Reporting – to stakeholders, authorities, management and other important parties – is an important activity for every company. However, composing and distributing these reports is labor-intensive. Robotic process automation (RPA) automation software can help do the work quickly and accurately, freeing up the finance team to focus on adding value and supporting business growth.
High risks, complex requirements, limited business returns
When the term ‘reporting’ comes up, most finance teams grit their teeth and shrug, aware that it’s a tedious but necessary evil. While sometimes of limited added value from a business perspective, reporting tasks like compliance, VAT or Intrastat reporting require plenty of time and resources. Moreover, they come with high risks in case of failure or errors.
Innovative digital technologies like robotic process automation take high-volume, repetitive tasks and automate them from start to finish, maintaining transparency while avoiding the risk of human error – a perfect match with finance reporting.
Seamlessly blending human and machine
Take European VAT reporting, for example: a high-risk, high-volume activity that requires companies to process every incoming and outgoing invoice per country per month. Producing a VAT report is a time-consuming, repetitive and traditionally a manual task: each month, the finance team downloads the data from the company’s ERP backbone and keys in the specific report parameters manually. They then copy/ paste the data into an Excel file for analysis, process the results, generate a report and send it by e-mail to the tax authorities.
Robotic process automation can take over most of the processes: your finance team determines the parameters – country, company, legal entity, period – and then the robot takes it from there. Without any human intervention, it captures the information, processes the results, sends the reports and saves the data in the records management system, all in an eyeblink and error-free. If wanted, companies can include a human validation step between report generation and sending.
Smart and getting smarter
Use cases aren’t limited to VAT reporting; RPA can also be used to generate functional and management reports (finance, HR, tax, etc.). In each case, the robot can gather data from multiple legacy systems, including your ERP, data warehouse and other 3rd-party applications. Data is aggregated and reconciled based on pre-defined reporting templates, with workflow management enabling hassle-free process controls and management oversights. In the case of reporting to regulators, record management frameworks that come with RPA systems ensure error-free compliance and control supported by transparent audit trails. The systems are available 24/7, helping finance teams to significantly reduce the time needed for reporting.
So, what about your finance colleagues then? While robot software is capable of gathering, organizing and analyzing huge volumes of data in a split second, people are skilled at recognizing exceptions and complex problems. They will be the ones coming coming up with creative solutions in dynamic situations. By giving robots the ‘grunt work’, you can free up resources and personnel to focus on what they do best. That will lead to significant efficiency gains and deeper dedication to your core business.
As the technology evolves, robo accounting or robotic process automation solutions are being enhanced with machine-learning approaches. Robots will be able to make increasingly higher-level decisions in complicated situations and learn from humans which variables to focus on. In the future, RPA systems may become truly intelligent.
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