As if the job market wasn’t competitive enough, now you’re going up against robots? To thrive in 21st-century accounting, learn how to make the machines work for you.
Critical job market advice you can’t afford to ignore
Robotic process automation (RPA) sounds threatening if you’re in the early stages of your financial career, but RPA isn’t about robots putting people out of work.
The bots we’re talking about are simple pieces of software that sit on top of existing systems. They interact with the same user interfaces as you to perform straightforward and repetitive accounting processes, such as procure to pay, order to cash and data analysis.
Granted, certain positions may become redundant as more tasks are given over to bots. But if you adopt a flexible mindset and continuously upskill yourself, you’ll be working alongside bots instead of competing against them.
RPA is transforming accounting
A CIMA study into how well businesses are keeping up with technology revealed the adoption curve above. With process robotics leading in the ‘early adopters’ space, it’s the next tech you need to know as part of your career development.
A Deloitte survey confirms this: 53% of organisations have already begun incorporating bots. That figure is anticipated to climb to 72% in the next two years, with near-universal RPA adoption only five years out. And Accenture predicts that 40% of transactional accounting work may be automated by 2020.
But while RPA increases workplace efficiency and eliminates human error, bots can’t operate without the oversight of people who understand the processes involved. And when something outside the bot’s strict parameters crops up, an accounting professional must take over — that’s why bots will be your co-workers instead of your competitors.
From the Big Four to small private practices, employers are looking for individuals who understand the strengths and weaknesses of the technology. Whether you specialize in advisory, assurance or taxation services, plan on encountering RPA.
You can immediately start using RPA to advance your career
RPA can perform many of your time-consuming tasks, but there’s something it can’t replace: You.
Bots carry out actions, but they don’t possess skills or knowledge like you do. Accountancy benefits from the consistency and speed that automation offers, but it also demands critical thinking, versatile abilities and ethical input that only people can bring to the profession. Here’s how you can leverage RPA to make yourself even more valuable:
- Build bots — RPA Builder software isn’t complicated. It monitors how you perform a process, then creates a bot to mimic each step you took. Because each individual bot is built to perform a particular task, the best people to design them are members of the accounting staff such as yourself.
- Maintain bots — Even when bots operate as intended, they still require upkeep. You know the intricacies of accounting, so you’re the one best-suited to monitor bots and update them if processes change.
- Utilize bots — RPA empowers you to overcome issues presented by legacy systems. RPA is also highly auditable, enhancing compliance and transparency. And bots are agile by nature, making your workflow more efficient.
- Outperform bots — Since bots only do what they’re told, you’ll also have to take over when a bot can’t complete a task — an opportunity to demonstrate that your skills and creative thinking can be used for more important work than what machines can perform. Implementing RPA can also mask underlying problems within a system, and it takes the oversight of people with a good understanding of the process to find potential improvements and present solutions.
- Find more work for bots — RPA is effective, affordable and easy to implement — the proof-of-concept stage on an RPA project can be completed within two weeks. So look for any processes ripe for automation and talk to your boss about how you might develop them.
Showcase your RPA potential on your career profile
Recruiters and hiring managers will ask you about RPA during the interview process, so include your familiarity with RPA in your resume. Consider including a projects section to showcase any direct experience you have, even practice projects or course assignments. Be ready to talk through them during your interviews.
No firsthand experience with bots? Display your potential by expressing your understanding of how RPA is affecting the finance function and your eagerness to embrace change. Your actions are as impactful as your attitude, so don’t just tell recruiters and employers that you’re adaptable. Demonstrate your enthusiasm for adopting new tools and methods. Standing out like this helps build your career profile.
You may initially resent the necessity of understanding and implementing RPA. After all, you devoted years of your life to studying accounting, not programming. But imagine that earlier generation of accounting professionals who entered the field before computers became commonplace. Some resisted the new technology and tried to carry on without it. Others adapted, seeing the benefits of computers. Only one of those groups is still around
Start exploring RPA resources today
Ready to learn more about RPA? Read our starter guide What is robotic process automation? Check out firsthand accounts of how RPA is affecting businesses, and consider enrolling in a relevant course or webcast. Study use cases, and look into RPA Builder software; even if you’re never directly involved in creating bots, it’s useful to know what’s under the bonnet.
RPA may seem revolutionary now, but it will quickly become just another instrument in your accounting toolkit.
Ultimately, technology changes the roles people need to fill. But even the most cutting-edge tech must adapt to keep up with developments. And as tech evolves, someone needs to oversee and guide that growth.
Those who are familiar with RPA are uniquely positioned to do so, keeping themselves relevant and continuously adding value for their employers and clients.
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