5 use cases and key benefits of RPA in finance
Published on December 2, 2021
Finance and accounting processes are some of the hardest to scale manually. From daily data entry and monthly expense reconciliation, to preparing financial statements for year-end closing, there’s so much to do, and only so many people to do it.
Finance teams aren't just responsible for crunching numbers, but also helping company leadership make the best business decisions with strategic financial planning and analysis. If your entire team is constantly overwhelmed by menial tasks and rarely has the time to focus on high-level work, that’s a serious barrier to growth.
RPA (robotic process automation) helps companies streamline workflows and standardize processes, all while increasing productivity and accuracy. Finance automation lets accountants execute essential and complex tasks in a fraction of the time it would take manually, while significantly reducing the margin of error.
With RPA software solutions, finance teams can finally get ahead–not just catch up–throughout the fiscal year.
What is RPA in finance?
Just as the name suggests, RPA (robotic process automation) refers to technology designed to implement repetitive processes, simplify complex workflows, and automate the execution of specific tasks.
In the context of RPA for finance teams, there are a myriad fintech softwares that automate different functions. These include basic accounting, expense reimbursements and invoice management, plus budget modelling and forecasting.
When finance teams handle large quantities of documentation and spreadsheets at once, mistakes are bound to occur. Finance automation increases data entry accuracy, while also processing and delivering far greater amounts of complex information at a time.
The best part is, automating even the smallest tasks often brings the greatest returns to finance teams, due to the sheer volume of transactions that occur on a daily basis. As tech company Newzoo puts it, “Automation saves us a lot of time, avoids mistakes, and then frees up time for us to work on forecasting, and pay more attention on how to classify different costs.”
Beyond saving time and money and maximizing team productivity, there are other tangible benefits to automating your finance teams’ key processes:
Scale faster. A major cause of disorganization in rapidly growing companies is sticking with processes that don’t scale. Workflow automation lets finance teams handle exponential increases in transactions with high accuracy, while standardizing processes that also make onboarding new talent simple and consistent.
Smarter spend management. A lack of smart spend management creates serious challenges in successfully managing cash flow. Advanced spend management solutions like Spendesk optimize cross-team collaboration by automating spend processes and giving finance teams greater control and visibility over their finances.
Increased payment security. Finance automation makes it easier to authorize payments like employee reimbursements and supplier invoices faster and with more confidence. With features like automatic three-way matching and real-time reconciliation, financial controllers no longer waste time chasing down purchase orders or paper receipts for every transaction.
5 use cases for RPA in finance
All sizes and types of companies can use and benefit from RPA. Even the largest finance teams get bogged down with the bombardment of endless menial tasks, if they don’t have the right tools and business processes set in place.
Here are several core finance processes that can be widely improved and optimized using intelligent software automation instead of manual execution:
Manual bookkeeping is a slow and tedious task that requires constant attention to detail and frequent rounds of double-checking. Excel has already hugely simplified the basic steps of manual accounting, like quick calculations and data manipulation. But they still leave room for human error, especially when it comes to data entry and working with multiple documents at once.
Accounting automation softwares like Quickbooks, Freshbooks, and Xero make complex finance procedures effortlessly simple. RPA streamlines the accounting process from start to end, and automates the most time-consuming tasks like data entry, reconciliation, number crunching, and invoicing.
Bookkeeping automation can be especially impactful for growing companies that don’t yet have a dedicated finance team. Simplified accounting processes help do-it-all business owners understand and manage their company’s finances better, giving them the headspace to effectively run other parts of their business.
2. Subscription management
Managing a growing number of SaaS subscriptions company-wide is a huge challenge. Duplicate and unused subscriptions run rampant when there's no single source of truth to track all recurring payments.
With a spend management solution, businesses pay for each subscription with a unique virtual card, and monitor and manage all current subscriptions in real-time from one centralized platform. Employees can easily request a specific SaaS budget from their managers, who can approve these requests in a click.
Teams are automatically notified of duplicate subscriptions and unused accounts belonging to former employees. If subscription pricing changes, recurring payments can be paused instantly, pending manager authorization for reactivation.
“It all makes it so much easier to do our jobs,” says Habito Financial Controller Aaron Townsend. “When we sit down with the different department heads, it’s now so easy to point out tools they don’t need anymore, and people who no longer need access to budgets.”
3. Invoice processing and accounts receivable/payable
The digitalization of the finance processes has been a game-changer for suppliers and buyers across the world. The sheer amount of paperwork and back-and-forth communication involved was–and still is–a formidable challenge.
With invoice processing automation and digitized data capture, paying supplier invoices and receiving payments can be done in a few steps. No more hassling managers for payment approval, or chasing down employees for missing documentation.
What used to take weeks of long email chains to get validated is now replaced with a standardized process accessible to everyone involved. The system even sends automatic notifications when someone needs to take a specific action to keep the ball rolling.
Implementing a streamlined approval process means suppliers get paid faster, payments are more secure, and finance teams can actively scale the amount of transactions they process, without batting an eye.
4. Employee expense management
Many employees need to spend to perform their roles effectively. Yet manual expense reimbursements are a common headache for employees and finance alike, thanks to lost paper receipts and delayed reimbursements.
Expense management automation and individually-assigned virtual cards streamline this entire process instantly. Employees spend using a preloaded card with an authorized budget and capture receipts in real-time, making reconciliation a breeze. Messy paper trails are eliminated and reimbursements can be issued in a click, thanks to a centralized expense management platform.
“We used to use shared credit cards. And that always used to mean people coming and asking me for the shared credit card,” explains Aaron Townsend. “I honestly believe that I save a couple of days a month from not having to respond to queries about payments, spending, or who’s responsible for each cost. People can now just look it up themselves.”
5. Financial planning & analysis
Projecting short- and long-term financial strategy requires a lot of prep work and research. FP&A software uses existing financial data to automatically create budget models. Experts can visualize and experiment with an unlimited range of scenarios, without the risk of human error.
Forecasting becomes more accurate and reliable, helping FP&A teams better inform leadership when making major business decisions for the company.
“We participate more in the company's decision-making by providing more valuable insights on financials as a finance team,” says Newzoo finance expert Martynas Ivanovas, “instead of just processing tons of data like we did before.”
Empower your finance team with finance RPA
We all know that overwhelmed employees can’t focus on higher-value work. If your finance team is still manually entering data into spreadsheets, it’s time for a change.
By replacing outdated practices with intelligent automation processes, you’ll not only save resources and increase productivity - you’ll also empower team members to work on more strategic responsibilities that drive real change.
RPA softwares are accessible and effective solutions that transform and modernize the way that finance teams work. As more and more companies turn to artificial intelligence to drive their business growth and operational efficiency, it’s the right time to ask: how can your company successfully implement business process automation?