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RPA: Robots Start to Invade Finance Departments

By Dick Weisinger

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), the automation of repetitive office tasks, is expected to have explosive growth.  Today just 19 percent of finance offices use any type of automation, according to Gartner.  By 2020, that number is expected to increase to 73 percent.

Newer RPA tools are enabling finance office to rapidly automate many of their business processes.  The tools are flexible and adopt to the needs of the office.  They can also be deployed incrementally, allowing processes to gradually morph from fully manual to one that is fully automated — it doesn’t have to happen overnight.

Gartner identifies the following immediate benefits derived from incremental RPA:

  • Provides immediate value, first on simple tasks, and gradually on more complex harder-to-automate tasks.
  • No team disruption. Robots can be programmed to accept any sort of process change while often people are resistant to process changes.
  • Incremental Change and more fluid processes. Automation can be done gradually and easily changed as better methodology is identified.

Despite the flexibility of today’s RPA, the technology still is evolving and has a ways to go.  Weston Jones, leader of an automation group at Ernst & Young, said that “the tools do a really good job with work packets, but most of the end-to-end processes are too complex. The tools don’t fully automate all the handoffs between procurement, finance, and other silos, and you still have to have people involved when there are exceptions.”


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