Robotic Process Automation - The Impact on the Industry (Carpenter Box)

Talent Development
May 10, 2022 - Carpenter Box


This is a technology insights article on the impact on the accounting industry of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) by Nathan Keeley, Partner at PrimeGlobal member firm Carpenter Box in the UK.

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What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is software technology that looks to automate tasks that are repetitive and rule-based processes. This software can already be seen in OCR software, excel macros or AI-driven help desks, but also incorporates machine learning and artificial intelligence. This has the ultimate goal of reducing the unnecessary human involvement in activities that do not require the judgement that a human can best provide.

Benefits

Whilst it is likely to invoke a mixed response, there are undoubtedly some benefits to introducing RPA to your processes. These include:

  • A low-cost way of introducing efficiency.
  • Freeing up the time of existing staff to assist with processes involving judgement.
  • The ability to increase processing scale without hiring additional staff or finding office space to compensate.

Environments that have seasonal fluctuations in workloads would receive considerable benefit from utilizing RPA as a way of dramatically increasing the processing capacity during times of a considerable influx of work. For instance, during December and January where there is an unusually high volume of self-assessment returns to complete, or in March and April around the tax and payroll year-end.

Further, staff are freed up to provide additional value to the business or clients, rather than spending time on physically processing transactions or completing manual tasks.

Impact on the industry

RPA will allow the accounting industry to focus on delivering work that utilizes the knowledge and expertise that is developed over a professional career. How a business works, the unwritten and variable, strategies to counteract poor performance or utilize assets more effectively are all examples of high-value areas where advice and expertise can be applied.

This also extends to areas such as credit control and customer management which often fall by the wayside due to high pressure on completing tasks like data entry.

When it comes to data analytics, we are all aware of the increasing volumes of data, and the more that the volume of data grows, the more sophisticated the methodology for interpretation becomes. RPA can identify patterns that an ordinary person may miss or summarize data that would take hours of human power to determine. RPA, therefore, allows scalability on data analysis, and with data increasing all the time there will only be an increase in the use of RPA and other tools to assist.

What about the people?

Realistically, this degree of automation does pose risk to jobs that mainly consist of manual data entry. This is simply due to RPA being able to replace the activity of that individual at a lower cost and does not require holidays or sick leave.

On first impression, this reduction in jobs seems quite negative – surely automation is not enough on its own to warrant causing a loss of jobs? However, as with many areas of a changing society, it is an opportunity to re-train the workforce who complete these data processing jobs and allow up-skilling within the profession. Examples of new roles include data scientists, computer programmers, or project management specialists.

Will RPA replace accountants?

The question that is commonly raised is whether RPA could replace the accountant. The simple answer is no. RPA enables more mundane processing tasks to be automated, allowing the accountant to spend more time with their clients and deliver the valuable advisory services to which most firms aspire.

The volume of information available at the press of a button can even enable RPA to be delivered by accountants themselves, with tools such as UiPath, Blue Prism, and Automation Anywhere. Questions may be asked as to whether learning this is a good use of time; nonetheless, it is available to consider and adds to the developing role of the modern-day accountant.

Nathan is a Partner at Carpenter Box and specializes in offering advice to the SME business sector by looking at both accounting and tax solutions, alongside cloud software options, to drive efficiency. Nathan heads the cloud team within the firm and advises clients on the benefits of add-ons and integration opportunities now available.

Please contact Nathan if you are interested in joining the UK & Ireland Digital/Cloud Special Interest Group (SIG).


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Carpenter Box

Carpenter Box is an award-winning sector focused firm of Chartered Accountants, Tax and Business Advisers based in South East England, with a headcount of nearly 200. To best serve clients, the firm is organised into specialist business groups, offering a comprehensive range of services to businesses and private clients. By building strong relationships, the firm's specialist teams advise clients on growing their business in a profitable, sustainable and tax efficient way. At Carpenter Box, the team want to understand what clients want to achieve and work closely with clients to help them get there. They offer practical solutions which are right for businesses, business owners and individuals and the wider family. With a relationship led service, the firm looks to build trust to understand the opportunities and challenges faced by businesses.

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