Get started with Robotic Process Automation

– Why the expense management process is the perfect place to start!

Robot technology in various forms is currently a very hot topic. In other words, it concerns everything that relates to office robots, AI, Robotic Process Automation, software robots etc. The topic is also on the agenda of finance leaders, when it comes to the application of the technology within their field. Like other areas, the finance function can expect a period with rapid digital transformation over the coming years.

A McKinsey study points out, that nearly 60 % of the tasks and processes in a finance department can either be fully or almost fully automated. This can create great advantages for your business and if you’ve got the lead in a finance function, then you can’t afford to wait on getting started with this.

Software – and office robots – what do they do and where to start?

Terms like “digital transformation” and “robotics” can seem somewhat overwhelming and it can be hard to navigate the opportunities and figure out where to begin and end. That’s why I will give you a little guidance into an area, where you, with advantage, can start out.

Finance departments have traditionally always been very focused on efficiency and we have witnessed a longer period, where businesses have relocated tasks to external partners. However, we have reached a point, where it, for many organizations, can be hard to achieve further optimizations through outsourcing or salary arbitrage. Going forward, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) will play a role in the work to harvest further gains through process optimization.

You should consider RPA as a digital or virtual labor force. A labor force that can help you to achieve an extremely high level of automation, when it comes to repetitive or transactional based activities. And this type of labor force works hard, fast and doesn’t do errors. Put in another way, RPA covers a category of automation software, that can be set up to carry out specific tasks.

The important thing is also, that the technology has matured to a level, where employees in the finance department easily can be trained in handling the tools. This means that, it is no longer a matter of running a complicated IT job, when a specific task needs to be automated.

The best way for you to get going with robot-based labor is to look for the processes, where rule-based activities apply. It could for example be related to bookkeeping or control.

A super charged expense process

The expense management process, or put differently, the process around handling employee expenses, travel expenses, outlays, mileage and so on is the perfect place to start. Regarding the role of the finance department in this process, a quite comprehensive task around controlling expenses applies. You can, with great advantage, put a robot in place to handle most of this task. A maneuver, that will super charge your expense process and give you a taste of the potential within RPA.

If you want a robot to handle this operation, it is however, a prerequisite that you have your rules and policies regarding employee spend in place. When this is in place, you need to look for a solid piece of expense management software that comes with RPA functionality to automate the controlling tasks. If you already have a system in place, then you need to check whether this is capable of handling automation. Be advised, that not all vendors in the market support this.

The fact that this process is highly rule-based makes it a very good fit for starting out with RPA. Have fun with it!

Lars de Nully

CEO & Founder