As we continue to explore the emerging role of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in midmarket enterprises, we’ll highlight various industries that have become early champions of the digital labor technology. One such industry is financial services, where RPA continues to grow in popularity. Here we offer a brief rundown of why Robotic Process Automation is generating so much interest from financial services organizations of all sizes.
ERP made its mark by promising tremendous efficiencies. A single version of the truth. One application housing all your business data. A do-it-all software system that spans business functions from finance and accounting to supply chain and manufacturing. And Cloud ERP solutions like Intacct build on that promise by delivering easy access, rapid implementation, a minimal IT burden and robust productivity features.
Despite the rapid and growing adoption of Cloud ERP and its proven advantages, there is a subset of companies - those that are inexorably tied to a legacy application of some kind - that don’t feel they can make the move. For these companies, abandoning a legacy application right now isn’t feasible. Are these companies destined to remain deprived of the resounding benefits of today’s modern Cloud ERP solutions?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can bridge the gap between Cloud ERP and legacy applications, retaining the usefulness of the legacy system and adding the efficiencies of the cloud. In other words, RPA effectively removes the barriers to Cloud ERP adoption, freeing companies to benefit from current technology while squeezing the last bit of life out of the old. Let’s look at some of the reasons why companies remain locked in to their legacies, and what they stand to gain by opening the door to RPA.
Leaving a legacy. Or not.
Legacy ERP systems typically have rich, industry-specific business functionality, are often highly customized and may no longer be supported by the publisher. Companies cling to these outdated behemoths for a number of reasons. The cost of switching can certainly be a factor, but more often, companies are reticent to abandon them because the legacy system offers a unique strategic function that still operates effectively and enhances differentiation from the competition, so it makes smart business sense to keep it running.
Other companies have separate vendor or customer hosted/provided applications that they must exchange data with to continue the business relationship. Still others inherit legacy applications through mergers and acquisitions and at minimum, need time to fully migrate the new companies’ data and workflow into the parent company’s ERP.
All of these conditions cut into the efficiency promises of a cloud ERP solution, as users must continue to maintain two or more systems.
Robotic Process Automation bridges the gap
When abandoning a legacy application is not possible, or even desirable, are companies destined to remain in the technological past, unable to take advantage of the benefits of today’s cloud ERP solutions? Fortunately, the answer is no.
Robotic Process Automation is an ideal tool to serve as the middleman between legacy applications and Cloud ERP applications, allowing you to continue the business benefits of the older software while leveraging the efficiency gains provided by the new ERP.
To better understand how RPA can bridge this gap, it’s helpful to understand how RPA bots act on and with your data. You can train a bot to fetch and interact with data from multiple separate and unrelated systems. It’s illustrative to think of an RPA bot as a virtual or digital employee, in that they act on your data and systems just like a human would, working back and forth between different applications. Rather than operating at a program level, RPA operates at a user level and requires no code-level changes to your software systems.
What RPA can do
RPA is platform and application agnostic. It operates at the user interface level so essentially, anything a trained software user can do, a trained RPA bot can do. Typically manual tasks like these, often associated with the sharing of data between two disparate applications, are ideal candidates for an RPA bot:
· Logging into the legacy application
· Downloading a file or report
· Entering the downloaded data into a spreadsheet
· Sorting the spreadsheet data and saving to a specified location
· Logging into the new ERP application
· Creating new customer/vendor/item/account records
· Updating addresses/credit terms/quantities/beneficiaries
· Sending notifications of its actions to staff and business partners
· Updating the legacy application with confirmations
Simply put, RPA technology helps remove the barriers to adopting a Cloud ERP solution, by automating the manual tasks that would otherwise be required to maintain two or more applications.
An investment for both the short and the long term
At some point, every legacy application will be updated, replaced or become obsolete, but until then, RPA provides the means for organizations to advance their technology forward with the adoption of Cloud ERP while continuing to leverage the critical functions the legacy application provides.