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Business moves fast. As modern CFOs focus on strategic priorities, automation powered by AI will become even more critical for handling routine accounts payable tasks such as invoice processing and vendor audits. And RPA (robotics process automation) will be a key factor.

If your finance and accounting departments have not already embraced automation, or are at least moving in that direction, you will soon. According to a study by Oxford University, nearly half of U.S. jobs will be subject to digitization1, and the global RPA market size is expected to reach USD 3.97 billion by 20252, according to a new study by Grand View Research, Inc.

Organizations will need to embrace RPA and other emerging technologies in order to scale gracefully and remain competitive. As we wrote about in our e-book, Five Factors That Will Shape the Modern Finance Office , AI, machine learning, and RPA will serve to enable organizations to proactively navigate potential issues and opportunities, rather than simply react. Instead of replacing full-time employees, for example, automation can absorb mundane tasks such as data entry and manual routing of invoices, freeing up staff for more value-added contributions.

RPA is also expected to further streamline and improve the financial planning and analysis (FP&A) process over the next several years as adoption becomes more widespread. More than half (58%) of companies expect RPA to have a significant impact on their FP&A processes over the next two years, according to Finance in the Digital Age, a recent survey conducted by the Genpact Research Institute and analyst firm HFS Research.

Where does RPA come in with regards invoice processing (AP) automation? RPA is designed for very structured tasks with little need to interpret data. The most obvious function is manually entering data from a paper invoice into the system, among other equally dreary and uninteresting tasks. As Leslie Willcocks of McKinsey puts it, “RPA takes the robot out of the human.”3

Afraid RPA—or software “bots” will take over your job? Don’t be. Willcocks goes on, “RPA mimics the activity of a human in carrying out a task within a process. It can do repetitive stuff more quickly, accurately, and tirelessly than humans, freeing them to do other tasks requiring human strengths such as emotional intelligence, reasoning, judgment, strategizing, and interaction with the customer.”

In Part 2 of this blog series, we’ll explore what an AP professional’s work life looks like before and after RPA.

1THE FUTURE OF EMPLOYMENT: HOW SUSCEPTIBLE ARE JOBS TO COMPUTERISATION?, retrieved on 2019-09-10

2"Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Market Worth $3.11 Billion by 2025"www.grandviewresearch.com. Retrieved 2019-09-10.

3Lhuer, X., The Next Acronym You Need to Know About: RPA (Robotics Process Automation), McKinsey Digital, December 2016. Retrieved 2019-09-10 https://www.mckinsey.com/business-functions/digital-mckinsey/our-insights/the-next-acronym-you-need-to-know-about-rpa.

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