Just as technology tends to evolve and improve over time so, too, does our understanding and use of technology tend to progress. Thankfully, the application of robotic process automation (RPA) solutions is advancing in many corporate finance functions and tax departments, thanks in part to more informed and nuanced discussions concerning the technology.
My colleague John Viglione, Vertex executive vice president, has been contributing sharp insights to emerging-technology discussions for years. John recently connected with Digital Journal Editor-at-Large Tim Sandle to discuss numerous aspects of RPA, including the ways it can help corporate finance and tax.
Specifically, John weighed in on:
- What RPA does: RPA improves workflow between different, and often, unrelated information systems throughout the organization. In other words, RPA bridges systems that otherwise would not be able to share data without substantial and time-consuming effort.
- Where RPA works best: Almost anywhere, especially in finance and tax, where manual, repeatable and inefficient processes often still flourish.
- What RPA cannot do: The technology cannot structure data or deal very well with exceptions. As a result, RPA solutions require human oversight. This human attention and support ensures that the data sets these solutions use are clean and properly structured and that rules for exceptions have been created and remain current.
- How finance and tax leaders can drive successful RPA investments and use: John suggests starting by identifying where employees are spending time and resources to identify tasks that can be more effectively accomplished with RPA (e.g., transferring data). Also, finance, tax and information technology partners should structure and standardize data so it’s clean and usable, as well as accurate.
John’s Q&A with Digital Journal contains much more information about RPA’s value and challenges. It also includes an astute analogy that will stick with you: “RPA can be characterized,” John notes, “as the ‘duct tape’ of the digital age—while it is an enabler, it is not a comprehensive solution in itself. It is a workflow technology that looks to automate sharing of information from one system to another.”
Please remember that the Tax Matters provides information for educational purposes, not specific tax or legal advice. Always consult a qualified tax or legal advisor before taking any action based on this information.