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Updated Oct 20, 2023

Automation Can Save Finance Departments Thousands of Hours

Robotic process automation can reduce human error and extra work.

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Dock Treece, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
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This guide was reviewed by a Business News Daily editor to ensure it provides comprehensive and accurate information to aid your buying decision.

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Over the last few decades, artificial intelligence has become a global industry that is impacting all facets of life. Robots now complete many mundane tasks for us, including vacuuming our living areas, mowing our lawns and painting cars. One area where automation can save thousands of man-hours is the financial sector. Robotic process automation – an emerging technology that helps streamline financial reporting – has many practical benefits.

What is robotic process automation?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the use of robotic software to complete tasks. Many of these tasks require little time or attention and are repeated for different projects or operating units. The software robots are taught how to carry out those processes so that manual labor from human workers is not necessary.

According to Computer Economics, the use of RPA is on the rise, with 20% of organizations adopting such technology in 2021, an increase from 13% in 2020. That’s not surprising when you consider that, in aggregate, automation can save companies tens of thousands of work hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars. [Related article: Machine Learning or Automation: What’s the Difference?]

How can you use robotic process automation in finance?

An Acceleration Economy survey found that robotic process automation is mostly incorporated into the manufacturing and technology industries, but businesses in all fields can find ways to take advantage of such software – especially as it relates to financial processes.

Here are some tasks that finance departments are increasingly automating:

  • Bookkeeping work: Many accounting departments are automating the entry of specific line items for both revenue and expenses.
  • Customer invoicing: Client’s invoices can be automatically generated, sent and tracked. Find the best invoice app for your business.
  • Report generation: Systems can automatically generate reports on a regular cadence, including any accounts that require close monitoring.
  • Payment processing: Invoices and payroll are automatically reviewed, approved and paid. See our picks for the top payroll software.
  • Treasury management: Accounting systems transfer excess cash balances into sweep accounts and flag other cash management needs.
  • Tax reporting: Tax statements are prepared using revenue and payment tracking.
Did You Know?Did you know
Robotic process automation is also used for revenue audits and risk assessments.

Challenges implementing RPA

A Gartner study discovered leaders occasionally experience three specific problems while applying robotic process automation to financial reporting efforts: They don’t feel comfortable removing human input from the financial reporting process. They don’t see a large return on investment from the technology. They grow concerned about process standardization delays.

Acceleration Economy discovered additional challenges through its research, such as IT team members feeling ill-equipped to implement RPA technology and organizational resistance to change. The survey also highlighted concern about security risks, especially if the software isn’t adequately maintained over time. Meanwhile, there is also a familiarity challenge, with top vendors in the RPA market still largely unknown. 

Benefits of RPA

Despite these adoption barriers, data suggests any initial hurdles are worth tackling when you consider the advantages of RPA. The Gartner team learned that, if fully implemented, RPA can save upward of 25,000 hours per year and $878,000.

Not only will your company save time and money implementing the software, but your staff will enjoy the time freed to pursue more meaningful projects.

“Most employees will welcome the opportunity to avoid tedious rework in favor of the more strategic activities that only a human can do,” said Dennis Gannon, Gartner’s vice president of research, in a statement published alongside the study.

Executives can also look forward to accurate data that’s free of human errors; plus, there should be an overall increase in productivity. 

“By implementing RPA on the processes that can be automated from day one, accounting teams can immediately free up capacity with a minimum of disruption that typically occurs when new process standards are introduced,” Gannon said.

You may even be inspired to examine other ways this kind of technology can increase efficiency. Perhaps, for example, a successful experience using RPA with the finance team leads to explorations with sales force automation or marketing automation.

Key TakeawayKey takeaway
Process automation can save more than 20,000 man-hours and hundreds of thousands of dollars in operating expenses each year. See more benefits of workplace automation software.

The future of automation in the workplace

While automation is becoming the norm in many industries, it remains a sensitive topic for completing certain job functions. This is particularly true in corporate finance, where a single mistake can cause a company significant financial harm. But leaders would be wise to exploit the savings generated through automation and instead invest in further product development and expansion efforts. Company owners that fail to identify these savings will likely be out-competed by those who are willing to adopt new methods. Learn more about how automation is changing the workplace so your business can reap the rewards.

Andrew Martins contributed to the writing and reporting in this article. 

author image
Dock Treece, Business Strategy Insider and Senior Writer
Dock David Treece is a finance expert who has extensively covered business financial topics, including Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and alternative lending. He is the Senior Vice President of Marketing at BNY Mellon and the former Editorial Manager at Dotdash. He also previously worked as a financial advisor and registered investment advisor, as well as served on the FINRA Small Firm Advisory Board. Dock brings more than 17 years of experience, including his time as an entrepreneur co-founding and managing a small business. His entrepreneurial background gives him firsthand insight into the challenges small business owners face and the tools and tactics they can use to succeed.
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