A fundamental question over robots is: does the finance function need further transformation?

Some say the value added would only be marginal.

Other finance leaders question whether the implementation of robotics is the right course for continuous finance delivery transformation.  

While again others may say robots will not actually save money, after accounting for the increase in overheads for robotic maintenance.

The work of a robot

Robots should be good at rules-based, work-flow processes. Cross system processing, data consolidation and reporting, monthly accounts closure, build data updates are all good candidates. However, there are few tangible, live case studies specifically in the finance function.

But it is the context of the transaction that finance leaders are thinking about. Robots could be used:

  • to eliminate exceptions in a process by encouraging further standardisation
  • and for transactions that can be processed straight through.

What are the benefits?

Investment in RPA may have a payback of 6-12 months.

Virtual workers (robots) are allegedly 1/9th the cost of Business Process Outsourcing workers offshore.

Add in benefits such as faster speed of transaction and higher quality and the numbers could seem appealing.

But while finance leaders see robots in other processes, such as claims management, the business case in the finance function can only be imagined.

Robots at home

Robotics raises questions for offshoring and outsourcing.

If robots are easy to implement and self-service, comparable economics may persuade finance transformation leaders to eschew offshoring and outsourcing. Then transactional finance could move close to home manned by in-house engineers and exception managers. 

About Jamie Lyon lead author, ACCA