Finance & Accounting Transformation: From Bots to Intelligent Automation

Robotics Process Automation (RPA) solutions are increasingly associated with transforming business process operations as companies evolve and become more digital. In the simplest terms, this technology automates business processes by inserting “bots” to perform defined tasks. It enables businesses to realign resources, focusing on their customers and strategic initiatives. Regardless of industry, to survive, all businesses need to master automation. But it isn’t just about bots; it needs to include other rapidly evolving technologies, including intelligent automation, to provide actionable business insights.

Industry thought leaders describe this new digital transformation age as the fourth industrial revolution. It is fundamentally altering the way companies, individuals and governments operate to create a seamless customer journey.  For F&A specifically, a successful digital enterprise now requires seamless connection between the front and back office to optimize business operations and provide next best action.

From the workforce perspective, this allows the bots to take on more complex tasks. However, contrary to the common misconception, they are not the threat that most people perceive, with RPA becoming a “Really Practical Assistant” and a superior form of support. Instead of replacing or eliminating roles, it is more about redefining and upskilling. This will require companies to reassess critical skills, including financial, analytical, technical and business acumen combined with the desire to continue to learn and grow. Additionally, companies need to ask themselves some hard questions to address these inevitable changes in business functions, such as: Does my organization structure need to change?  Can the team take on the redefined role?

As an early adopter of automation, the F&A function has been at the forefront of this digital transformation, which has had an unprecedented impact on transforming business operations. A key learning is that RPA is only a component of the digital journey.  Intelligent automation in F&A is surely here to stay, and now is the time to take full advantage of its powerful and far-reaching benefits.

This new paradigm creates the catalysts for the evolution of NextGen F&A.  It is defined as automating and optimizing operations in support of the digital enterprise, creating a more productive physical and digital workforce. What sets leaders in this space apart is the intelligent and thoughtful application of these technologies across all functions.

Top three considerations for NextGen F&A:

1. Increased RPA adoption

Recent research states that most businesses are still in the pilot or early stages of RPA implementation. To date, the majority of projects have not achieved the expected business outcome; however, that is expected to change in 2019 as projects mature. RPA adoption will increase as more organizations create automation centers-of-excellence (COE) for developing, integrating and maintaining the bots. This improves control by centralizing what, where and how the technology is deployed.

2. Advancement of Artificial Intelligence

The excitement over AI will further intensify in 2019 give the explosion of data and the increased importance of data management. It is still behind RPA in terms of adoption but is projected to catch up over the next 12-18 months. AI capabilities have made notable advancements and when used in conjunction with RPA the business significantly increase.  The focus and conversation will shift from RPA to AI.

3. Embrace of evolving technologies

NextGen F&A catapults business operations in finance to the next level, taking advantage of existing and evolving technologies, including:

  • Digital Core: RPA, Dynamic Workflow, Mobility, Self Service, and Business Process Management
  • AI/Analytics: Big Data Analytics, Advanced Visualization, Data & Information Management, Predictive & Prescriptive Modeling
  • Cognitive AI: Machine learning, Neural Networking, Language AI and AI-powered Chatbot

Looking to the future, F&A transformations continue to evolve at an even faster pace as more advanced technologies (i.e., Quantum Computing, Distributed Ledger tools) gain market acceptance. It will be critical that finance organizations remain agile and keep pace with the ever-changing landscape.

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