RPA for CPAs Series: Changes Underway

In the accounting field, there are many processes where the required tasks are repetitious and rules-based. The nature of the work provides many opportunities to employ RPA technology to reduce the amount of time people spend on basic data processing, allowing CPAs to work on more strategic and impactful decision making tasks. Accounts payable and accounts receivable (AP/AR) automation is an area where accounting departments are currently adopting RPA and seeing a high return on investment. RPA software is well-suited to processing the variety of forms used in AP/AR workflows.

Transforming the semi structured data on nonstandard forms used when working with many different vendors is a task in which RPA excels. Data captured from forms by RPA become standardized input to your enterprise accounting system. Other areas of early adoption often focus on the high-volume and manually intensive tasks that have measurable cost savings or provide timelier task execution. It is in these areas that management will see the value in RPA and commit to the investment. Accounting areas where leadership will want to invest include the following:

  • Compiling financial reports
  • Managing complex billing processes
  • Reconciling bank accounts
  • Detecting fraud
  • Tax compliance

As adoption of RPA grows, use of the technology will spread to areas where risk mitigation plays a larger role than just a cost savings return on investment (ROI). RPA use in financial controls and audits can improve financial oversight, but impact on company financials is hard to measure. This may be why implementation here tends to fall to the bottom of management’s priority list. Initial ROI calculations play an important role in the initial decision to begin adopting an RPA strategy. The first-year cost to establish an RPA program can be a deterrent due to licensing, development, and infrastructure expenses. Looking beyond year one, though, the rate of return improves greatly as maintenance costs will be significantly lower than year one’s development costs.

Enterprise software has an average expected lifetime of about six to eight years, so any developed RPAs can be expected to be in service for the same length of time. The real ROI for RPA comes when you implement automation across a number of processes. Increasing the number of automated processes allows for spreading out the fixed costs across multiple projects. In doing so, more automation projects become viable because of improved ROI calculated values. Once employees see and understand the power of RPA, they begin to see the use cases where automation can improve company performance.

This article is part of a series exploring how RPA technology can enhance a CPA’s work, past entries are listed below:

  1. RPA for CPA’s Series: Bringing on Bots to Enhance a CPA’s Work
  2. RPA for CPA’s Series: Advantages to Automation

How Can Schneider Downs Help?

The Schneider Downs Business Process Automation team is committed to assisting clients with the evaluation, adoption and implementation of robotic process automation technology. We work with our clients to evaluate use cases, develop cost-benefit analyses, implement process automation, and provide continuous support to the operation of your business automation processes. 

Learn more at www.schneiderdowns.com/RPA

This article is reprinted with permission from Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Ten Penn Center, 1801 Market Street, Suite 2400, Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 496-9272 ©2019. View the full article here.

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Material discussed is meant for informational purposes only, and it is not to be construed as investment, tax, or legal advice. Please note that individual situations can vary. Therefore, this information should be relied upon when coordinated with individual professional advice.

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