“Every once in a while, a new technology, an old problem, and a big idea turn into an innovation.”
— Inventor Dean Kamen
A 2020 survey found that robotic process automation (RPA) and business process platforms are the top two technologies organizations are looking to deploy in 2021. According to Gartner, organizations are implementing RPA solutions to improve process quality, speed, and productivity. They need solutions that can improve their bottom line after a year of disruptions. Gartner’s research vice-president Fabrizio Biscotti suggests that “Enterprises can quickly make headway on their digital optimization initiatives by investing in RPA software, and the trend isn’t going away anytime soon.” So, how can accounting firms of all sizes benefit from the deployment of RPA accounting solutions?
Robotic process automation is a software solution for automating specific types of repetitive and rule-based human activities, making it possible for accounting staff to devote more time to serving clients and other higher-value work. For example, part of the onboarding process for new business clients is a form requesting details about the business. The form can be completed online or in hard copy. The information is then given to the clerical staff to input into the client database.
If the data is entered online, it still requires transfer from the client-facing system to the database. If the data is in hardcopy, it must be scanned or manually entered and then added to the database. Whether the data comes from online or a scanned copy, it has to be manipulated to comply with the database structure. An RPA solution could ingest data from the online form and the scanned copy. The solution could then place the information in the appropriate fields in the database. Simple, streamlined, and secure.
This example illustrates how RPA can:
Whether it is automating accounts payable and receivable or helping with company audits, RPA solutions can provide the competitive edge to ensure success.
The client onboarding example illustrated how RPA could lower labor costs by replacing manual labor with technology. But, RPA can also improve customer service. Happy employees make happy customers. A Harvard Business Review study found that a 1% increase in employee satisfaction increased the company’s stock value by 4.6%. Another study found that employees are happiest when they are contributing to a company’s growth.
Customer service has become the differentiator as more clients place the importance of service above the product. That means clients are looking first at their experiences with your firm before they look at your technical expertise. Their assumption is they can find a firm with the expertise, but they may not be able to find one with the service they expect.
Some employees never seem to get their billable hours together without a little prodding. They seem to forget that prompt submission of billable hours means prompt invoicing for services rendered. Staff in receivables may send emails, or payroll may make calls, but that takes time away from what they should be doing. With an RPA solution, reminders can be sent to all employees or just the delinquent ones without taking up other employees’ time.
Time is a finite asset. No firm has more than 24 hours in a day. It is how time is used that gives one firm the competitive edge. How much of your employees’ time is being spent on mundane tasks with little to no return on investment?
Suppose a potential client needs an enterprise-wide audit performed in less than 30 days, but given the size of the company, that’s going to take an unbelievable amount of time to collect the data and analyze it. There simply aren’t enough resources at your firm to meet their needs. You will have to forego the opportunity.
By implementing RPA solutions, firms can free staff for higher-value work. Instead of processing onboarding paperwork, they can pivot their time to address a new opportunity without sacrificing the quality of customer service. In assessing the value of automated solutions, firms need to look at the opportunity costs of not implementing a solution. If employees are burdened with necessary but routine tasks, they are unavailable for more meaningful work. When opportunities arise, firms may not be able to take advantage because they lack the resources to perform the work.
Knowing where and how to deploy RPA solutions are critical to a successful implementation. Involving the entire firm is crucial to successful implementation; however, that process can take time. But, McKinsey found that 65% of companies with a successful RPA deployment involved the entire organization.
If your firm has been considering automating business processes but has been procrastinating because of recent disruptions, reach out. Our consultants specialize in successfully taking firms like yours through the process. Within a few short months, your firm could be on its way to its digital transformation.
Murray consults with clients to create digital solutions that align with their vision, markets, customers and products. Prior to OZ, Murray co-founded Biztegra, a digital marketing, engagement and technology agency.
He also held senior positions at some of the world’s largest digital agencies, including Razorfish and Sapient, and began his career at what is now Accenture. An IASSC Certified Lean Six Sigma Yellow Belt™, Murray earned his B.S./B.A. in computer science and finance from the University of Florida.
OZ is a consulting and technology solutions leader focused on increasing customer engagement & operational excellence by leveraging Intelligent Automation.