Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in Finance: Top 10 Use Cases

Tim Olsen, Intelligent Automation Director at Hays Technology

So you’ve simplified your processes, offshored or outsourced what you can, and yet you still have gaps which require manual activity. Maybe it’s reading purchase orders or reconciling data between worksheets. Maybe it’s collating data for reports or monitoring risks. If your team is managing mundane, repetitive tasks as part of their day job, there is an alternative.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software follows set instructions to replicate the actions of an employee. If you can write a process down, the chances are it can be automated, leaving your existing workforce with more time to focus on the exceptions and tasks that require another approach.

"Bots" typically cost around a third of a UK accounts administrator, and work 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and can manage peaks in demand such as year-end activity. RPA programmes typically pay back in 9-12 months.

I know what you’re thinking: this sounds like complex infrastructure. However, RPA overlays existing systems rather than integrating with them, so the deployment is low cost and relatively simple. It can even interact with green-screen legacy systems. If you can log into it, so can a bot. Most RPA deployments are now cloud-based; all you need to provide are Virtual Machines to run the bots.

Examples of RPA in Finance and accounting

  1. Purchase Order (PO) processing: Finance teams can spend considerable time extracting the information from POs and chasing approvals. RPA, combined with Optical Character Recognition (OCR), can read and extract the data from the PO and manage the workflow to the approver, even sending emails and reading the responses.
  2. Order to cash: RPA can seamlessly interact with order channels, whether online, via email or even in writing, and transcribe that data into the Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or order management system, improving accuracy and response times.
  3. Three-way matching:  Purchase Orders, Invoices and Goods Received notes can all be completed by a bot in a fraction of the time it takes the workforce, irrespective of system or medium. This ensures fast, accurate payments and data is reconciled across all the systems.
  4. Reconciliations: RPA can automate the download and collation of separate spreadsheets and accounting systems and run reconciliations – all you need to do is manage any exceptions.
  5. Data extraction for accounting period closure: RPA can request, collate and process the data from all departments without the need to manually chase and spend hours transcribing data.
  6. Risk assessment: Bots can monitor data sources and automatically alert if any set criteria are breached, raising risks to the financial controller.
  7. Compliance: A change in tax or regulations may require hundreds of related changes across accounting systems. RPA can manage bulk changes much faster than a human.
  8. Collections: RPA can support the collections workflow, checking accounts, sending requests for payment, escalations and alerting.
  9. Payroll: RPA can extract timesheets data, take account of sickness/holidays and verify information across multiple systems.
  10. Tax: RPA can support the Tax process by gathering the necessary data and creating the reports required for the Tax submission

Let me be clear: this isn’t making the human touch redundant. Instead, by adopting RPA, your finance department can shift focus from tedious manual activities to management by exception, allowing your team to add value, and transform your KPIs:

  1. Major Cost Savings – RPA drives hours saved back into the business through improved productivity
  2. Responsiveness – Bots operate around four times faster than human counterparts
  3. Improved Accuracy – Robots don’t make mistakes
  4. Greater Compliance – Robots follow the same process every time
  5. Improved Auditability - All activities are logged
  6. More value from Employees – RPA enables people to work on activities that add greater value

Any finance department with large volumes of repetitive activities can benefit from RPA without the headache of a major deployment. It is quick and painless to roll out.

Automation: make it count.

Read more on automation and its potential here.



Tim Olsen
Intelligent Automation Director, Hays Technology

Tim worked in digital transformation for 20 years developing solutions to improve user journeys and experience for blue chip clients. More recently he grew the UK’s largest RPA CoE and went on to specialise in helping organisations overcome their barriers to scaling automation. He is a thought leader and evangelist for Intelligent Automation, and leads the IA Consulting specialism for Hays.