Top 5 Finance and Accounting RPA Bots for Q1 2020

One of the imposing aspects of Q1 2020 financial close is working from home.

Without direct access to transactions, ad hoc analyses, stop by the office queries and exchanges required to tie-out numbers, accountants spend more time vying for necessary transactional details.

Simple task like document preparation for journal entries take a long time to finish.  In fact, some accountants never make the time to implement revised procedures. Instead, a makeshift measure like retaining documents on personal folders and failing to attach email approvals continue to happen.

Financial close from remote need not be complex, nor should closing the books from home be risky.

Behind the scene, corporations are adopting Robotic Process Automation to maintain, communicate and complete accounting activities while the bulk of the workforce continue to work from home. Controllers much needed pretext to automate manual repetitive activities is valid, especially when remote from remote.

It is a convincing argument that CFO will agree.

In this guide, we will walk you, RPA bots that companies have identified to be top priority depending on business, filing requirements and controller’s need.

 What this guide will cover:

  • What is RPA Controllership?
  • What is RPA and why companies are adopting?
  • Top 5 automation that pays for itself in 2020
  • What is the Next Steps in Adopting RPA?

What is RPA Controllership, and why is it So Important?

Before we plunge into what companies automate, let’s first look at RPA why it is so important to recognize the core issues in the current approach.

RPA Controllership is the term coined by The Business Labs to explain the increasing role of a financial controller. Controllers learn, prepare and transform out-of-date accounting departments to an automated environment–bots perform repetitive tasks errors free, mistakes without compromising control or transparency, and employees handle complex technical issues. The net aim of RPA controllership is to improve the ability of the accounting department to process faster and close the book efficiently.

If recent quarter was a trying time for your accounting department that mean that the environment has manual activities that either needs to be altered, eliminated or automated. Some manual activities are valid and is designed with sufficient oversight controls. But, with volume shift and dynamic economic cycles, reliance on manual controls doesn’t stand up against time pressure, bound to additional risks. In extreme cases, it nurtures toxic environment (often starting as symptomatic to a deeper constraint) that no company wants.

What is RPA and why companies are adopting?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA), is a simple tool to mimics human activities, robust enough to automate repetitive business process. Macros and workflow are monolithic. Workflows in D365, Oracle and Macros in Excel like inside the application. Whereas, RPA can transverse any application similar to human activity.

RPA tools help team members create a personalized bot that can work for one task, a group of people or an entire department. Bots are customized software with embedded instructions to perform the tasks you assign and control. To build a bot, you perform the task ones in your normal environment and the outcome becomes a draft bot, often 70-80% ready.

Financial controllers prefer to stay away from software development. Instead, RPA is a business tool with no coding, non-disruptive to any existing technology or SOPs.

If the same issue were to be dealt with using traditional IT route, integration between applications would be the preferred route. We all know that is expensive, time consuming and require more resources. Since RPA is mimicking human keystrokes, bots transverse technology platforms performing a task with no integration.

Think of RPA as a virtual temporary staff who is fit to perform repetitive transaction processing task assigned to the bot.

 Top 5 automation that pays for itself in 2020

Now that you have an idea on RPA Controllership and RPA, let us look at the pressing needs of few companies and how bots are addressing the gap.

Accounting RPA bots Q1 2020
Accounting RPA bots Q1 2020 – customer painpoints

Data Entry –vendor transactions

RPA’s ability to read a wide variety of electronic media including PDF and scanned documents has made many companies use RPA as a primary tool for reducing staff workload. Within a month several companies can eliminate and process 80% of the incoming vendor invoices. In one particular instance, shared services organization has since eliminated manual data entry or OCR add-in to ERP. Instead, RPA has been traversing data entry in Accounts Payable, HRIS system and Payroll application.

 Vendor Credit Administration

In turbulent times, vendor’s ability to deliver goods is at the forefront of every company’s decision, especially when you are the vendor’s largest customer. When existing vendor foresee financial pressure, there is a greater desire to sell to the company to lock-in the deal. Warning signs may not be noticeable if the company has a strong relationship with the vendor. In recent months, companies opt to delay large orders and some retract existing orders all together. Diversifying vendor portfolio and re-assessment of vendor credit risk have taken precedence. Companies with RPA are using bots as a digital assistant to a group of procurement agents to track recent vendor events–digging the internet for executive changes, disclosures and competitive changes such as market consolidation. Frequency of credit analysis has gone up. In these organizations, bots review vendor’s last update in ERP against collecting information to help decide a purchase decision.

Payment Tracking

When cash is tight, customers wish to stretch current payment term. Vendors want quicker payments. As a result, both inbound vendor inquires and outbound customer follow-up is going up. Chatbots and digital assistant bots help incoming queries provide estimated payment date. Before coronavirus, sales representatives would make phone calls to remind payments. Instead of making phone calls to existing customers, sales people are now spending more time reaching out to new prospects while bots are ‘chasing’ the payments. Existing customers receive automated emails, follow-up appointments and even check with the bank using secured credentials.

Payment-Bank Reconciliation

Mid-size companies and retail chains rely on daily cash balances. ACH reports, bank statements, credit card have varied turnaround time. Estimation of total debits and credits vs actual is a time-consuming activity for the treasurer. With less cash inflow, need for accuracy and proactive follow-up becomes key. RPA as digital assist help treasurers balance the cash accounts by automatically reconciling ERP with ACH, bank and credit card report with no staff to login, download reports and manually reconcile. A daily reconciliation statement with discrepancies are available at the end of each business day.

 General Ledger Reconciliation

Without support documentation immediately accessible, reconciliation with general ledger and sub-ledgers is tedious. One company adopted RPA to tie-out Accounts Payable, Aging Reports and associated General Ledger accounts saving over 25 hours in the last two months. With the confidence gained, the company is expanding RPA to perform other reconciliation activities with a desire to reduce close cycle by three days.

What is the Next Steps in Adopting RPA?

 Once you know which of the accounting process issue that could hold your department, it is time to jump straight to starting a proof-of-concept (POC). Since RPA tools do not require any integration, access to your testing or training environment is sufficient for a POC. In less than 3-5 days you can realize some compelling benefits.

Accounting RPA bots Q1 2020
Accounting RPA bots Q1 2020 – days saved by various teams

Conducting a POC can not only help you put together a solid strategy at the start of an RPA Controller’s journey to a successful digital transformation.

 By finding human constraints, you can utilize RPA to address the problems that prevent your accounting department from achieving its full potential.