Proper use of robotic process automation (RPA) can save finance departments 25,000 hours of avoidable work per year, a new study from Gartner shows. That's 625 workweeks. The average amount of avoidable rework can take up to 30% of a full-time employee's overall time, Gartner found, equating to $878,000 in savings for a company with a 40-person, full-time finance team.
The 25,000-hour figure is thought to be caused by human errors, the research firm said. Less than one-third of finance departments with RPA have used their financial reporting capabilities to the fullest, leaving "major efficiency gains on the table," Gartner said.
Despite the clear benefits of full, companywide RPA usage, only 29% of RPA adopters have implemented the technology for financial reporting, the study said.
Investment in RPA and data analytics grew the size of global tech budgets this year as companies contend with emerging technologies.
One of the priorities is acting on data and making room for workplace efficiency, in part by using automation. But the process is not without its hurdles.
Gartner found three key speed bumps hindering broader RPA adoption in the financial reporting process, according to interviews with more than 150 corporate controllers, chief accounting officers (CAOs) and chief accounting leaders.
- Businesses are hesitant to remove "human judgment"
- Perception of low ROI
- Prior to implementation, there are "process standardization delays."
Most employees would rather avoid rework in favor of the more strategic activities only a human can do, said Dennis Gannon, vice president of research in the Gartner Finance practice, in an interview with CFO Dive. "[CFOs] who fully embrace RPA [see it] as a boost to their employee value proposition."
Organizations resist RPA implementation because they believe "that successfully using RPA requires a level of process standardization and cleanup within the workflow," Gannon said. "But RPA's a lot more modular than traditional technology, and it can lend itself to standardization in the wake of automation, instead of in front of automation."
RPAs are systems business have to tailor in-house once they adopt a solution. Schneider Electric is in the advanced stages of automation and plans to automate the work of up to 150 full-time equivalents this year, the company told CIO Dive in June.
"We certainly see a lot of success with an incremental approach [to RPA] adoption," Gannon said. "By training the staff on what RPA is, what it can do, and why it can help ... we can start to solicit some of the best ideas for a pilot process and proof of concepts, and [iterate] on those as we go."