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Why you must understand the importance of robotics

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is here to stay. Clive Webb explains what it is and how it may affect you, and offers some top tips on how to get involved.

November 2018

The mention of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) often evokes images of great sophisticated robot-like machines assembling cars or computers, but the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. In fact, RPA is a software easily programmed by end users to perform high-volume, repeatable, rules-based tasks, and is garnering significant market attention as a good automation choice for finance functions.
A new report authored jointly by ACCA,
CA ANZ (Chartered Accountants Australia
and New Zealand) and KPMG – called ‘Embracing robotic automation during the
evolution of finance’ – explores the significant opportunities automation presents for the finance function. The
benefits of adopting RPA practices in
finance go beyond just cutting costs; it
also brings improved control, faster
processing speed and better data quality.
And it makes finance teams happier,
freeing up valuable resources from
mundane tasks.
With this in mind, here are 10 tips to
consider regarding RPA…

Invest in change management:

The introduction of robotics technology
into the finance function requires strong
change management skills to ensure
effective programme delivery and to
manage employee engagement. The
benefits of RPA must be continually
communicated throughout the process.

Engage employees through the journey:

It is vital to have employees engaged in
the process, so they can understand the
advantages RPA is expected to bring.
This ensures minimal resistance as the
organisation goes through the change
process.

Build RPA capabilities in finance team:

Ensuring the finance team understand
the technology guarantees less reliance
on the external parties or a small number
of experts within the organisation. This
minimises risk, places responsibility in
the hands of those that truly understand
the business process and is a strong
platform for wider adoption and scale-up.

Start small:

The opportunity to try, test and learn with
robotic software in relatively safe
environments, where risks are minimised
on smaller processes is important and a
key beneficial feature of the technology.

Get IT involved early:

Involvement of the IT function from the
outset helps secure buy-in for RPA
adoption and provides vital support,
particularly in terms of security,
programme management and robot
coding capabilities, as well as providing
on-going maintenance and ensuring
greater performance reliability and
analytical insight.

Get the governance model right:

A strong, centralised RPA governance
structure ensures the appropriate
supplier and licensing arrangements are
efficient, the ‘bots’ are appropriately
maintained, controlled, and performance
managed, utilisation is maximised through appropriate work scheduling and where processes change.

Choose processes carefully:

It is important to have a very clear understanding of the process and any
inherent complexities or characteristics
that exist before applying the software.
Organisations often initially go wrong by
being too ambitious with their RPA adoption plans on processes that are too
large.

Look to optimise process first:

The robots are not designed to fix bad
processes and will work better with
preconfigured processes where much of
the thinking has been done upfront. The
software is also likely to require some
process change to be applied effectively
and sustainably. Process optimisation is
likely to be a better solution than configuring a robot on a process which is
too elaborate.

Know where to stop with RPA:

RPA is rarely the solution to automating
100% of an end-to-end process, and
businesses are often faced with diminishing returns where they try to do so – for many processes trying to automate the final part may involve too many ‘path’ options or problematic exceptions.

Recognise when RPA is not right for you:

RPA is not the remedy to all automation
challenges. Sometimes replacing legacy
systems or building an API interface
using more traditional IT automation
protocols may be the better solution
longer term than applying a ‘bot’.

• Clive Webb is ACCA’s head of
business management

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