Robotic Process Automation is now commonly used in many work environments to automate back office processes. But what can be said about its growing use in finance?
Robotic Process Automation or RPA is often used a buzz word by software companies to latch onto to make their tired software sound sexy and exciting.
In many instances we have seen various intelligent software applications in and around finance over the last 20 years, with spreadsheets, macros, ERP systems etc. So what is really new or old for that matter?
Well, effectively there are 3 levels of robotics, so when a software provider approaches you claiming to be a RPA player, make sure you know how they compare:
Level 1: Simple Process Replacement – The entry level to robotics which tends to be process automation or replacement of manual repetitive tasks by a software generated programme. In finance we have seen this for some time around Accounts Payable (AP) and the ability to OCR invoices (scrape data from a pdf document and create ability to speed up transaction matching, add to workflows etc.) This type of technology is not new and has been in a mature market for 10-15 years.
Level 2: Learning – Now this is where the software starts to not only replace data from documents, or add to a workflow, but can also start to learn and complete transactions in a programme. For example taking on board new customers and reading the fields in a document to know what information to populate and where. Also using an algorithm that the software can apply based on previous known transactions to allow software based decisions to be applied that could otherwise take a human a long time to complete or figure out.
Level 3: Cognitive – Now this is where real robotic software automation comes into its own. Not only can the software scrape data, add to workflows, replace repetitive keystrokes, use algorithm decisions etc. but it can now take in lots of different and complex data sets, using lots of rules, algorithms, previous history and start to not only learn but provide fast decisions that normally humans would never get to, well not in seconds!
So let’s identify common pain points and look at how robotics can be applied in the finance department.
Cash allocation or application is usually seen as the least value add process in the finance team and is frequently managed manually by teams that will download bank statements, receive remittances and then play a game of manual matching and keying to try and clear the cash as quickly as possible. Adding complexity to the model, single payments across multiple accounts, lack of remittance or bank reference data often means that simple matches are completed and the more difficult ones get posted to account (if known) and then managed and reconciled by credit controllers. This can be an expensive, inefficient and often complex process usually requiring multiple people processing cash which often requires support at month end from credit controllers.
Utilising a combination of all three levels of robotics, Rimilia software solutions transform the manual cash allocation process from the first day of implementation. Alloc8 can manage high volumes of incoming receipts and match them to the sales ledger without the need for manual intervention from start to finish. In reality, does this not make you want to transform your cash process into a smarter more proactive front end function to enable for greater growth for your business? We think it should.