Mention robots in relation to office automation and an image of an R2-D2 like creature delivering coffee or working the photocopy machine springs to mind. Although office robotics has yet to reach this level, there have been giant strides made recently to successfully use robotic technology to remove manual and repetitive tasks from business operations. One area that has seen great progress is in financial management, particularly T&E expense audit – an area of personal interest to AppZen.
Robotic process automation (RPA) is the removal of repetitive office functions from human involvement to free up workers for more productive practices. Wikipedia defines it as a software application that replicates the actions of a human being interacting with the user interface of a computer system.
Artificial intelligence powered robotic software can replicate many of the repetitive manual tasks required in a business back office, such as data entry and processing. In addition to speed and accuracy gains, the software can be trained as it goes, not relying only on coding, but also the inputs of staff to learn new processes and continually refine rules and guidelines.
RPA + AI = The Future of Business Operations
Anand Rao, Thomas Torlone, and Rodger Howell of PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) see robotic process automation as being the key to productive companies in the future – combining RPA with artificial intelligence to remove much of the time and inaccuracy in data entry processes and audits. When combined with artificial intelligence tools, such as AppZen and ReceiptIQ™, automation can make significant positive changes to a company’s bottom line. In their recent article, PwC cited an example of a $2B company, who upon adopting RPA, identified 10-15% cost savings along with 5000 hours of time being removed from repetitive tasks.
One public fear of A.I. is that it will result in a reduction in job prospects as robots gradually take over roles previously done by humans. However, we see the future differently. AI programs can perform tasks, such as auditing 100% of expenses, which were impractical or too expensive for organizations to achieve in the past. In the same way that software has increased the amount of data at our fingertips, robotic solutions will enable companies to perform tasks that were previously impossible. The development of the technology will also help remove the mundane, repetitive, and error prone tasks from people, allowing them to focus on more fulfilling and value added tasks that can benefit themselves and the organization.
PwC estimates that up to 45% of office tasks can be automated in the future, transforming the focus of resources within the office environment towards more productive strategic tasks.
AppZen has continued our development in this area by rolling out ReceiptIQ™, a patented computer vision technology with the ability to read information from receipts and flag questionable expense claims in real-time. Results so far have shown an ability for the software to identify ten times as many questionable expenses claims as traditional manual auditing methods, providing users with millions of dollars in annual savings.
To learn more about automating your real-time T&E expense audit process contact us today.