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How Robotic Process Automation Transforms Accountant's Roles

Published by Jake Grimm on May 17, 2024 1:36:06 PM

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic technology has been changing the world around us for what feels like forever. However, there has been an increase in innovations across technology dependent industries in very recent years. Accounting is no exception. Robotic process automation (RPA) is changing the game and altering how CPAs and accountants are serving clients. For the better, of course.

Robotic process automation is the use of software and other technologies like artificial intelligence to eliminate repetitive tasks within business processes. For the accounting industry, this means that software can perform the more “boring” tasks most of us dislike, and do it at a more accurate, efficient pace. Often, these “redundant” processes are referred to as rule-based. Tasks that can be automated by RPA bots occur in a clear, repeating process with defined rules. Think about all the time you could save copying and pasting in excel documents!

RPA can be used across all processes within accounting and financial services such as tax, accounts payable, accounts receivable, assurance, audit, back-office, etc.robotic process automation

How Does Robotic Process Automation Impact the Accounting Industry?

There are three main benefits of RPA in the accounting industry: accuracy, time savings, and cost savings. Robotic process automation is incredibly accurate. We have all made a mistake at some point punching in numbers. We meant to type a 7, and we hit the 8 instead. Or we add an extra zero. Those small mistakes can blossom into some large inaccuracies in data. Of course, we all put safeguards in place to catch these human errors but imagine how much time would be saved if this just never happened.

Instead of being the number crunchers as we are often called, accountants and CPAs can become reviewers. The RPA software takes care of inputting data, and we review the numbers once they are complete to make sure everything is correct, saving hours of time.

By RPA tools taking on manual tasks, accountants are free to take on a consultant role. Rather than using our days to collect data for our clients, we can spend more time helping our clients understand what this data actually means and how they can use this information to make smart business decisions. This is something we have been doing for years in our virtual CFO practice, and we have personally seen how this advisory work can take a business from struggling to becoming a leader in their industry.

You might think that the cost savings RPA implementation brings is through replacing accountants performing repetitive tasks with RPA software. And while this can be the case, we don’t recommend eliminating staff. Instead, we suggest training employees on higher-value advisory services that firms can often charge more for.

Will Bots Replace Accounting Jobs?

The honest answer is yes and no. Humans who use RPA tools will replace humans who don’t. But that’s the case for anyone who isn’t willing to take on new technologies. Imagine if you refused to embrace computers back in the 70s. You insisted on using manual methods to prepare accounting documents and kept cutting checks using a typewriter and recording transactions in ledgers. Your job may have been on the line by the 90s when computers became a necessary tool within the accounting industry.

However, if you embrace RPA and continue to find ways to enhance the tasks and services you provide to clients, you will find that your expertise is incredibly in demand. Word will spread about how much value-add you provide, and clients will be knocking on your door in hoards.

The reality is that robotic process automation won’t replace human workers, they will make the work we do more accurate and impactful.

What Types of RPA Tools Should Accountants Be Using?

There are many use cases and RPA tools that can be used by accountants to make their work more efficient and make room for value-add services. One tool that we’ve covered in the past is Autoreview. We use Autoreview to generate many financial reports that we then review to ensure no errors are present. Here are the reports we use Autoreview to generate:

  • Uncategorized entries

  • Entries posted to parent GL

  • Entries w/o class

  • Entries w/o location

  • Entries w/o name

  • Entries w/o customer/project

  • Negative/zero balance vendors

  • Negative/zero balance customers

  • Duplicate entries

  • Duplicate names

  • Unreconciled entries

  • New vendor/customer/GL entries

  • Unusual entries

  • Entries trend analysis

  • Review vendor/customer GL lists

  • Account balance checks

  • Review expenses

A few more RPA tools we use include Make, Zapier, Microsoft Power Automate, ElectroNeek, and ChatGPT. All of these, except for ChatGPT, are especially helpful for process automation and data specific tasks. ChatGPT is used primarily for helping to define uncategorized transactions, draft client emails, generate documents, etc.

RPA technology is rapidly changing the landscape of the accounting industry. This technology is improving customer experience and making the work we do more transformative for clients. RPA will continue to optimize accountant’s roles and improve firms’ scalability.

Will you adopt robotic automation software in your firm?


To learn more about the technology we use within our firm, check out our Virtual CFO Playbook below. 

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