Automation in Finance and Accounting

Updated: Jan 19, 2020

This post arose after I had a conversation with a friend of mine that happens to be a senior accountant for a growing corporation in South Africa. Our conversation led towards work and current challenges and frustrations that he is facing on a daily basis. I was in awe to hear about the mundane and repetitive activities that were required from him. My shock came from my final question... "So... how much time do you spend on these activities?" His answer, "roughly 2-3 hours a day... if not more on others." To put that in context and to underline my shock, here you have a senior staff member spending 10 hours a week, 40 hours a month and 480 hours a year completing activities that are completely below his pay grade. At +/- R 500/hour CTC, that company is paying him R 240 000.00 a year to conduct these activities and keeping him away from tasks that are actually benefiting the organisation.

However, if this is happening in one corporate, it is happening in all of them. The inefficiencies that are creeping up within each and every single role within an organisation are astounding and if one takes the time to calculate the financial implications of this wasted time.... wow. Its no wander all professional are working excessive hours, its because they are wasting time handling mundane activities that steal their time away from conducting the job that they got employed to perform. Let's not even get started on year end deadlines where 16 hour days are the usual not the extreme.

So what can be done...

The most obvious answer that I have come across is robotic process automation (RPA for short.)

Investopedia seems to have defined RPA in quite an eloquent manner:

"Robotic process automation (RPA) refers to software that can be easily programmed to do basic tasks across applications just as human workers do. The software robot can be taught a workflow with multiple steps and applications, such as taking received forms, sending a receipt message, checking the form for completeness, filing the form in a folder and updating a spreadsheet with the name of the form, the date filed, and so on. RPA software is designed to reduce the burden of repetitive, simple tasks on employees." - Investopedia

Reducing the burden... That is a key take away from the quote above.

RPA allows employees from all levels and designations to become more useful - become more human. It reduced the robotic activities that are required from people and allows them to become more productive and thus more useful. It allows the workforce to focus on using intuition, ethics, moral and creativity when solving problems instead of having to worry about inputting numbers into the ERP. Think of RPA as having a personal assistant at your beckon call 24/7/365 to perform manually intensive and repetitive tasks.

If you are still reading this... and I hope you are, let me tell you the best part...

RPA implementation is quick... really quick allowing organisations to experience ROIs within 3-4 months in some cases.

My last attempt at getting the word out is to share a F&A specific video, which showcases a "BOT" in action. In this short video (3 min), this "BOT" is automating activities when processing invoices. A process that I know is relevant to each and every single organisation, no matter the size.


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