RPA and Finance: an Old Vision Meets a New Technology Approaches

“Robots are taking over finance departments!” reads a breathless headline from a typical article about Robotic Process Automation (RPA).

March 13, 2018

“Robots are taking over finance departments!” reads a breathless headline from a typical article about Robotic Process Automation (RPA). It sounds like a revolution. It sounds scary. Or, it just sounds like fiction.

Often, however, reading into the details of what is often described as RPA just sounds like more traditional systems integration and process automation - with the same essential value proposition.

In reality, rather than a revolution, finance automation has continued to evolve and produce new efficiency gains and cost reductions for years. New innovations in artificial intelligence and RPA are simply increasing the momentum of a ongoing, evolutionary process.

One example: a report from the Hackett Group which states that, “Since 2004, the median number of full-time employees in the finance department at big companies has declined 40% to about 71 people for every $1 billion of revenue, down from 119.” Those reductions have come from productivity gains achieved through digitization and automation, which will likely continue.

The GOOD news is that new levels of automation won’t just replace human jobs. It will transform them and create better jobs with more opportunities for humans to apply their knowledge and skills, rather than pushing paper.

Automation isn’t New; Flexibility Is

While financial & accounting automation may not be new, robotic process automation IS new - but not for the reasons typically cited. RPA is big news NOT because it automates repetitive data-intensive transactional processes, but because it extends automated functionality to processes, systems and data that could only be reached through inflexible, customized integration that has been historically costly and required ongoing maintenance.

It’s no surprise that there are an astonishingly large numbers of inefficient processes within organizations based on outdated or outgrown systems. Often, those inefficiencies are tolerated because, individually, those processes don’t achieve enough efficiency through automation to justify the investment in upgrades, replacement or system integration projects that were required historically. In the aggregate, however, those inefficiencies within each department and each process can amount to a lot of costly overhead and a lot of potential risk due to potential errors or lack of visibility/control.

RPA matters today because the potential to automate internal or external applications on several layers - database, file system, API, business logic and user interface – without the time and expense of full system integration is HUGE.

A Learning Opportunity for People AND Systems

Linking automated systems takes hours or days using RPA, compared to months relying on traditional system integration. This isn’t just a matter of the up-front investment of time and money to create integrations and automate processes.

It ALSO means that process automation no longer functions like a moon shot, where your process needs to be meticulously defined and agreed upon before undertaking the necessary integration. With RPA, processes can remain fluid and flexible. There is far more room for change and adaptation - which is essential, because business process automation initiatives, no matter how well planned and executed, are always a learning experience.

Benefits of RPA for Finance

Finance & accounting is an attractive target for RPA utilization because these processes have attributes that lend themselves to the technology. For example:

  • Accuracy: Robotic software can intelligently extract data from documents and unstructured data sources, with additional system validation, resulting in greater accuracy and fewer errors. Rules-driven process steps driven by that data are not overlooked; numbers aren’t transposed and “bad days” don’t happen.

  • Elevated Service Levels: RPA is capable of executing high volume, complex tasks within transaction times impossible for human staff.

  • Fraud Control: Whereas any process, run by people, that touches multiple systems must sacrifice efficiency for role limitations and controls. Robotic software invariably executes a process as configured – without deviations or risk of fraudulent actions or inappropriate data use.

  • Compliance-Friendly: As the software robot completes workflow processes it creates audit trails and logs as needed for regulatory compliance.

  • Scalable: Software robots can be cloned and deployed within minutes– or removed – as needed. This highly flexible scalability allows for easy accommodation of work peaks and valleys (e.g. end of month, quarter and year activity levels).

To learn more about Robotic Process Automation and Artsyl’s Digital Transformation Platform for Accounts Payable and other processes, visit Artsyl Technologies online at