Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services - How RPA applies to Finance, HR and Procurement

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What is RPA?

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the application of technology that enables computer software or a “bot” to perform processes in areas such as Finance, Procurement and HR, emulating human behaviour.

The “bot” is able to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. Down to its simplest form, this would mean that when a “bot” has finished working on a file, it could email it to a human with a note saying what tasks it has performed and what follow up tasks are required. Bots therefore become part of the team.

RPA sits alongside existing IT infrastructure. It does not require a heavy IT investment or additional infrastructure, in fact, it can even be desktop based.

Fast Facts

  • RPA employs a variety of tools for grabbing digital data, which can include screen scraping, digital image recognition, or the ability to access a server or be linked to a website.
  • It makes use of rule engines similar to those found in business process management tools.
  • It is considered a virtual workforce controlled by the business operation teams.
  • RPA does not disturb underlying computer systems.

A “bot”accesses the existing systems and programs in the same way a person would.

  • It provides an on-demand solution and removes backlogs, provides a no added cost scalable solution and requires less investment and ongoing management than outsourcing.

Robotic process automation is:

  • Configurations that automate manual, repeatable tasks
  • Algorithms that solve specific problems
  • Software ‘robots’ that plug into, and access, existing business software
  • Workflow enabled end to end interaction that includes follow ups?

Robotic process automation is not:

  • A humanoid robot
  • Something that can entirely replace humans
  • Something that replicates human cognitive functions... yet
  • Purely just another cost play

How do I apply RPA to business services functions such as Finance, Procurement and HR?

RPA Solutions can be applied to a multitude of cross functional processes across any industry. Within the Finance function, RPA has successfully been implemented to manage Procure to Pay and Order to Cash processes (e.g. AP, T&E, Cash Allocations, Management and External Reporting, Accounting/Close). As the maturity of RPA evolves it can start to be applied to solve queries and undertake analytics.

What can it do?

What enablers does it need?

  • Automate activities in Finance, Procurement, and HR
  • Read contracts and apply contract terms
  • Continuously check if transactions are still ‘in compliance’
  • Send and receive messages
  • Compare records or tables across multiple applications
  • ‘Learn’ how to respond to events or occurrences
  • Apply cash and net intercompany transactions and payments
  • Training
  • Electronic documents
  • Structured Data
  • Rules-based processes
  • Reprogramming when circumstances change
  • User access rights across applications
  • Programming on how to deal with events or occurrences
  • Re-design of processes to efficiently apply the ‘bot’

What benefits can it bring?

Cost comparison

Realised benefits of


RPA can quickly deliver benefits such as ROIs of between 300-800%

Typical CFO/Finance Controller Questions

I am already with a BPO, what does this mean for our relationship with them?

BPOs are familiar with RPA and it is worth while discussing how those benefits can be realised. Many BPO contract include gain share provisions which will enable the sharing of RPA benefits. When renegotiating contracts make sure RPA is included.

How much time and effort will it take to implement RPA?

Typically a proof of concept RPA project will take 4-6 weeks to build and implement.

How much IT involvement will RPA implementation require?

It is important that IT is fully across the implementation of RPA, however the level of IT involvement does not need to be high. RPA should be business led, with IT support.

Will I require retained headcount to manage the bots and other activities?

RPA will not fully replace all human roles. The aim of RPA is to free up time for staff to focus on higher value tasks. Resources in the form of a virtual control room would also be required to make adjustments to the bot as required.

Have many other companies are already implemented RPA?

While RPA is relatively immature across higher value processes, many companies across industries have already implemented RPA across core Finance processes (e.g. Accounts payable, Cash application). Apply cash, Net intercompany transactions and payments.

Where has it been done before?

So the question is not

IF, but WHEN the new

era of automation will

have full impact on your organisation

Download full article HERE

Paul Jasniach, PwC Director