This blog post was featured on Forbes.com
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) gives organizations the opportunity to save money and increase process efficiency by automating certain mundane and repetitive tasks.
That being said, RPA isn’t appropriate for every inefficient process. There is an art to identifying processes that lend themselves to RPA, and this involves finding those that are not only repetitive but are also based on hard and fast rules with very limited special cases or exceptions.
Our clients are finding such processes across a cross-section of their corporate functions, including disparate areas such as finance, commercial loan operations, internal audit and customer on-boarding, and are utilizing tools such as UiPath, BluePrism and Automation Anywhere in order to automate a variety of utilities within the corporate landscape.
Below are some examples of how RPA is being leveraged across these corporate functions, which can serve as a catalyst for thinking about similar processes within your own organization.
Historically: The glamorous, value-add work of a finance team includes working on deals, ensuring efficient use of capital and preparing financial analyses. However, finance teams are often caught in the day-to-day mundaneness of tasks like manual reconciliations and eliminations, pulling bank statements from a website and processing invoices.
With Automation: The entire process of navigating to a bank website, logging in, entering report parameters, downloading a PDF statement, extracting data out of that statement into a spreadsheet, reconciling with another data source and creating and posting journal entries can basically be accomplished with a software robot, or “bot.” Beware, though, that a change to the bank’s online portal or an upgrade to a company’s general ledger may require the bot to be appropriately tweaked in order to keep functioning successfully.
2. Commercial Loan Operations
Historically: Ensuring accurate initial loan terms when booking a new commercial loan is the most critical function of a loan operations team. Currently, many operations teams endure the tedious and error-prone process of combing thru legal documents for the correct terms and then entering them manually into a servicing system.
With Automation: Key data points in documents can be automatically read and extracted using PDF extraction and OCR technology within RPA packages, while bots then routinely populate the loan system. With the basic deal terms entered, loan operations personnel can concentrate on complex items like fees and covenants, and the loan portfolio can scale without adding commensurate headcount.
3. Internal Audit
Historically: Internal audit departments typically are able to focus only on a particular business area once every few years, and often merely test a sample of data due to the effort and time involved in testing complete data sets.
With Automation: Through process automation, the current trend is to move more toward continuous auditing, which is a technology-driven method of gathering and aggregating audit evidence. Unlike traditional periodic audits, continuous auditing monitors risks on an ongoing basis and tests complete data sets in lieu of limited samples.
4. Customer On-boarding
Historically: The customer on-boarding/Know Your Customer (KYC) process for most financial institutions is a series of routine and repetitive procedures including:
- Identifying all entities that are part of a corporate structure
- Inputting these entities, one-by-one, into an online screening tool
- Downloading a PDF of the search results
- Uploading the PDF and screening results into the KYC system
- Reviewing and dispositioning the screening hits in the KYC system
With Automation: The first four steps of this process are repetitive and highly structured with few exceptions, so they are ideal candidates for RPA. Step five brings back the human analyst who will start with the screening results PDF open and an audit trail available to view as needed.
Use cases for automation exist across the corporate landscape but identifying the appropriate ones is still an art. For those new to RPA, starting with a simple proof-of-concept that automates one process is an ideal way to introduce the concept and learn as you go.
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