Support Your Accountants and Finance Teams With Accounting Automation
Corporations are seeing more accountant shortages, and that’s leaving them vulnerable to auditing issues. Fewer people pursue accounting in favor of financial degrees, which take one less year of education and promise more interesting work.
Companies’ accounting positions sit open for longer while more of their existing accounting staff retire without replacements. In light of this, many smaller companies don’t bother filling the roles because they can’t justify the cost-benefit trade.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, these shortages may cause some companies to assign less experienced personnel to critical accounting tasks, leading to more ICFR shortcomings and financial reporting fraud. 1
CFOs and other business leaders clearly need to respond to these shortages by changing the nature of accounting. Adopting automation into accounting processes allows accountants to upskill and focus on strategy and career advancements while delegating repetitive and tedious tasks to digital workers. And, as security becomes more robust, they may introduce technologies such as generative AI for better decision-making.
What is Accounting Automation?
Since 2019, there has been a 17% drop in employed accountants and auditors. Intelligent automation (IA) is well suited to pick up the slack and turn the tide of the dwindling accounting force by making accounting work more focused and interesting. That’s why more firms are looking at how they can use intelligent automation & RPA for finance and accounting.
IA combines robotic process automation (RPA) with artificial intelligence (AI) to deploy a digital workforce that automates repetitive tasks, connects disparate accounting systems and streamlines accounting workflows. Changing Accounting Through Intelligent Automation
Since 2019, there has been a 17% drop in employed accountants and auditors. Intelligent automation (IA) is well suited to pick up the slack and turn the tide of the dwindling accounting force by making accounting work more focused and interesting.
What’s your goal for accounting automation?
When starting with finance automation, it’s important to set your business outcomes. What do you want to accomplish? There’s a lot to account for when implementing IA (pun intended).
IA helps to:
- Free accountants from manual tasks
- Deliver real-time predictive insights to leaders across departments
- Better manage the business
- Improve strategic decision-making
- Give accountants more fulfilling work
How Can Accounting Be Automated?
When adopting intelligent automation into your accounting processes, it’s important to know what your business wants to achieve, what infrastructure you’re working with and how you plan to scale your automation program once it’s implemented. Once you have a plan in place, start your automation journey with a quick win.
Identify automation opportunities
IA is ideal for accounting because of its many ‘quick win’ opportunities. Those are tasks that are low-value when performed by a human, follow a clear set of rules (such as extracting data and entering it into financial software), and are repetitive, making them error-prone.
Digital workers can sweep up these tasks and perform them quickly and accurately, relieving staff of the mundane work and empowering them to focus on higher-value initiatives.
Choose an accounting automation software
Select an automation tool that suits your organization’s needs, keeping in mind security, regulatory standards and user accessibility. Read our guide to finance automation to learn more about how it works and how you can implement it in your business processes.
Test and continuously monitor
To ensure your automated accounting workflows deliver consistently, set up a system where you continuously monitor your digital workers' performance. That way, you’ll catch any problems early on, and you can optimize and tweak the automations as you go.
There are five characteristics of early accounting automation candidates to look out for:
- A defined workflow
- High-volume and low complexity
- Uses multiple applications
- Cyclical or seasonal
- Uses structured, well-defined data
Intelligent Automation Use Cases in Finance and Accounting
Digital workers perform without breaks 24/7 to complete tasks accurately and quickly, making them perfect for boring, repetitive tasks. And by eliminating those tasks from your accountants, they’re able to dedicate more time to strategic decision-making.
We’ve broken down some specific IA and RPA use cases within finance and accounting where it can streamline your business processes.
There are many measurable benefits of back-office automation. Digital workers take over manual data entry processes by extracting information from structured and unstructured data sources, such as invoices or receipts, and automatically populating the information into the relevant automated accounting systems.
Fraud and compliance management
IA makes auditing easier by monitoring and recording tasks as they’re performed and flagging issues as they arise. Fraud detection automation is an end-to-end solution. Digital workers can analyze large volumes of financial information to search for inconsistencies, anomalies or potential fraud, ensuring regulatory compliance with tax requirements and financial reporting standards.
Accounts payable and accounts receivable
IA helps companies manage their cash flow. Digital workers can match purchase orders with invoices, validate payment terms, generate invoices, send payment reminders and process payments.
Tax preparation and reporting
IA automates financial data collection, tax calculations and generating tax forms while cross-checking tax compliance based on current tax regulations.
How Is Automation Changing Accounting?
Automation helps accounting firms save money, reduce human errors and allocate resources better. You will see the benefits of automated accounting by using a robust strategy that allows you to scale IA across your end-to-end business processes.
- Reduces errors
- Saves time and resources
- Connects accounting systems
- Creates more efficient accounts processing
- Improves auditability
- Generates reporting and insights in real time
- Mitigates fraud and risk
- Offers strategic focus for employees
How Does Generative AI Fit In?
Generative AI still has some work to do in security and regulatory compliance before it can be widely distributed across accounting processes. However, the technology is progressing, so it’s good to at least consider its potential.
Gen AI is a branch of AI that generates new and original content based on its training dataset. It uses algorithms and models to generate images, text, music, code and so on. Let’s look at a few places where gen AI might help accounting firms improve operational efficiency and customer experience.
One of the top ways we’ll likely see gen AI improving the client experience is through natural language processing (NLP) chatbots and virtual assistants. These AI-powered pals can handle customer inquiries, provide real-time support, suggest personalized product and service offerings, and even offer self-service options.
By helping manage client relationships, gen AI can free accountants and other staff to focus on exceptions and more complex work, while also improving response times and reducing costs.
Gen AI can help accounting professionals mitigate risks in their financial data by ensuring they maintain compliance, and flagging any issues or anomalies based on patterns of normal behavior. It may also monitor transactions in real-time to identify fraudulent activities as they happen.
Gen AI takes fraud detection a step further by monitoring behaviors through transactional history, spending patterns, etc., to detect sudden or suspicious changes.
As the technology evolves, gen AI will be seen in more day-to-day practical uses. Already we’re seeing it used by huge tech companies such as Microsoft and Adobe, and these uses will trickle down to accounting tasks as more organizations embrace it.
Remember the risks
There’s still a lot to be learned about generative AI. Any organization interested in utilizing it should consider these risks and implement strategies and safeguards to protect their data. Learn more about generative AI use cases and risks to ensure you’re prepared.
Will Accountants Be Replaced By Automations?
It’s not surprising some people in your finance and accounting teams are hesitant about emerging technologies like gen AI or intelligent automation taking over their jobs. In truth, machines, technology (heck, even agriculture), are constantly evolving – but not necessarily at the expense of people. These evolutions are a prime opportunity for people to upskill and hone their talents on higher-value, complex work.
IA isn’t a replacement for people. It augments work and removes repetitive tasks, acting as a digital colleague to ensure work is done more efficiently and with fewer human errors.
Set Your Strategy
To combat the accountant shortages leaving corporations vulnerable to auditing issues, CFOs and other business leaders should consider how intelligent automation can help them achieve their business goals and attract and retain the right employees.
Good IA deployment requires a goal and a strategy. Look for good first candidates for your accounting automations and implement those first, scaling as your need grows and streamlining end-to-end processes.
By implementing IA, companies can improve strategic decision-making, deliver real-time predictive insights and better manage their business. And while generative AI shows the potential in improving operational efficiency and customer experience, it’s important to consider security and regulatory compliance before introducing widespread adoption.
Learn more about intelligent automation in accounting by talking to one of our SS&C Blue Prism experts.