RPA, or robotic process automation, in recent years, has become somewhat of a synonym to the automation software category. Its application in finance, though, is restricted to the rules-based, consistent, and template-driven tasks, which are recurring and foreseeable.
But how do we go beyond automating isolated tasks to automating entire processes? How do we address the automation of highly manual ad-hoc and non-linear activities, which are at the core of the financial close process and more broadly speaking record-to-report (R2R) area?
“Substantial effort related to the R2R process focuses on recording data, correcting errors, reconciling accounts, and performing month-end closing tasks to provide accurate and timely financial reporting. Supporting business with faster and better insights based on accurate financial reporting is the modern-day challenge of the finance function. Overcoming it with automation while keeping function costs down is what we do for our customers,” says Clive Jefferies, product manager at Aico.
A HOLISTIC VISION OF FINANCE AUTOMATION
For an enterprise-level organisation, the core problem of improving finance function efficiency is beyond simply automating a set of specific tasks. The reality is far more complex and cannot be significantly enhanced without addressing the entire processes.
In a holistic vision of finance automation, one action should impact the entire process in one seamless workflow. For example, in R2R, it would mean the ability to:
- Automatically link closing tasks and related journal entries.
- Automatically create new journals directly from closing tasks.
- Reconcile accounts by linking them back to the journals, which have related supporting evidence and approvals.
- Follow and optimise R2R activities in real-time from a dashboard on an individual, team, legal entity or whole group level.
- Validate journal data in real-time and make postings directly to General Ledger within seconds.
From an IT point of view, all of this efficiency comes down to the size of your company’s system architecture, in other words, how many different systems your company uses for R2R management. Fewer tools with live inter-connectivity is the ultimate goal here from an IT perspective.
YOUR ORGANISATION DNA AT THE CORE OF AUTOMATION SOLUTION
A lot of variables like your unique organisational processes, local tax regulations and currencies, your group company network and ERP systems, are directly going to affect how you choose to automate and optimise your finance function. It is therefore critical that the automation solution you choose supports your unique finance function DNA.
But perhaps the single most crucial ability is to have real-time access to your ERP system master data to support you at every step of the process. For example, a live connection to your ERP systems allows you to make adjustments or fix errors instantly from one financial close platform user interface.