Voices

Why CPA firms should leverage RPA during a pandemic

Register now

With the world going through a recession, stakeholders and investors of client companies will lean on accounting firms more than ever to maintain trust and confidence in their companies. Accounting firms, in turn, will have to help clients ensure that financial information and reports not only reflect facts but also cost-effective plans to mitigate the impact of the pandemic. However, with employees working from home due to the pandemic-induced lockdown, traditional processes of the accounting firms have been hampered.

Accounting firms have to ensure seamless collaboration and smooth functioning in the current health and economic situation and, therefore, rethink their business strategies and technology platforms. Reengineering internal processes in this new environment is a good start., as the work-from-home dynamic is likely going to be a long-lasting change. One such technology that can elevate operations to the next level is robotic process automation.

According to Gartner, RPA software is the fastest-growing segment of the software industry. However, we in the accounting industry have been slow to adopt this transformative technology. The pandemic is a call to action for accounting firms to seriously consider RPA to increase efficiencies and upgrade client services.

Benefits of RPA for CPA firms during a pandemic

For clients

With mass layoffs and large-scale destruction of equity wealth, organizations are under increased pressure. Therefore, the chances of clients jumping ship in the face of poor results and inconsistencies are more possible than ever. CPA firms must add more value whilst streamlining processes to become an asset to their clients.

1. Enhanced outcomes

With CPA firms under intense competition for market share, they have to be increasingly price-competitive and offer a cutting-edge customer experience. RPA enables them to handle labor and time-intensive tasks, boosting their cost savings and operational efficiency. As a result, they can pass the benefits onto their clients and prospects by reducing prices and enhancing results by reducing errors and turnaround time.

2. Increased reliability

Unlike the human workforce, RPA has no work restrictions. It can operate on a diverse range of tasks — such as audit testing, financial statement proofing, math, accounts receivable and payable processes, and many other mundane but essential tasks and processes 24/7 without experiencing fatigue or a decrease in productivity. Additionally, every RPA activity leaves an audit trail that can be used to check for accuracy and process improvement. This consistency and flexibility provide CPA firms with a massive competitive advantage.

For employees

Employees are facing an increased workload and career uncertainty in light of the global emergency. CPA firms now more than ever must overcome the limitations of their operational model to ensure their employees are motivated to put their best foot forward to not only deliver consistent results but also win new clients.

1. Increased productivity

According to Leslie Willcocks, a professor at the London School of Economics, employees welcomed RPA because it relieved them of repetitive, routine and high-volume tasks. With the work pressure further exacerbated in light of the current economic downturn, RPA enables employees to focus on value-adding strategic activities such as improving client relations and providing improved analysis.

2. Improved employee experience

Business experts agree that improved employee experience is a massive boost in light of the current crisis. With RPA handling the repetitive, entry-level tasks, accountants are free to share ideas with each other and perform higher-value functions that require their specific creativity, knowledge and understanding to extract useful insights from highly accurate data. As a result, they will feel more valued and connected.

Additionally, RPA deployment provides them some much needed “downtime” without risking the accuracy and timeliness of their activities, enhancing their overall experience. This presents an added incentive to learn new skills. The upskilling is not only going to boost their careers by enabling them to transition into strategic advisors and hybrid accountants but also help CPA firms improve their customer service and deliverables and expand their service offerings.

For partners

With businesses reeling under the pressure of a global lockdown, firm partners are increasingly worried about the negative impact on their earnings. With organizations under incredible pressure to be more efficient and compliant, management is looking for strategies that can not only preserve value but also ensure that they come out of the downturn stronger than ever.

1. Higher cost savings

With revenues collapsing, organizations are looking to cut costs to maintain profitability and remain attractive to investors. This pressure extends to their cost centers such as their accounting firms. RPA is one of the most effective technologies that can drive cost reduction for accounting firms. According to KPMG, since RPA bots cost one-tenth of a full-time employee in the U.S., U.K. and Australia, and one-third of a full-time employee in India, they can complete repetitive and rule-based tasks faster and more precisely while saving millions of dollars in global staffing costs. Additionally, with RPA being easy-to-implement and relatively inexpensive, Ernst & Young estimates that RPA can provide net cost savings between 20 to 60 percent of baseline FTE costs.

2. Rapid scalability

RPA’s ability to operate 24/7 will make CPA firms leaner and more agile. At the same time, with RPA handling the lower-value tasks, employees will be more engaged in providing direct value to the clients, enabling CPA firms to improve their results and expand their offerings. Furthermore, according to Fabrizio Biscotti, vice president of research at Gartner, with RPA’s quick deployment cycle, an organization’s digital transformation initiatives can be accelerated, which can unlock new value quicker. This not only increases shareholder confidence but also sets up a strong foundation for effective expansion.

RPA is proving to be an extremely useful accounting automation technology in the current business environment. It serves as a practical tool to handle most of the lower-value tasks with high precision. That’s why CPA firms that want to deliver consistent, tangible results for their clients must strongly consider adopting RPA.

For reprint and licensing requests for this article, click here.