Robotic Process Automation – A Technology Saviour For A CFO:
A contemporary CFO is expected to not only partners with the CEO in addressing critical business and governance issues, but he is also expected to provide real-time insight on performance. One of the critical roles that a CFO delivers is making the analytical presentation of the monthly book closure numbers – which requires him to bugle the month-end and year till date financial position of the organisation.
In the world of SAP, Oracle and other ERPs, the expectations from the CFO during these month-end communications are very high. Generally, the time gap between the month-end book closure and the date of releasing the analytical findings is very short, and therefore any technological advent which facilitates reducing the time commitment for data crunching is always welcomed. Well, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is one such technological boon which can come to rescue for a CFO during those critical moments.
RPA – The Concept:
Robotics And Other Combinations Will Make The World Pretty Fantastic Compared With Today – Bill Gates
All those activities which are digitalised, rule-based and standardised could be automated. Thus RPA, in a nutshell, blends the capabilities of machine learning with Artificial Intelligence (AI) and delivers an impeccable output. In simple language, we may visualise RPA as advanced versions of Excel Macros, which not only run across Microsoft Applications but can interface and interact with an array of other accounting and data processing systems. Further, by tagging user ID to these machine accesses by a BOT, all the activities that a BOT does in and around the accounting system are entirely available in the audit trail.
RPA In Financial Reporting Functions:
Below are some of the tasks that a Bot can flawlessly execute:
Practically the above list is ever-expanding and can permeate in several sub-functions.
What To Automate:
Automation Applied To An Inefficient Operation Will Magnify The Inefficiency – Bill Gates
The 2 step approach for assessing whether there is a potential to implement RPA in your accounting functions involves:
List down activities that are critical during the month-end book closure process.
Scan each of the above activities to find how many of these involve tasks and subtask that are entirely running based on a set of standardised rules.
All those tasks which are currently running entirely on the foundation of a set of standardised rules have the potential of RPA evaluation.
Further, documenting an “Automation Selection Criteria” and specifying the business rationale should be adhered to at this stage.
Key Advantages Of RPA In Financial Reporting Activities:
Dependencies For Success:
The key to the success of RPA in any accounting function depends heavily on:
1) Process Mapping
2) Clarity on the accounting conceptuality of the ultimate output
RPA in Financial Reporting Functions requires a combination of in-depth process expertise and domain knowledge on financial reporting functions. It warrants for a capability of not only understanding the accounting/tax aspects of the activity but also requires an ability almost to talk and document the activity. Such tasks demand to handle multifaceted algorithms and further correlate and validate the data from multiple sources.
Pitfalls To Avoid:
A machine is a child born out of Human Brain. We have seen in several science fiction movies of this child becoming so authoritative that it attempts to wipe out the existence of human being. However, for centuries we have witnessed that for every job taken over by machines, there are far more opportunities getting produced. This game of “invention to be done by the human brain and then replacement of human labour to be done by the machine” has been played again and again. Thus we may perceive this unique relationship between humans and machines to be a symbiotic relationship, each helping the other. Both copartner and coexist and traverse this journey of LIFE. We soon may see this symbiotic association in the team and the office of a CFO.
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