BlackLine Blog

June 30, 2020

The Power of Robotic Process Automation

Modern Accounting
2 Minute Read

Susan Parcells

Share Article

This is Part 3 of an article that originally appeared in Strategic Finance Magazine. Read Part 2 first.

The layered benefits of leveraging technology lead straight to the topic of Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

According to the Institute for Robotic Process Automation (IRPA), “Robotic process automation is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a ‘robot’ to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.”

Many fear that RPA will mean death to a number of accounting jobs, and they’re partially right, but not in the way you may think.

RPA executes based on rules. By using business knowledge and intelligence to update the rules engines within the robots on a regular interval, robots can be taught to continuously improve and hone already automated processes. This is done by extending automated functionality to processes, systems, and data beyond the reach of interfaces to facilitate the integration of disparate financial systems.

By capturing and processing the data that creates a financial transaction, RPA takes over many of the number-crunching activities performed by accountants. Because machines do things the same way all the time, the numbers add up perfectly, minus the risk of human error.

This will result in fewer exceptions over time and more auto-reconciled accounts, cleared items, automatically booked intercompany transactions, and auto-posted journal entries. Thus, RPA will reduce work volumes for some traditional accounting tasks.

But the power of RPA isn’t in replacing people with robots. It’s in releasing them to focus on strategic operations. Higher-level accounting is complex, and whether investigating accounting anomalies, evaluating financial reports, or preparing corporate taxes, in-depth know-how and analysis require nuance.

RPA strengthens Accounting by completing unskilled tasks. It fosters continuous improvement by enabling accountants to use their knowledge to continually enhance the capability of the robots, while freeing themselves to be more analytical and forward-looking. It enables skilled individuals to provide strategic services to both their department and the entire organization.

5 Steps to Finance Automation

Many organizations fear finance transformation projects, and the confusion of figuring out exactly where to start causes many to quit before they even begin.

These five tips will help you determine that first essential step—and set the next several in motion—while avoiding the potential pitfalls along the way.

Standardize & Streamline

Start with the low hanging fruit. Consider which processes are not only risky and manual, but also those you may be able to tweak quickly for instant improvement.

Automatically Match Transaction Types

Not all transaction matching tools are created equal—beware of custom-built solutions requiring expensive development. Look for one that can manage high volumes of data while also delivering out-of-the-box flexibility to meet your unique requirements.

Continuously Validate Asset Balances

Look to automate most, not just a few of your reconciliations. Make sure automated reconciliation settings can be set at the account level to ensure your unique rules and controls are sufficiently satisfied, so that you can automate as many reconciliations as possible.

Increase Visibility & Enhance Controls

Stop using spreadsheets. They can’t provide the efficiency, control, and visibility needed for modern task management. They weren’t built for it.

Connect & Integrate with Your Existing Systems

Look to enhance, not replace, your existing systems. Not only will cloud applications be better equipped to complement current investments, but they also help Finance and Accounting teams own their technology without the need of costly IT intervention.

The Time Is Now

The current levels of turnover in accounting and finance teams are costly, and impact business performance and growth.

It’s time to reverse those numbers through finance automation. It’s time to elevate the role of finance to establish confidence in your accounting processes and insight into your operations. It’s time to give your accountants the assurance that they matter deeply to the organization.

It’s time to free your accountants to become truly exceptional.

Read this white paper to learn more about why finance technology has become imperative to attracting and retaining top talent who can thrive in this new world.

About the Author


Susan Parcells