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3 in 4 finance departments to implement robotics by 2020: Gartner

3 in 4 finance departments to implement robotics by 2020: Gartner

Finance chiefs must explore areas of their business that can be quickly automated and standardise these processes as they go

The potential immediate benefits of RPA on current processes make this new approach worth implementing

Johanna Robinson, Gartner

Gartner says RPA is currently being used by just 19 per cent of controllers, but this number is expected to grow to 73 per cent by 2020.

It says this growth will be driven partly by essential differences between RPA and traditional finance IT systems.

Unlike traditional technologies, RPA allows finance leaders to automate a process, or parts of a process, much more quickly than traditional technology implementations, says Gartner.

RPA is capable of automating individual tasks or components within a process that make the overall process more efficient. This reduces the need for fully overhauling processes before the technology is introduced.

‘Standardise as you go’

“Standardise then automate” has been the mantra for finance departments as they adopt new technologies, says Gartner.

The traditional approach, while reducing the chances of project failure, often extends implementation times and limits the ability to reap early benefits.

When it comes to RPA, by contrast, Gartner recommends finance leaders explore the areas of their business that can be quickly automated and standardise these processes as they go.

This will allow a much speedier process for adoption of robotics within finance departments, the majority of which will implement RPA in some fashion by 2020, it states.

“While standardisation still matters in adopting RPA, the flexibility of the technology means finance leaders can implement automation much faster than previously assumed,” says Johanna Robinson, finance practice leader at Gartner. “Standardise-as-you-go requires a shift in mindset from finance leaders, but the potential immediate benefits of RPA on current processes make this new approach worth implementing.”

Short term and cumulative benefits

Beyond the attractive speed to implementation, Gartner says RPA offers finance departments several short-term benefits. These include:

Creating capacity from day one: Some parts of the process will be ready to automate today, and finance teams can start taking out manual hours from the process immediately and free up human capacity to address the more complex, hard-to-automate portions of the process.

Eliminating potential rework: During automation, teams build code using if/then logic, which helps identify underlying process inefficiencies and opportunities for standardisation. Teams that standardise first will still need to automate and may have to re-do some of all this work during the coding process.

Minimising disruption to the rest of the team: Process standardisation that requires people to change the way in which they work often requires significant change management and is subject to disruption and employee resistance. Standardising a process using robots instead of humans eliminates these challenges.

While short-term benefits are centred on employee engagement and avoided rework, additional benefits of RPA are accumulated over time, says Gartner.

These include a significant reshaping of the workforce, as full-time employees are redeployed from repetitive, manual tasks to higher-value tasks.

Additionally, as RPA implementations are increased within the organisation, more benefits will accrue from combining disparate programmes.

Unlike traditional technologies, RPA needs less ongoing upkeep, generates its own audit trail and as a result, minimises additional work around regulatory compliance processes, concludes Gartner.

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Tags strategyGartnerautomationCFOroboticsdisruptionleadership teamdigital disruptioncio and cfochief financial officerRPAartificial intelligencedigital transformationchief finance officerfinance team

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