In finance and accounting, think procure-to-pay, order-to-cash, and record-to-report processes. Enterprise-wide, the number of potential use cases seems almost limitless, although most of the potential is so far untapped.
Collectively, these technologies are referred to as “robotic process automation” (RPA), although they aren’t enabled by electromechanical machines that have arms and legs. They are virtual robots; in other words, software that is programmed to mimic the keystrokes humans make in completing a process.
What distinguishes the robots is that “they can work 24/7, they are very accurate, they do exactly what you tell them to do, and they don’t complain,” says David Wright, Deloitte’s finance robotic process lead in the United Kingdom. In other words, they don’t have human flaws.
While RPA is largely based on technological capabilities that have been around for some time (like screen scraping, work flow, and rules engines), it didn’t begin penetrating companies in a significant way until recently. “This has really started to accelerate just in the past 18 months,” says Cliff Justice, principal, innovative and enterprise solutions, for KPMG. “But it’s already in at least the pilot stage in maybe half of the Fortune 500 companies.”
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