Date posted: 21/09/2018

Robotics in finance – new report terminates the myths

Lack of understanding sees one in two CFOs fail to embrace robotics.

In Brief

  • Automation technology is changing the face of the finance function and creating valuable opportunities
  • CFOs are failing to introduce automation often through lack of understanding
  • A new report dispels the myths of automation in finance and explains the benefits

Mention the term “robotics” and images of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s “Terminator” – the hulking cyborg assassin of the future, come to mind. But for the finance function, robotics are playing a far less threatening role. While automation technology certainly has the ability to terminate much of the hack work, it is changing the face of finance organisations for the better, and creating unique opportunities for finance leaders. 

Those are the key findings of a new report Embracing robotic automation during the evolution of finance, commissioned by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand and the Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) in collaboration with KPMG.

The report addresses the wealth of opportunities that automation presents for the finance function, and like many new technologies, early adapters stand to benefit most.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in particular, offers real potential to streamline the finance function. RPA is a type of software easily programmed by end users to perform high-volume, repeatable, rules-based tasks. It offers several advantages that go well beyond cost cutting, including improved control, faster processing speed, better data quality, and ultimately, happier finance team members freed from mundane tasks for more interesting and value-add work. On this basis alone, RPA would seem to be an obvious choice for Chief Financial Officers (CFOs). But that’s not always the case.

According to the study, which is based on the responses of 2,700 participants across a range of sectors globally, 46 percent of respondents are either trialling RPA, or have partially or fully implemented it for all relevant finance processes. The greatest level of take-up is in purchase to pay and record to report processes. 

However, there is also a considerable degree of hesitation around automation – and this is leading to missed opportunities. Many CFOs are still not sure how to implement robotics, and how they can be of use to their finance functions. 

One in two business leaders say their companies had either not trialled or not fully implemented robotics. Close to half (45 percent) of these respondents say they need to understand exactly what robotics is before implementing it. Over one-third admit it’s not currently their highest priority. 

Clearly, there is still plenty of uncertainty surrounding automation. And this is an issue business leaders need to address. Failure to embrace robotics brings the real risk of becoming irrelevant.

The bottom line is that digital transformation offers a valuable competitive advantage, and the possibilities it brings cannot be overlooked.

"Combining RPA with traditional automation tools can be the cornerstone of an extreme automation strategy for finance that is truly transformative"

Embracing robotic automation during the evolution of finance is important reading for all CAs to understand the myths surrounding automation and recognise the significant opportunities it offers to finance leaders.

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Read this online article about how robots can relieve accountants of mundane work, enable continuous accounting and eliminate human error.

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