Towards the war of accountants against robots?

CHAPTER 1: The emergence of a new generation of RPA

The trend is to replace the man by the machine, especially as regards the accounting trades within the financial departments.

Robotic process automation, or RPA, is the implementation of “software robots” to automate the without added value tedious tasks.

Robotic tools have been installed for many years in large companies. We see a proliferation of these software replicating human activity in customer services or e-commerce for example, in which they bring fast and important ROIs.

Acceleration of the monthly closing, automatic collection management, industrialization of controls, automation of bank reconciliations… there are many uses in the finance function. “Simple” input tasks are increasingly being replaced by algorithms.

For example, as part of its end-of-month reporting, a management controller will look for data on sales and production systems, financial systems and economic information sites. He then records all these elements in an Excel and reformats them to produce his report.

This search for information, the reformatting of the extracted data and the creation of the final report are all activities that can be robotised: in one click, the robot can generate the report instead of the management controller!

 

We are now seeing the evolution of the RPA towards cognitive intelligence, which encroaches on the basis of knowledge of a human being, particularly because of contextualization and the specific perception of things it is capable of.

As guardian of data, the finance function is in the front line of this ongoing technological revolution.

Arrival of a second generation of tools

Lessons have been drawn from the deployment of a first generation of tools claiming Artificial Intelligence (IT infrastructure to review, heterogeneous maturity processes, lack of internal talent, impact on human capital, budget to clarify …), to prepare the arrival of the second generation.

The next stage of this revolution has already begun. With the Machine Learning approach, robots “learn” as they go along (using Big Data in particular), and are able to make cash forecasts or intelligent reports. The possibilities seem endless.

But with existing solutions, it is still a little early to scrape humans. The tools that have already appeared, are more like super-assistants who support time-consuming tasks or interact with the ERP.

RPA remains a system driven by the operational and not the reverse. The field of action of “cognitive” tools or intelligent robots remains to be established. These tools can come out of projections according to pre-established scenarios, but they are still struggling to grasp a change of context, or a specificity in a process. We are still far from the droid that would eclipse the accounting teams.

Chapter 2 to come in a few days on the implementation of RPPs in companies.

 

To learn more about the ongoing transformations in the finance function and the changes impacting your business, do not hesitate to contact us to discuss your projects! julien.reillac@in2.fr