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Benefits and risks of automating finance & accounting

More than half of organisations are planning to improve their digital controls and improve financial and accounting processes with automation, analytics and other technologies this year. The Deloitte poll of more than 1,700 finance, accounting and other professionals found that 53 per cent say their companies plan digital controllership improvements, such as leveraging process automation, analytics and other technologies for financial and accounting processes, in the next 12 months. The key approach to automation in finance and accounting is to use robotic process automation (RPA) to increase efficiency and internal controls – considered a top priority by 35 per cent of the financial executives surveyed.

Benefits of robotics for financial processes

The benefits of implementing RPA can include:

  • better strategic use of employee time;
  • reduction of repetitive, manual work;
  • reduction of human error;
  • improved internal controls by testing wider sets of data; and
  • improved visibility into future risks and opportunities by testing wider data sets.

5 risks of automation in finance

But Deloitte points out there are also risks that financial and accounting executives should consider:

  1. Technology – Improper bot design may impact existing IT infrastructure. Conversely, routine IT platform changes may impact automation solutions.
  2. Regulatory compliance – Automation errors can reduce accuracy of regulatory reports, risking fines and sanctions as well as legal violations.
  3. Operations – Increased processing errors can be caused by badly designed automation solutions. Lack of effective oversight procedures can lead to increased operational inefficiencies.
  4. Talent – In times of organizational transformation, morale may suffer if communications to employees don’t focus on the higher level work they’ll be able to perform with RPA results. Further, access to and oversight of automated processes must be carefully managed to prevent and detect abuse.
  5. Financial reporting – Poorly implemented finance and accounting robotic process automation can result in inaccurate or incomplete financial reports, financial restatements and reputational damage.

Deloitte & Touche's Kyle Cheney commented: “Without strong internal controls, thoughtful change management, consistent oversight monitoring, and well-built bots in production, finance and accounting robotic process automation efforts can cause more harm than good. As with any strategic initiative, trying to find shortcuts is unwise. Investing time and attention to honing RPA is essential to realizing its full potential.”

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