Why Treasury needs Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
For the treasury area, the use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) offers numerous advantages in times of digitalization.
As corporations try to meet the demands of an accelerating and increasingly connected world, they are facing the challenge to incorporate the new global mindset in their internal operations as well. Where loosely connected systems and individual solutions for complex problems were sufficient years ago, customers, as well as employees, are calling for smarter, faster and more agile solutions for their specific problems nowadays. Especially in Treasury, repetitive processes that have to be administered manually do not seem to serve the Treasurer well anymore.
How can the new requirements of digitalisation be met in treasury?
When aiming at increased speed and accuracy of processes, what comes to mind instantly is the use of Robotics and Artificial Intelligence. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to robots that are able to automate highly repetitive and work-intensive processes in order to minimize human action. While so-called “attended bots” still depend on human interaction, “unattended bots” can operate in the background without further surveillance. The main difference to Artificial Intelligence is that RPA is not able to mimic human judgement and learn from experience. Thus, RPA works best for tasks that are recurring and predictable like facilitating the use of tables and databases. Specifically, it can be of use for Treasurers to handle invoice data, reconciliation processes and credit collection, or assist in gathering information on bank statements, FX exposure and cash flow forecasts.
Using predefined software for these types of tasks has two implications. Firstly, it can speed up processes, thereby increasing efficiencies. Secondly, it gives employees the possibility to focus on more meaningful issues than performing manual and repetitive tasks.
Currently, there is only a handful of providers on the market among whom no clear market leader has emerged yet. The largest and leading RPA vendors are UiPath, Automation Anywhere, blueprism, WorkFusion and SAP intelligent RPA. Although SAP offers its own RPA technology, most other software providers are also compatible with SAP systems.
Why treasury needs robotic process automation: new opportunities for the Treasurer
Introducing Robotics often leads to opposition from the employees. Instead of seeing the change as something invasive that will restrict ones freedom to act, it should be seen as a restructuring. Giving up repetitive tasks to Robotic Process Automation will create time capacities to use for tasks that previously never, or only briefly, got addressed.
The purpose of a Treasurer in an organization is changing. Instead of being occupied with matching and preparing data, Treasurers could focus more on decision-making. Newly available time should be used to match financial operations with strategic objectives even closer and concentrate on topics of innovation to take the organization ahead. Through this, the Treasurer can act as a financial advisor and provide management with accurate data that future decision-making can be based on.
RPA and its potential for the future
What makes RPA more beneficial than already existing software-based process automation programs such as Business Process Management Systems (BPMS) is that they are fairly easy to program and do not require a heavy workload upon implementation. According to Goethe University Frankfurt, process automation of transactions has proven to be 40-60% faster compared to paper based processes.
Although the majority of organizations has not reached the stage of implementation yet, those that have also see some difficulties; especially in managing security of the processes. According to KPMG, who have surveyed more than 2.500 organizations in Germany, Austria and Switzerland, only the slight majority of 55% believes that RPA will prove to be a sustainable long-term solution. Instead, they argue that with the integration of in-memory databases such as SAP S4/HANA, processes carried out by RPA will not be needed anymore.
Overall, Robotic Process Automation can be very beneficial in the transitioning phase from manually performed tasks to implementing ERP systems. Here, RPA can function as a bridge to implementing a fully integrated system that harmonizes and interconnects all processes. Until then, automation can convince with its speed and accuracy, making it possible for Treasurers to focus on decision-making instead of performing repetitive tasks.