Judging from a wave of business and tech articles, book and analysts reports at the beginning of 2018, the software robot invasion had begun—and no job was safe. Widely acclaimed mass market books like Homo Deus from futurists like Yuval Noah Hariri catalogued the jobs that would likely become extinct on our lifetime, thanks to artificial intelligence and robotic process automation.
Those proclamations have been met equally with fear, skepticism and finally, a renewed sense of what meaningful work entails, and how eliminating dull, mundane tasks like data entry does not represent an existential threat to mankind.
In fact, when you look at the most practical, actionable and common applications of software robots to human jobs, it’s the mundane stuff that is disappearing. Yes, jobs in finance within organizations have been declining, but it’s a trend that pre-dates the robots.
In reality, the great automation revolution that seems to be on our doorstep is a continued process automation evolution. Ironically, the latest stage in this process evolution does MORE to put power in the hands of workers than it does to take it away.
When I spoke to one veteran ERP VAR I know and explained what RPA was, his reaction was, “Oh, it’s like spreadsheet macros on steroids!”
That’s an very gross over-simplification, but in reality, the notion itself isn’t far off. Finance automation itself is NOT new. What IS new are solutions that rely on RPA and machine learning to automate high volume data- and document-intensive processes in a way that requires NO custom software coding, NO custom integrations and a minimal amount of IT time and attention.
Instead, the power is put into the hands of the practitioners.
Simply stated: rather than taking power and control OUT of the hands of workers, RPA empowers employees and reduces the burden on IT.
Do IT departments feel threatened by this next stage of automation evolution? Hardly. IT staff members don’t like mundane work anymore than the rest of us.
And it isn’t just that software robots are so SMART that there are now additional processes that can be automated. It’s their flexibility and reduced overhead that now allows companies to cost justify the effort required to eliminate waste through automation.
In the last, those inefficiencies were tolerated because the efficiency gains achieved through automation couldn’t justify the investment in upgrades, replacements or the effort required to integrate disparate systems.
But RPA changes all that, the potential to automate applications without the time and expense it used to require to implement and maintain integrations is HUGE.
With RPA, connecting automated systems is measured in hours or days. Implementation projects maintained in Microsoft Project across multiple months is a thing of the past (or should be in the newly evolved RPA world).
At the same time, the whole process of planning out an implementation is turned on its head. Because of machine learning, it is no longer necessary to painstakingly define processes and business rules to cover every variable and potential exception up front.
With RPA, process flexibility is the priority. Because businesses change and evolve, RPA tools have to adapt and evolve too. Which means that systems can be implemented with enough business logic to address the most common scenarios and then learn and adapt (either on their own or from human operator interaction) to address exceptions.
Why RPA for finance & accounting? Because so much of day to day financial operations involve high volume, repeatable processes where data and documents are involved. That translates into relatively quick implementations with ROI that can be measured in months.
Accounts payable processing and sales order processing often show up high on the hit list for RPA because they can quickly deliver on the promise of automation that goes beyond process efficiency, to help companies achieve better process visibility and control.
That can be a stepping stone to the kind of shift in perspective that leads companies to see ANY operation where process bottlenecks are getting in the way of business objectives as an intolerable obstacle to success.
To learn more about Robotic Process Automation and Artsyl’s docAlpha Transformation Platform and Action Suite of applications, visit Artsyl Technologies online