Robotic Process Automation Through the Eyes of An Accountant
I graduated as an accountant more than two decades ago. In that era, our days are filled with data entry, reconciliation and loads of spreadsheet work. We are anxious over deadlines like month-end, quarter-end, budget season, regulatory reporting etc. It means very long hours and a non reconciliation of even a tiny amount makes us spend hours investigating and want to tear our hair out. People calls us the “Bean Counter” for a good reason.
We dream of doing really powerful & insightful analysis that would help drive business decisions. However, we never ever find the time to do so. After all the exhausting numbers juggernaut, we are left with so little time for a proper analysis and the long duration of the whole process renders the analysis outdated for any effective decision making anyway.
Through the years, nothing much really changed. There was the Enterprise Resource Planning Software (ERP) which helps us move into the value chain mode of Procure-to-Pay (P2P) and Order-to-Cash (O2C) and data records are real time across the different phases of the value chain. This helps the business operates more effectively as the previously fragmented silos are finally showing one consistent set of data and moving in a synchronized way.
However, our days remains more or less the same at least 80% of it. We spend most of our time keying in data, extracting data for reporting into zillions of formats (I’m not joking ask any reporting accountant to verify this!). We still do loads of spreadsheet work often “making the data into the format” for uploads into systems, reporting (Yes, more reporting), comparison to budget/forecast or anything the management wants to compare to.
Then the technology world churns out something called the “Robotic Process Automation”. We though “Nay, that’s the physical C3P0 from Star Wars, don’t apply to us”. We dwell deeper than we realized “wow it can do our desktop tasks! All the very painful tasks that we really hate”. Yes hate is a very strong word, but any accountant who has been doing all these for a certain period (depending on individual tolerance level) will certainly pay attention to something revolutionary to take away the decades of daily pain.
The “Robotic Process Automation” aka software robots or digital colleagues walk into our lives. Good things come with effort, we work towards standardizing and automating our decade long painful tasks. We took this opportunity to clean up our full closet of reports and do away with needless tasks that no one even wants the output anyway! The essential tasks are cleaned nicely and automated on our digital colleagues.
During this time, some of us starts to feel fearful. We think that these digital colleagues are coming to take away out jobs and we would be jobless soon. Some how through the years have we accepted our fate is to key data, do major data manipulations on spreadsheets? We are under rating our profession – The Accountant. We recall the day when we graduated from accountancy school, we dream of becoming effective finance partners to give great insights to the numbers. When we recall the dreams that we long forgotten, it brings a smile on our face.
The time is now! We get the chance to invent our future when we take the robot out of us and free us from the mundane tasks to finally be that effective finance partner to the business.
This article is originally published on LinkedIn