Intelligent Automation in record-to-report: Top 4 use cases

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Is your Finance and Accounting (F&A) team bogged down by routine, repetitive, low-value tasks? Is the cycle time for closing and reporting high? Does it require significant manual reconciliation and data maintenance? Are your executives hampered by the lack of meaningful reporting?

If you are witnessing any of these challenges in your Record-to-Report (R2R) process due to poorly integrated core systems of record and heavy reliance on manual intervention, it’s time to consider Intelligent Automation.

Intelligent Automation integrates Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with cognitive technologies, such as computer vision to extract information from unstructured data like invoices and credit notes, and leverages machine learning models for advanced forecasting and budgeting.

It also harnesses natural language processing (NLP) techniques to extract entities and transactional data from contracts or to classify email enquiries. The result is end-to-end automation for unparalleled efficiencies, agility and scale. Increasingly, businesses across industries are deploying Intelligent Automation across the F&A function to discover and realize greater value, more so in their R2R function.

How can Intelligent Automation be applied to Finance and Accounting?

Our research suggests that the industry has automated F&A processes to a limited degree – they are only automated about 70%. End-to-end record to report automation results in greater efficiencies and deeper insights for superior decision making – all at lower costs.

The good news is Intelligent Automation technologies are becoming easier to leverage and deploy. Automating a given business process, in contrast to traditional IT projects, typically lasts between 4 to 10 weeks, ensuring rapid value realization.

  • Empower colleagues to save time and work smarter: Digital assistants or bots free up your staff from routine, repetitive tasks such as entering, aggregating and reconciling data and generating reports. This allows them to focus on value added tasks such as analysis and strategy development.
  • Equip executives and leaders with powerful insights: By increasing visibility of KPIs across end-to-end processes, bots ensure that your top executives and managers have the right information at the right time to sharpen their decision making.
  • Strengthen compliance and tighten governance: Standardized, intelligent workflows automate audit trails and reporting for both internal and external auditors, ensuring compliance, accurate reporting, and efficient governance mechanisms.

Application of Intelligent Automation in R2R

Intelligent Automation standardizes and integrates processes using intelligent workflows, enabling faster, better and more accurate reporting and closing.

  • Reconciliation: Financial reconciliations are critical to ensuring accuracy. Businesses typically rely on manual intervention due to the complex nature of reconciliations. Many of these routine processes of validating general ledger data against source systems lend themselves to automation. Bots can access and compare the general ledger and sub-ledger data, identify discrepancies, and pass adjusting entries. The reconciled data is then be uploaded back into the ERP/financial systems.
  • Financial Planning and Analysis: When it comes to budgeting, forecasting and reporting, bots can access and gather information across systems and sources and structure it. They help aggregate and format data, perform standard calculations, create preliminary budgets and management reports, and perform variance analysis. This frees up your employees to focus on higher value tasks such as analyzing reports and formulating business strategies.
  • General accounting: Robotic process automation in finance and accounting can also automate complex reconciliations involved in trial balance calculations and posting to general ledger accounts. In essence, bots normalize all data, calculate a trial balance, log into the ERP system and open each account in each ledger, compare it with the general ledger balance and pass adjusting entries, as needed. They can also post the trial balance in the appropriate ledger account.
  • Compliance and regulatory reporting: Businesses rely on manual controls, validation and reporting to ensure accuracy and compliance. Bots can easily take over these tasks, establishing necessary audit trails and ensuring proper documentation for regulatory authorities, offering peace of mind to business leaders.

Maximizing ROI: 3 Best practices​

Taking a best practices-based approach helps accelerate ROI on automation in accounting and finance. Here’s how.

Create a digital-first culture in your organization

Use digital technologies to free up human resources, allowing them to focus on higher values activities. Adopt a ‘cobot’ approach for bots and humans to work alongside, leveraging Cognitive Intelligence such as in ‘Predictive Decisioning’.

Try to leverage the full portfolio of Intelligent Automation technologies

Leverage a wide gamut of technologies, including RPA, AI, ML, NLP and analytics. Adopt an agile fail-fast approach to onboard automation and quickly course correct when required.

Democratize automation using a bottom-up approach

Establish an automation Center of Excellence (COE) to provide reskilling training to employees in Intelligent Automation technologies and fast-track a digital-first culture.

Driving financial success in a volatile environment

Modern businesses operate in a highly unpredictable environment, especially in the aftermath of the global health crisis. Access to accurate and timely information can make or break companies. R2R is a complex F&A process that’s critical to providing deep insights into a company’s strategy, operations and performance – to both internal and external stakeholders.

Automating R2R creates a single source of truth and reduces risk while cutting down cycle time by days or even weeks.

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