Robotic process automation (the automation of business processes through workflow software) is a technology that helps businesses save time and money. Early adopters have been using it for years, and more join their ranks each day.
The end result of automating an office may look appealing, but is it all sunshine and daisies the whole way through? Or are there challenges you should be prepared to face along the way?
Today we’re going to look at the roadblocks you might encounter when employing robotic process automation, using the specific example of robotic accounting automation, a specialization of robotic process automation for the accounting field. Each item listed below contains a challenge and the related benefits. If you can prepare yourself to face the potential roadblocks, we think you’ll find that the benefits far outweigh these temporary hiccups.
#1 Automation eliminates busywork, but engagement is required.
Businesses that employ robotic accounting automation are able to go beyond buzzwords like “lean accounting” and “cloud accounting,” to something even more powerful – automated accounting. Suddenly, the accounting department doesn’t have to perform 3-way matching or manually enter data into multiple systems. The majority of the accounts payable process becomes automated, which is fantastic! The team only needs to intervene when there are exceptions or when higher-level thinking is required. The flipside is that employees must engage in these instances. If people fail to engage, processes can get clogged up, just like before they were automated. Fortunately, a supervisor with access to process analytics will be able to see where the stopping points are and intervene.
#2 There will be ROI… after an initial investment.
One of the main reasons that business leaders invest in robotic accounting automation is the return on investment (ROI). As an example, after implementing RPA, Goodwill Industries of Middle Tennessee saw an annual savings of $100,000. Even with the promise of a sizeable ROI, some businesses may have trouble with the initial investment, which is generally only a fraction of the annual ROI. Still, expenses must be budgeted and approved. Management must buy in and prioritize RAA before the organization will be able to see a return.
#3 More promotions are likely; however, this can mean reallocation and maybe even structural change.
At DocuPhase, we’ve seen firsthand just how lean accounting can be. Most of our in-house accounting processes are completed by one individual, our CFO. Also, as users of our own enterprise automation platform, we do not have many Administrative Assistant or Executive Assistant positions, as most of the administrative tasks are completed by our automation software. When a business is first adjusting to the benefits of robotic accounting automation, the adjustment period will probably include promotions and shifts in responsibility, as resources (people and time) can be used differently.
#4 While RAA is Millennial-friendly, some people may be resistant to the change.
As more and more Millennials enter the workforce, technology becomes more important than ever before. These tech-savvy, digital natives expect to be able to share information with the touch of a button, without having to do any tedious work on the back end. While some employees may be hesitant to try RAA, most Millennials will learn automated processes quickly and will find them more rewarding. (For more information about making your business Millennial-friendly, read “Preparing your business for the Millennial takeover.”)
#5 Employees will have more time and freedom to explore their strengths, which can unleash their full potential… but it could also lead to work style clashes.
Generally, employees fall into one of four different work style categories. However, when people are continuously tasked with tedious, low-value tasks, they aren’t able to discover and capitalize on their strengths. RAA takes care of much of the manual work involved in the AP process, freeing up employees to find their ideal work styles and to explore their strengths and passions. When team members first discover their differences, they may not understand or appreciate the work styles of others, and management may need to step in and highlight how different people contribute to the team in their own way.
#6 Cloud-based document storage means your team can be more mobile, so the business will have to make a conscious effort to maintain its office culture.
When business processes are cloud-based, employees are free to work from anywhere with an internet connection. This not only means reduced office costs, but the ability to work remotely is also viewed by many employees as a benefit or perk. And this isn’t limited to the Millennial workforce; it applies to all ages! With many team members taking advantage of a work-from-home policy, culture can suffer, simply because there are fewer people physically present in the office on any given day. Potential solutions include having a designated all-hands-on-deck day each week when everyone must be present for a meeting, or limiting the number of days per week that team members may work remotely.
#7 Once RPA is woven into your daily operations, the company will never want to go back to how it was before.
Once you business has adapted to automated accounting, you won’t want to return to the status quo. As Alimera Sciences reported after implementing the automation platform, “Everyone embraced it immediately, and it’s now such a standard part of our everyday business. I think everyone probably wonders why we didn’t have this before.” Simply put, RAA is a gamechanger. Reverting back to your old processes would feel kind of like climbing back up a playground slide – not fun or logical. Your team will never want to go back to how it used to be.
If you want to learn more about RAA and how it can fit in with your organization’s processes and goals, request a free custom demo of the DocuPhase platform.