Increasingly, organisations are discovering that Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be a cost-effective way to streamline operations, improve data quality and enable better decision-making. Driving the trend is RPA’s ability to improve efficiency and reduce costs by mimicking how humans interact with applications.
In a recent survey, management consulting firm Deloitte found that more than half (53 percent) of global respondents already use RPA. Most report that RPA not only met or exceeded their cost reduction expectations but also delivered non-financial benefits such as improved accuracy, timeliness, flexibility and compliance. Deloitte predicts that if take-up continues at the current level, RPA will achieve near-universal adoption within the next five years.
The growing popularity of RPA means that users can be found across many sectors from financial services to manufacturing, telecoms and retail. Some organisations, who previously outsourced back office functions, now see RPA as an opportunity to bring processes back in-house as it can enhance data risk management and improve compliance with internal controls as well as being cost effective.
While RPA tends to be more common in large organisations, it is equally suited to any business with standardised processes which involve high-volume, repetitive tasks.
RPA is software that interacts with an organisation’s existing systems to automate certain tasks.
When applied to standardised processes, RPA can assist and/or replace repetitive human actions. For example, it can log in to an accounts system as if it were human, extract accounts receivable and accounts payable data and automatically feed this information into the cash forecasting system.
Form-filling, reconciling or consolidating data, moving files and folders—any task that can be standardised and is rules-based may be suitable for RPA.
A frequently-cited RPA advantage is that the organisation’s underlying systems do not need to be replaced. This minimises implementation costs and facilitates rapid roll out. However, because RPA interacts with existing systems, problems may arise if there are changes to the underlying user interface or data. So, as with any project, careful planning and management are required. Workflows must be analysed and standardised before initiating RPA and, once implemented, automated processes must be maintained, updated and kept secure.
When applied to appropriate tasks, RPA’s potential to reduce costs is significant. EY published an article noting that cost reduction can reach 50—70 percent for some automated accounting and finance activities.
Another advantage is that payback is achievable within a relatively short timeframe. The Deloitte study cited above found that payback was reported at less than 12 months.
Potential time savings can be dramatic. Malaysia-based CIMB group, who implemented RPA in September 2017, say that in one month alone, 9 out of 15 banking processes showed a significant reduction of up to 90 percent in turnaround time.
In highly regulated industries such as insurance and banking, a McKinsey study showed that companies are finding that automation is a cheap and fast way of applying superior capability to the problem of compliance. Applications may include assisting with know-your-customer processes, limit management, AML monitoring and investigation, remediation processing, monitoring and reporting.
Other businesses, too, are discovering compliance benefits. Royal Mail’s Director of UK Finance Mike Prince has observed that robotics opens up an avenue toward process improvement because unlike humans, “the robot won’t accept non-compliance or create additional steps … It’s a brilliant way to improve adherence to process.”
RPA’s ability to speed up processing, improve accuracy and allow tasks to be completed at off-peak times, means that it has many potential applications in finance and treasury where data often has to be copied and shared across different systems. Because manual processes and over-reliance on spreadsheets can be error prone, RPA’s ability to minimise the risk of human error is particularly beneficial.
Accounting teams can use for RPA include performing calculations, stock checks, customer credit checks, and running checks on suppliers against a list of approved suppliers. For treasury teams, collecting invoice data and entering it into the accounts payable system, collecting data from spreadsheets or other sources for posting to the general ledger, and other data transfers between systems can all be completed automatically using RPA.
When correctly implemented, RPA can automatically extract actual data from an organisation’s ERP or accounts system and feed it directly into the cash forecasting system. With an automated cash forecasting process, as soon as new details become available, data can be refreshed and presented on an intuitive dashboard offering the ability to drill down to the required degree of granularity or roll-up to broad headline numbers. As more, and better quality data becomes available, decision-making and planning are therefore enhanced.
Similarly, RPA’s ability to extract data from various sources creates opportunities to improve analytics which in turn enhances the treasury of finance team’s forecasting ability.
Other potential RPA uses in treasury include service level agreement processing, performing settlements and sending out deal confirmations.
Artificial intelligence is the next horizon for automation in the finance function. Already, AI is showing that learning from behaviour patterns and combining RPA with cognitive technologies increases the range of processes that can be automated and reduces the need for human intervention.
As specialised cash flow forecasting software providers, CashAnalytics uses RPA to automate cash forecasting processes for companies across the globe.
If you would like to see a demonstration of how software and RPA can improve your cash forecasts, or would like to see the business case for introducing CashAnalytics to your company, please contact us directly....
The last decade has seen technology dramatically alter the way we work and the way we live our lives. At its most fundamental, this change is about access to information.
You could stop someone walking down the street in Sydney, ask them the results of that week’s American NFL matches and (providing they were amenable enough) they would simply tap for a few seconds at their smart phone, then list out all of the scores.
You could stop someone cycling along the rugged coast of North West Ireland, ask them to check the price of a stock listed on the Tokyo Stock Exchange and (once they’d located their phone) they’d give you the exact price, as it stood at that moment.
In our working lives, this change has meant that we are “always on”. As soon as the question comes in, no matter where we are, we can reach for the laptop or smartphone and begin working on the answer.
That this omnipresent access to information has changed the way we work is not surprising. The aspect that is, perhaps, a little surprising is how large incumbent companies can struggle to use their market dominance to make the most of technological change.
There are numerous examples of market leading companies struggling when a newer technology comes along. To stick with our example of mobile phones, think of how Apple and Android wiped out Blackberry and Nokia. Or, to consider an older, more established company, we can cite Kodak’s struggle to respond to the rise of digital photography, ultimately leading to its filing for bankruptcy in January 2012. (These examples are discussed in greater detail in this article entitled: Why big companies squander good ideas.)
However, these are the well-known examples. They capture attention because they involve the collapse of a previous incumbent. What we can take greater leaning from, are the more local examples that impact us day-to-day.
The development of the remote desktop opened up a range of options for employers to enable employees to be more flexible with their working hours and location. Around the world, the number of office workers who work remotely for at least one day per week now stands at 70%.
From the employer’s perspective, the gains aren’t just about being able to offer remote work as a perk, or pull from a larger, more geographically diverse talent pool. The main benefit is the freedom that employees being able to login remotely affords decision making. Senior staff away on business trips, for example, now need only an internet connection to pick up on their work. Therefore, time spent in transit no longer has to be factored in as dead-time.
Other areas of business software have made transformative impacts as well. Enterprise application software (EAS) has seen major shifts in the way companies store and manipulate vast quantities of data. Many modern large corporates are in fact still jaded from gruelling implementation projects for enterprise software. It is perhaps for this reason that they are reluctant to avail of the benefits that newer innovations can offer.
Many foresee the next stage of evolution of business software is taking the form of robotic process automation (RPA). In business processes, RPA involves automating highly repetitive tasks and processes (those currently undertaken by humans) in order to increase operational efficiency and reduce the risks of human error. Because of its ability to limit the risks of human error, RPA has been most eagerly engaged by those in risk averse industries and risk averse departments (such as finance and accounting).
The business software we give the least credit offers some of the greatest benefit. Think of how arduous managing your day would be without the use of your calendar app, for example. Or how an address is now all the directions that are needed for a meeting in almost any city in the world, thanks to maps and gps.
Perhaps the biggest change in recent years is an increase in the vast range of specialised software tools. Most business problems (especially those that are process related) can now be addressed with software solutions. Unlike the complex and time-consuming enterprise software roll-outs, these particular software solutions are often quick and easy to implement, offering an almost immediate ROI. As more and more corporates recognise and adopt these types of solution, the benefits of early adoption quickly become the table stakes just to keep up.
Meanwhile, turning back to the way we now find ourselves “always on” to receive queries around the clock, this ceases to be an issue when we find the answers a click away.
If the CFO sends a message querying the year-end numbers, and you can respond with thorough, detailed analysis, confidently and quickly, everybody is happy with the outcome.
In fast-paced environments like corporate finance and corporate treasury, the benefits it can offer mean the introduction of new technology is particularly welcome....
Measuring the accuracy of forecasts you use for decision making reporting purpos...Cash Forecasting Accuracy Measurement (429 downloads)