A specific form of artificial intelligence known as robotic process automation (RPA) can relieve accounting staff of repetitive burdens and allow people to focus on higher-level analyses and strategic projects. Unlike manufacturing automation, RPA relies on software to automate digital processes, which means that routine accounting functions are perfect targets. Here’s some insight into how to integrate RPA in your accounting department.
Map the journey
RPA is designed to eliminate the need for manual (human) intervention. In the accounting department, automation software can control such tasks as journal entries, bank reconciliations, and parts of the budgeting and forecasting process. The journey to automation begins with these five steps:
1. Inventory manual processes. Prepare a list of manual processes and rank them by complexity (simplest first) and time required. This provides a prioritized list of RPA candidates. Select the most straightforward process to convert first.
2. Standardize processes. RPA requires standardized tasks and processes, so you’ll need to apply a standard approach to all transactions. Identify exceptions and scrutinize why they exist and how they can be eliminated.
3. Focus on the source data. Accounting data often exists in different formats and locations, which makes RPA difficult. You’ll need to centralize your accounting data using a consistent structure and format.
4. Document requirements. Many different RPA software solutions exist. To choose one, first define the functionality and capabilities you’ll need, then use this list to screen potential providers.
5. Conduct robust testing. Before relying on the output generated by RPA software, test it using statistically valid sampling techniques to make sure the data are accurate and reliable. In addition, consider using judgmental sampling procedures, which allow team members to select transactions based on their training and experience.
Is RPA right for your accounting department?
Throughout your organization, RPA can minimize data entry errors, reduce processing time and lower costs. However, getting it to work in the accounting department takes some planning and a fresh mindset. It also may affect the procedures a CPA performs when preparing your financial statements.
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