The finance industry is rife with futuristic-sounding buzzwords – Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, Natural Language Processing, and Robotic Process Automation. But what’s the significance of these advancements and what do they mean for the Office of Finance?
In this blog, we will examine Robotic Process Automation and its implications for the finance industry. Gartner defines Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as:
Robotic process automation (RPA), sometimes called smart automation or intelligent automation, refers to advanced technologies that can be programmed to perform a series of tasks that previously required human intervention. It’s faster, cheaper and scalable, and commonly used for things like reporting, accounts payable, customer feedback capture and sales quote preparation.
In simpler terms, RPA “automates repetitive, rules-based processes usually performed by people sitting in front of computers.” There any many benefits of RPA including “reducing costs, lowering error rates, improving service, reducing turnaround time, increasing the scalability of operations, and improving compliance.”
Robotic Process Automation has the potential to radically alter the day-to-day lives of financial analysts. By reducing the time spent on manual data-entry and analysis, financial analysts are better poised to detect anomalies, answer questions, and provide guidance to the organization’s executive leadership. As a result, many CPM vendors are currently scrambling to understand how they can effectively incorporate RPA into their applications.
At Prophix, we’re proud to say we’ve been using RPA for years. In our ongoing effort to reduce the fatigue faced by finance professionals, we’ve developed numerous features that can automate repetitive daily, weekly, monthly, and annual tasks.
To further highlight the benefits of automating your core financial processes, we’ll look at several RPA use cases and how Prophix can help you achieve your goals.
Our Workflow functionality is not just about data approval and flow in Prophix. Your Office of Finance can automate other tasks using Workflow. As an example, let’s look at the month-end close process that is a standard in many organizations.
Within your Workflow application, you can automate the import of exchange rates, general ledger (G/L) data from multiple sources, and intercompany transaction information. Once this data is imported into Prophix, the process to convert the currency, prepare intercompany elimination journals and calculate critical KPIs can begin. The best part? All these processes can be automated and run overnight so that you can focus on data analysis when you return to the office.
When you return to the office in the morning and begin looking closely at your Prophix dashboard, which displays a collection of KPIs, you notice an anomaly that warrants further investigation. Upon taking a closer look, you discover that one of the subsidiaries posted an intercompany transaction to the wrong company, which needs to be corrected to the source G/L.
However, there is no need to wait for an overnight process – costing you 24 hours of productivity. Your finance team can start the overnight process manually using Prophix’s simple interface. You’re also not required to run a full import; your finance team can select the specific G/L and only pull in the desired data. This can all be achieved using Prophix’s “Automation Center” with RPA functionality at its core.
Report Creation & Distribution
Like month-end close, preparing reports for meetings and distribution can be a repetitive and painful task. Using Prophix’s Report Binder and RPA, this process can be automated. These reports will take user access settings into consideration when they are generated, maintaining your company security permissions.
Using RPA, a simple income statement created in Prophix can be repurposed across multiple departments and entities. And when viewed, the statement will only show a user the departments or entities they have access to.
Prophix allows you to combine multiple reports in a binder that can be sent to individual users or groups in a PDF format. Your finance team will no longer have to waste time collating and distributing hard copies of reports. Again, the Prophix “Automation Center” has significant benefits for the Office of Finance.
Forecasting & Planning
Another feature of our “Automation Centre” is the ability to generate data for forecasting and planning. Leveraging Prophix’s “Infoflex” tool, you can easily pre-populate your upcoming budget with values based on your overall corporate guidelines. This will give your budget contributors a head-start on their annual data entry tasks.
With a few simple clicks, you can populate next year’s budget using a combination of prior actual data and forecasted values. You also have the option of applying a 5% increase to revenue, decreasing labor costs by a specific product, or applying generic 2% decrease to all operating expenses. This newly calculated data can then be used as the starting point for your budget, making the lives of your end-users much easier.
Robotic process automation has the power to transform the day-to-day lives of financial analysts. By eliminating the need for manual data entry and validation, finance professionals can focus on identifying trends, spotting anomalies, and making strategic decisions.
While RPA in CPM is nothing new for Prophix, we continue to invest in research and development to bring the best technologies to finance teams around the world, making them more efficient and effective in their roles.