Firms Are Employing Robots as Digital Controllers

Robots are entering firms in surprising ways. Based on a recent Deloitte Center for Controllership™ poll of more than 1,700 finance, accounting, and other professionals, 52.8% said that their firms are planning on digital controllership improvements. These include leveraging process automation, analytics and other technologies for financial and accounting processes.

The same polls showed that finance and accounting robotic process automation (RPA) to increase efficiency and internal controls is now top priority (34.7%).

"Finance and accounting process automation can really run the gamut. Simpler, enhanced finance automation can address common, industry-agnostic accounting issues. RPA can build momentum by performing repetitive, manual financial and accounting processes.  And, cognitive computing can be configured to adapt to non-routine, industry and organizationally specific needs," Kyle Cheney, Deloitte Risk, and Financial Advisory Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP said in a press release. 

"No matter the level of process automation complexity, it's easy to see how efficiency and controls can be improved by well-executed programs," he added.

According to the press release, the biggest benefits of implementing a digital controllership strategy include:  improved talent resource allocation toward higher value, strategic work by reducing manual, repetitive work (40.5%); improved internal controls by testing wider sets of data and reducing human error (23.5%); and, improved visibility into future risks and opportunities by testing wider data sets and enabling talent to analyze trends and anomalies (16.9%).

"Because bots can work 24/7/365, well-honed RPA programs can help organizations improve the quality of their governance, risk mediation, predictive insights, working capital management and financial reporting," Dave Stahler, Deloitte Risk and Financial Advisory Partner, Deloitte & Touche LLP said.

"However, digital controllership efforts leveraging process automation really need to start with a good foundation in risk management to keep errors and inefficiencies to a minimum," he said.

Teams are starting or expanding finance and accounting robotic process automation programs typically work to manage common risks in areas including:

●      Technology – Improper bot design may impact existing IT infrastructure. Conversely, routine IT platform changes may impact automation solutions.

●      Regulatory compliance – Automation errors can reduce the accuracy of regulatory reports, risking fines and sanctions as well as legal violations.

●      Operations – Increased processing errors can be caused by poorly designed automation solutions. Lack of adequate oversight procedures can lead to increased operational inefficiencies.

●      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.

●      Financial reporting – Poorly implemented finance and accounting robotic process automation can result in inaccurate or incomplete financial reports, financial restatements and reputational damage.

"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," Cheney said.