It’s just another business day in your accounting office. You grab some coffee, chit-chat in the kitchen, and get down to business. The rest of the day flies by on repetitive tasks. Payments, invoices, bank statements, reports, and spreadsheets. A lot of spreadsheets.
You trudge through that red tape but hey, what can you do? Statement by statement, digit by digit, you go through each file twice to make sure no error has crept into your books. Unless… Unless you use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to make your accounting life easier, more pleasant, and more satisfying.
That’s because accounting and finance processes are the perfect candidates for RPA optimization, as we are going to prove in this article. So, if no other phrase makes you as excited as “automated accounting processes,” read on. Otherwise, read anyway and learn why it should.
The key challenges of accounting (RPA can solve)
Many accounting tasks are considered tedious and straightforward. However, this simplicity can be misleading. Successfully managing all financial operations requires coordinating multiple jobs, including those listed below. Traditionally, they are performed manually or in a semi-automated fashion. RPA solutions remove many of the risks involved in their execution and improve their performance accuracy, efficiency, and speed.
- Keeping up with regulatory changes — Ensuring compliance can be taxing between updates and revisions.
- Developing forecast analyses — Predicting financial outcomes is essential in accounting, but it can involve massive data volumes that are difficult to process efficiently.
- Manual data entry — Typing financial data manually seems unavoidable but increases the risk of errors and requires time.
- Paying suppliers — Handling payments individually may be accurate, but it also slows you down, especially when suppliers need to be chased after.
- Reporting — Compiling high-quality, insightful reports is another tedious-but-necessary job that is becoming increasingly difficult as requirements for speed, transparency, and insightful data grow.
- Document retrieval — Tracking and requesting missing documents is a bottleneck that often hampers the progress of other processes.
- Order and invoice processing — This is the bread and butter of accounting that sometimes may taste sour, especially when using an excess of accounting systems in standalone silos or trying to identify the missing details.
- Risk assessment — No matter how strong your audit system is, some inconsistencies will always slip through the cracks, such as the lack of contextual understanding of the organization or function or missing ground rules for conducting the assessment.
- Reconciling bank statements — Every accountant’s favorite jigsaw puzzle; is a certain, regular chore that can take ages (and a lot of focus) if done manually and is extremely error-prone.
What (and why) to automate?
When asked about the main benefits of manual process automation in the accounting industry, most participants of 2021’s Corporate Financial Reporting Insights conference answered: increased efficiency. And it’s easy to see why: when it comes to easy, repetitive tasks, a well-programmed algorithm will be capable of processing data faster and more accurately than a human accountant.
Here are some of the easily-automated accounting processes:
- Extracting accounts payable and receivable data from sources in various formats, such as Excel, using optical character recognition (OCR).
- By automatically assigning purchase orders to their respective invoices, the algorithm helps accountants save countless hours they would otherwise spend tracing orders.
- As a sequence of repetitive tasks such as data input, calculating individual paychecks, or disbursement, payroll management is another easy pick for automation.
Accounting mostly deals with numbers, which has its pros and cons: on the one hand, it’s logical, but on the other, any mistake will affect all other tasks down the pipeline. For this reason, another advantage of automated accounting processes listed in the survey was error prevention.
- Manual data entry and sharing? Forget it—automated scripts will ensure that your financial records end up in the right place, error-free. In the meantime, you can focus on more sophisticated tasks.
- No matter if you need to validate checks or compare invoice data with account balance, automation turns reconciliation into a breeze.
- If you can’t help sweating about the looming tax season year by year, automation may take your worries away by taking care of tax updates, financial statements, or preparing tax returns.
Optimizing accounting processes wouldn’t feel right without generating some sweet cost savings, right? No worries—a report by SSON shows that automation of accounting processes (accounts payable, to be more specific) can reduce the per-invoice cost by over 40% across various industries, from banking to tech. And that’s not the only way automation can be used to help spend less on bookkeeping:
- Automating all error-susceptible processes like manual invoice processing will lead to lower spending. It’s simple: fewer costly errors and less money spent on corrections.
- Financial forecasts depend on data—the more you’re able to process, the more informed decisions you’ll make. So automate research and analysis-related tasks to drive results.
Figuring out how to do more with less time and fewer resources usually isn’t easy, especially in mature organizations. Advanced automation solutions can independently audit your accounting processes and identify areas for improvement.
Smooth accounting with RPA
Among all the different automation solutions, RPA stands out as the one that’s best suited for bookkeeping processes. About 80% of finance industry leaders either use it or plan to implement it. Why is that?
- Labor shortages — Experienced accountants are few and far between, and new specialists take time and money to break in. So the answer may be to make more effective use of what workforce you already have rather than recruit new bookkeepers.
By implementing RPA, you give your accountants the option to delegate mundane tasks to attended or unattended bots. As a result, they can run ceaselessly for as long as needed while your experts take care of the job that requires human input and expertise.
- Compliance — According to a NICE study on RPA benefits, 38% of managers name compliance as the main advantage of RPA. This shows how crucial adhering to the current regulations and contract terms are in finance.
RPA bots are equipped with technologies such as NLP, allowing them to “read” documents such as agreements and purchase orders. Then, the algorithm extracts all details necessary to confirm (or invalidate) the compliance by comparing it with the organization’s base of financial records.
- Data governance — From invoices to reports, accounting is all about data. Managing the flow and access to this data efficiently is crucial, but it’s estimated that 89% of companies struggle to achieve that.
RPA platforms offer multiple ways to streamline your data management: OCR, compatibility with external data sources and services, fast data updates, or schedule. However, remember that automation may require some governance (particularly at the implementation stage). Acknowledging that and setting the right goals and expectations is key to avoiding an RPA failure.
- Security — An important part of data governance is ensuring its protection. Customer and partner details must be stored and entered securely and shared only with approved stakeholders.
By preventing entry mistakes and automating authorization, RPA can greatly boost the data protection standards within your organization. As with all security systems, RPA is effective as long as you follow set guidelines. Safety first!
- Service delivery — Growing your business isn’t just about making your internal processes more efficient and improving the quality of your services. It’s no secret that a happy customer will always come back for more.
Fewer delays and errors, higher turnover, better customer service—RPA gives you all that, resulting in a superior customer experience. In addition, the time you’d otherwise spend on menial accounting tasks can be devoted to research, strategy, and advancement, further increasing the quality of your services.
RPA — use cases in accounting
If you’re somehow not convinced yet, here are some real-life examples of businesses that stepped up their bookkeeping game thanks to automated accounting processes.
Cohen & Company — faster and hands-free data processing
Developing RPA for accounting firms is no mean feat. That’s why when a renowned accounting company asks you to help with its bookkeeping workflow automation, you can be sure that the bar is set pretty high.
Luckily, the RPA system implemented by Flobotics’ experienced developers rose to the challenge. As a result, data creation, extraction, and input were automated, saving Cohen’s consultants hundreds of hours each month.
Xerox — invoicing made easy
When the printing industry giant set out to reinvent its finance processes, RPA accounting was one of the first bets.
With the help of UiPath, the adoption of automation among Xerox’s employees has increased. The company has also developed accounting-oriented applications for claims processing and deals automation, reducing the time spent on manual tasks or replacing them.
Check what more can RPA do for the finance industry, or automation for consulting firms.
Automated accounting processes — your turn
As we’ve found out, RPA can streamline your finance and bookkeeping tasks, ensure compliance and safety, improve data governance, and generate significant savings. But you’re not the only one to realize the potential of this technology. Companies from various sectors around the world have already started adopting automated accounting processes. So it’s time to act.
Your first step should be to find a reliable RPA partner with a proven track record in accounting automation. Then, schedule a call with one of Flobotics’ consultants and ask them about the free automation trial to try RPA for yourself.