RPA, robotics, robots, bots … as internal auditors you have undoubtedly been hearing this terminology tossed around more and more. What exactly is it? Why is it such a hot topic? Why should Internal Audit care and what can we do to help our organizations embrace, adopt and realize the benefits of this technology?

What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that configures computer software or a “robot” to capture and interpret existing data for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems.  The “robots” (aka “bots”) are programmable software that allows you to automate business processes currently performed by people. Bots are programmed to perform multiple repetitive steps based on defined rules and structured data. They can perform these activities more quickly, accurately and efficiently than humans.

Here are some specific examples of activities that bots can be programmed to perform:

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Why RPA is Gaining Popularity?

RPA is rapidly gaining popularity because a wide variety of industries and business functions are beginning to better understand the technology and its benefits.

  • Cheaper and less complex than traditional/historical approaches to “automation”

  • Rapid Implementation cycle - weeks instead of months

  • Advancements in technology are making solutions more accessible, applicable and affordable

  • Smooth integration with other systems and applications

  • Keeps organizational and technological disruption to a minimum

  • Increased productivity and efficiency

  • Cost savings

  • Reduction in errors

  • Increased flexibility and scalability

  • Freeing of resources to do other tasks

Where are Organizations Using RPA?

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How can RPA Benefit Internal Audit?

Often, Internal Audit is a time-consuming process extracting data from multiple applications/sources, performing repetitive steps, testing and reconciliations. Where the input data is digitally available, RPA is a good fit for internal audit function.  

Data gathering and cleansing for analytics: An RPA can generate and standardize data to run custom analytics, like extracting the data for use by internal auditors, including validation for completeness of fields, comparisons and duplication.

Risk assessment: Bots can assist Internal Auditors to classify risks based on transaction volumes with predefined rules and trends for risk assessment. This will allow quicker identification of high-risk areas/ transactions.

Processing high volume transactions and data collation: Bots can help process high volumes of data (e.g. transaction audit) faster, more efficiently and accurately.

Assistance in testing controls: Bots assist in performing control testing where the tests are standardized.

What are the Keys to Successful RPA Projects?

RPA Strategy

This ensures the RPA Program's goals and objectives are aligned to the organization's goals and objectives.

RPA Implementation Partner

The key to selecting the right RPA Implementation Partner is to analyze the fit with the organization. The partner should understand your industry and process areas being considered for RPA.

Process Maturity

RPA is suitable for mature, defined, repetitive, data heavy processes. In order to assess if processes are potential candidates for RPA, a process maturity and RPA readiness assessment needs to be completed prior to RPA execution.

Project Management

RPA implementation can be a large scale programmed or a much smaller project, either way, project governance, and project management practices need to be applied for successful implementation.

RPA Technology

When selecting an RPA Technology provider it is important for organizations to check the software’s compatibility with your organization's systems and also provide user access restriction functionality to ensure RPA is appropriately controlled.

IT Involvement

IT is also ultimately responsible for ensuring the RPA software complies with the organization's technical specifications and security and data standards, therefore IT needs to be included in the RPA technology procurement process. 

Key Things to Consideration when Selecting an RPA Software Platform and Partner

Our recommendation is to do your own research and determine the technology and provider that is best suited to meet you individual needs and business environment.  There are many experienced and reliable RPA providers in the market.   We do not currently endorse or recommend any particular RPA providers.  However, Gartner (www.Gartner.com) has recently published a very useful guide to the top RPA platforms and providers.  Their guide is titled “Market Guide for Robotic Process Automation Software” and can be found at their website. 

Provided here is a the short list of topics to consider when comparing different solutions and service providers.

ü  Cost

ü  Speed to Delivery

ü  Track Record / References

ü  User Interface Experience

ü  Pre-built Automations

ü  Platform Features Capabilities

ü  Scalabilty / Reusability

ü  User Training

ü  Auditing Security

For more insights and trends on similar topics, be sure to attend one of our upcoming seminars found here.

 


This article was co-written by Ed Williams, senior audit manager at Experis Finance, and Venkatesh Krishnamoorthy, director of IT advisory services at PKF Proserv Pvt Ltd.