center for the Future of Work estimates that organisations automate 25 to 40 percent of their workflow today. Perhaps you’ve automated accounts payable (AP) functions such as scanning invoices and routing information through an approval workflow, and integrating with your ERP.

With all the advances around automating invoice processing, sales orders, financial posting, payment approval, purchase requisition approval and more, one would think enterprises have these processes fully addressed with no manual work being performed. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

Many of our customers share stories about their investments in technologies like capture (OCR) and business process management. While their investments have achieved great success with automating core financial operations, they still struggle closing the last remaining gaps.

Every business will have some automation gaps in their financial processes. I have yet to meet a customer who says, “We have all of our financial processes automated.” Employees may be logging into many different portals for access to customer and supplier information or to upload documents. Sales orders and quotes may be mostly automated, but often still require human intervention with third-party systems to configure, price and validate sales order information.

There are three basic options for dealing with highly manual processes that can’t be automated with traditional financial process automation solutions:

  1. Increase staff, whether in-house, outsource or offshore
  2. Invest in custom development to work around your legacy ERP technology
  3. Deploy robotic process automation (RPA) to bridge your automation gaps

How top companies achieve financial operations automation

An Ardent Partners report on The State of ePayables 2017 observed that “Best-in-class businesses are 2.6 times more likely than others to harness the power of robotic process automation as part of their greater AP strategy and programs.”

Here are six reasons RPA is the right choice for bridging those automation gaps.

  1. Deploys ultra-fast

Custom integrations require a developer and often get prioritised to the bottom of the pile, leaving your employees to serve as “human APIs”, logging into several applications and portals to retrieve information to and from systems that are not integrated. An RPA solution that automates those integrations can be launched in days or weeks instead of months, in many cases without the need for a developer.

  1. Interfaces with other systems

The heartbeat of your financial operations is your ERP, but much data resides outside in multiple, disparate internal and external sources. RPA complements your ERP by accessing that data and integrating it without requiring a re-engineering of proven processes.

  1. Flexes and stretches with your organisation

Whether you deploy RPA for a specific use case like retrieving invoices from portals or as an enterprise-wide initiative from your Center of Excellence, the technology is well-suited to fill in one or all of your financial process automation gaps.

  1. Frees your employees from rote, manual work

Would your staff be happier and more productive logging into hundreds of portals to pull invoice information…or in reviewing that information and sending it out sooner to receive early pay discounts and transform AP into a value center within the company? Are they more productive copying and pasting Excel data into your ERP, or reviewing the financial close documents from a strategic viewpoint?

  1. Works 24/7

With a workday that never ends, a digital workforce of robots can increase capacity and decrease processing times, which is critical in time-sensitive financial processes like quoting, order fulfillment and accounting close.

  1. Eliminates human errors

A small cut-and-paste or accounting error can result in a disproportionate numbers scandal – not to mention a compliance nightmare. Automated technology eliminates human error and completes processes the same way, every time.

Bridge the gaps in your financial process automation with Complete the Productivity Picture in Finance: A Guide to Robotic Process Automation. Download your copy today.

Art Sarno is a product marketing director at Kofax, where he manages financial process automation (FPA) solutions, including procure to pay, order to cash, and record to report, as well as robotic process automation for FPA.

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