CFOs and their teams are tasked with achieving aggressive business goals to help their organization increase competitiveness, boost revenue generation and maintain high levels of customer satisfaction. But with increasing industry compliance regulations in the finance sector and a quickly developing world of technology, how can they keep up?
Intelligent automation (IA) has the potential to automate work previously performed by humans while maintaining strict security standards in finance and accounting (F&A). This technology has become increasingly popular in finance and accounting processes due to its ability to streamline financial processes and improve accuracy.
In this piece, we’re exploring the business functions of digital workers, along with modern applications for using intelligent automation to further your business goals.
What is intelligent automation?
IA is a scalable, cognitive automation technology combining the power of robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML) and artificial intelligence (AI) among others to automate business processes, increase efficiency and drive revenue growth.
What is RPA?
Robotic process automation (RPA) deploys software robots to automate manual tasks. They are the action or ‘doing’ part of the larger encompassing intelligent automation digital workforce.
What are digital workers?
Digital workers are the software robots deployed within IA, designed with decision-making capabilities to mimic human actions. They can be programmed and trained to perform work, from specific tasks to entire processes. Those processes can be well-defined, simple and repetitive, or complex, non-routine and unstructured.
Is it secret? Is it safe?
While a lot of F&A organizations are now looking at intelligent automation for their finance functions, not everyone knows just what it can do to drive value. Some organizations bring RPA in to automate a few repetitive, high-volume tasks and leave it there. But with advances in AI and machine learning, intelligent automation has massive potential across the board.
IA can scale across operations to unify your workforce. And you can do it with business process management (BPM), which gives you an overview of all your automated processes and creates management reports to give you insights into how your digital workers are performing.
Okay, but is it safe?
SS&C Blue Prism works diligently to ensure our intelligent automation program has the highest security and compliance measures. Our intelligent digital workforce secures your data integrity and process auditability, which we’ll dive into more in our ‘benefits’ section.
Where to Deploy Your Automation
You can always start small and scale quickly in your automation journey. Start with finding the ‘quick wins’ ripe for automation. Those are simple, rules-based tasks without obvious bottlenecks or siloes, such as automating the order-to-cash process
Once you’ve achieved these short-term values, you can look at those broader finance and accounting practices with re-engineering potential.
Characteristics of early IA or RPA candidates
You’re probably wondering where you can start your first wave of automation. As we’ve said, it’s best to start with the simple, guaranteed processes. Those are the ones with:
- A defined workflow
- High-volume and low complexity
- Multiple applications in use
- Cyclical or periodic timelines
- Structured data
As your automation practice matures, the characteristics of ideal candidates will expand to include processes involving decision-making, unstructured or semi-structured data, poorly defined with multiple variations and so on.
How Can IA and RPA Be Used in Finance & Accounting?
Intelligent automation can be used in finance and accounting to streamline processes, reduce errors and increase efficiency. We’ve identified some of the ways IA can help a typical F&A department, but this isn’t all it can do. You and your team should use these use cases as guidelines while you continually look for other ways to expand your automation efforts.
IA and RPA Use Cases in Finance & Accounting:
- Invoice Automation
- Accounts Payable Automation
- Accounts Receivable Automation
- Finance Reporting
- Payroll Automation
- Purchase Order Automation
- Trends Predictions
Invoices are an extremely time-consuming and data-heavy task for your back-office staff, and often arrive in unstructured data formats. This puts invoicing processes at risk for human errors and delays.
With IA, digital workers make invoice generation easier. They extract key data from invoices such as vendor name, invoice number, date, amount and line items, and enter it into accounting software or ERP systems with high accuracy and speed. Digital workers can also match invoices with purchase orders and receipts, check for errors and discrepancies, route invoices for approvals and generate expense reports.
Using intelligent data capture tools such as intelligent document processing (IDP), as is available with SS&C | Blue Prism® Decipher IDP, you can utilize optical character recognition (OCR) and AI combined to accurately extract information from complex documents and enter them into the appropriate system.
By streamlining invoice processing with intelligent automation, organizations can reduce errors and improve cost savings, cycle time and compliance.
Accounts payable and receivable processing
Processing accounts quickly and reliably is essential to an organization’s long-term success. Slow or error-prone processes make your customers lose confidence in your business and can raise a lot of compliance issues.
Luckily, while accounts payable and accounts receivable processes tend to be time-consuming, they’re also structured – making them a perfect candidate for intelligent automation.
Digital workers can automate processing payments, invoice creation, transmission and tracking to increase auditability and reduce late payments. Digital workers can also distribute incoming invoices automatically to the appropriate recipient and schedule reminders to avoid late or forgotten payments.
Decision-makers need access to accurate and timely information to do their job effectively. As the market evolves, demand increases for finance departments to provide more updated or even real-time financial reports, which can be difficult to accomplish when manually tracking down data and producing reports.
Digital workers can help with financial reporting by automating the process of data collection, analysis and report generation. This can reduce the risk of errors and improve the accuracy of financial documents, as well as save time and resources.
Your digital workers can also help ensure adherence to compliance measures by verifying details with the industry regulations and standards.
The accuracy and timeliness of payroll plays a huge role in employee satisfaction. That makes this work extremely critical – and ensuring it’s done right the first time is a long manual process for your human resources (HR) people.
Intelligent digital workers can automate time-consuming and repetitive payroll functions such as manual data entry, data migration and reconciliation to increase efficiency. Your digital workers can automatically generate pay slips and payroll submissions, calculate deductions and track employee hours. This leaves HR and payroll teams with more time to focus on higher-value tasks such as employee engagement and talent management.
IA also ensures compliance with regulatory requirements, such as tax filing, compliance reports and tax and labor laws, while reducing the risk of errors or penalties. Overall, digital workers automate repetitive tasks alongside your HR staff to free up valuable time and resources.
Along with managing accounts payable, your finance department might also advise or govern the procurement process, including purchasing decisions. If that’s the case, there’s often friction and delays in these manual processes, even when spending and budgeting are approved.
A digital worker can help with purchase orders by automating the process of data entry, approval workflows and sending notifications. It reduces the manual effort required for processing purchase orders while ensuring accuracy and timeliness.
Implementing an intelligent digital workforce can also allow for better tracking and reporting of purchase orders, which can help businesses make informed decisions about procurement. By streamlining the purchase order process, IA improves efficiency and productivity while freeing up the time of the employees who would previously have been responsible for these tasks.
Financial statements and data need to be correctly entered and maintained for your experts to make financial forecasts. But with manual processing, there’s always a question of accuracy when collecting and keying in data from multiple sources.
The use of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can assist in analyzing and predicting financial trends. This automation allows finance professionals to spend less time on manual tasks and more time on strategic decision-making. It also enhances accuracy and reduces the risk of human error, improving the overall quality of financial information.
Benefits of IA and RPA in Finance and Accounting
There’s a lot intelligent automation can do for finance and accounting departments. Namely, accuracy, compliance, speed of productivity and enabling higher-value work to get done.
With SS&C Blue Prism intelligent automation, accounting and finance teams gain the power to focus on strategic business planning while delegating time-consuming tasks to digital workers. We’ll focus on three key benefits of introducing a digital workforce into your F&A systems.
IA supports finance and accounting professionals by automating those manual processes that leave room for inconsistent and error-prone data. With IA, you can delegate manual tasks across disparate systems and data sets to digital workers. The result is greater data integrity and consistent processes, while teams focus more of their skills on analytical work, strategic financial planning and other high-value goals.
IA provides secure data storage and access to protect sensitive information from unauthorized access, breaches or loss. This improves the quality and reliability of data, enables faster decision-making and reduces operational risks and costs associated with poor data quality.
One of the biggest advantages of a digital workforce is that it can significantly increase efficiency and productivity. By automating repetitive and time-consuming tasks such as data entry, journal entries, customer onboarding, invoice processing and account reconciliation, digital workers can free up time for employees to focus on higher-value tasks. This can lead to an increase in productivity and efficiency, as well as a reduction in the time it takes to complete tasks.
Enabling teams to function at the top of their skill sets is critical to achieving long-term, sustained success. With the continuous pressures to remain competitive in ever-changing market environments, IA opens the door to expanding the potential of processes, systems and teams on one unified platform that is scalable and secure.
As your organization scales its digital transformation, teams can accomplish more with less effort while minimizing the impact on existing systems and operations. The SS&C | Blue Prism® Robotic Operating Model (ROM) provides the framework to integrate intelligent automation with your existing workforce and systems, ensuring integration speed to successfully launch, scale and manage your intelligent automation environment.
Proactive reporting and analysis
IA enables finance and accounting teams to exponentially increase the speed and consistency they need to access disparate systems and data to perform financial analysis and reporting.
Compliance is a critical aspect of finance and accounting operations. Failure to comply with regulations can result in hefty fines and damage to a company's reputation. By automating compliance checks, IA can enhance compliance and mitigate risks.
In addition, IA analyzes large data sets, identifies anomalies or patterns and extracts insights to support informed decision-making. This enables organizations to generate financial reports faster, accurately predict trends and allocate resources to maximize return on investment (ROI).
IA provides real-time monitoring and alerts stakeholders of any financial risks or opportunities, allowing for proactive management and execution of strategies.
Overall, intelligent automation empowers businesses to improve their financial performance by enabling accurate and informed decision-making.
The list of benefits goes on, and as you expand your automation maturity, you’ll find more accounting and finance applications for digital workers in your business processes. Here are some of the other ways you can improve your F&A department with automation:
- Increased employee satisfaction
- Improved customer service
- Higher cost savings
- Expanded scalability of processes
- Enhanced risk mitigation
- Better audit trails
- Optimized operations
Why Choose SS&C Blue Prism Intelligent Automation?
RPA and intelligent automation in accounting and finance is a game-changer. By automating repetitive and manual tasks, you can enhance efficiency, accuracy, compliance, risk mitigation, cost savings and employee satisfaction.
Companies that embrace this technology will have a significant competitive advantage in the market. The benefits of IA in F&A are vast, and it's time for businesses to start exploring those capabilities more.
With SS&C Blue Prism, you get intelligent automation that’s flexible with cloud or on-premises deployment options. You also get a scalable digital workforce using our automation framework, including the ROM and SS&C | Blue Prism® Process Intelligence (BPPI) for finding the right places to automate.
We’ll help you with third-party software integration and implementing desktop applications with pre-built, ready-to-use solutions across your organization with our team of experts here to support you on your automation journey.
Find out more about what SS&C Blue Prism can do for your F&A automation program.