When we think about the robotic workforce of the future, we tend to focus on industrial applications, but the impact of automated labor may be felt most broadly and deeply in the world of finance.
A recent piece in the Wall Street Journal highlights an accountant named Roberta working for the Nordic energy firm Statoil. Roberta is tasked with analyzing huge amounts of payment data to locate missing invoices. And she is incredibly good at her job because she is actually a piece of software.
The article goes on to reveal that 2 out of 3 of global companies expect to automate some or even most of their accounting and finance departments by 2020. By relying on robotic process automation (RPA), companies are shifting large and laborious workloads onto digital assistants.
When, where, why, and how this trend will impact accounting departments has yet to be seen. But what is clear is that RPA is evolving fast, gaining evangelists, and transforming workflows. In order to maximize the effectiveness of this opportunity, companies will need to focus on these initiatives:
Laying a Foundation for the Future
RPA is already being implemented in major multinationals. But once the technology matures, it will be most beneficial to small and midsized companies with more limited resources. In practice, RPA promises to cut the cost of accounting and minimize the necessary staff. These could be big operational advantages. In order to prepare for a near future when RPA is affordable and accessible, organizations should begin integrating their data onto SaaS platforms for ERP, CRM, and other business systems. That way when they look to implement RPA, they will have enough extractable data to draw on.
Identifying All Sources of Value
If RPA only leads to lower costs across the board it has not delivered on its full promise. The goal is not to do the same things in better and cheaper ways. The goal is to do entirely new things while handling past processes with perfection. In order for RPA to live up to its potential it must rely on best-in-class technologies that do not limit the features and functions available. The more broadly that RPA is implemented the more broadly it can improve processes and deliver long-term ROI.
Articulating a Clear Mission Forward
RPA may displace some accountants, but it will more importantly enhance the work of those that are prepared to take advantage of it. It is up to companies to decide which of these is the greater priority. Cutting staffing costs opens up a lot of space in the budget, but there are risks to operating with a skeleton crew. Using RPA for BI, analytics, and strategic insights, instead, cuts fewer costs but adds more value to the business.
Sage Intacct is at the forefront of accounting automation right now with plans to revolutionize automation and machine learning for midmarket finance departments. This next-generation ERP is making RPA available with more ease and less expense. To begin exploring what is now possible and to prepare your organization for the future, contact the team at AcctTwo.