How Robots Can Help
With the rising popularity of finance and accounting RPA use cases, it wasn’t long before Micro Focus Finance showed an interest. The seven team members are split across two continents and support all the company’s general ledger activities. They realized that robots could perform many of their everyday tasks – logging in and out of applications, downloading and manipulating csv files, copying and pasting data, uploading and validating data, and compiling and emailing reports.
According to Gowrishankar Ramakrishna Rao, Financial Analyst for Micro Focus, “We wondered if there was a way to increase our productivity and save time, especially during hectic month-end close periods, when every minute counts, and during weekends and holidays.”
The team collaborated with Micro Focus IT to identify business processes that were right for RPA. Strategic Development IT Project Manager Sridhar Srinivasan said, “We guide business teams to identify RPA opportunities and implement the automation. They should be the ones to decide what to automate. There has to be business value and ROI payback.”
Putting Robots to Work
Micro Focus IT and Finance started with use cases that would make a difference. First up – the updating and validation of central bank rates. The finance team is responsible for updating exchange rates using numbers published by central banks around the world. The six-step manual process, which must be performed nearly every day, involved accessing multiple applications, searching for the day’s rates for select currencies, downloading and formatting data, and checking that the correct rates were applied.
Now, Micro Focus RPA updates and validates central bank rates in a matter of minutes. Using its Java and web skills, the robot works side-by-side with API operations to move between applications, gather and parse the data, and then upload and validate it – just like a human would. Scheduled to run every week day and Saturday evenings, Micro Focus RPA completes the process 85 percent faster than its human counterpart.
The team also decided to automate the month-end revaluation process for open foreign currency balances. In this case, a robot performs the tedious task of running revaluation reports – quickly and accurately navigating the financial application, selecting the previous month’s posting period, selecting the right accounting book, and checking status and error values for all entries, row by row. Once the robot completes the screen work, an API component of RPA compiles and emails a report.
Before RPA, when an error occurred, the analyst would have to manually log into the finance application, check the status, and extract an Excel file to figure out what went wrong. Now, with RPA at the helm, any exceptions are automatically highlighted and handled immediately.
Robo Power is Real
“It’s amazing how you only need to train the robot once,” said Rao. “Then it performs tasks like an expert and complies with accounting standards.” The training process is easy. Subject matter experts simply record their screen actions, exactly as the robot should perform them. Next, the recording is inserted into the RPA automation flow and parameterized. Then it’s ready to run, even if input variables change. Robots mimic humans – but they are faster, more accurate, highly secure, and work at night.
All robot actions can be tracked in detailed logs, in real time. “Before automation, we spent hours answering queries and keeping meticulous trail documentation in case we had to show evidence of how we managed errors,” said Rao. “Now the process is trusted because the robot does the work. We have a perfect audit trail showing all the actions the robot took and the success or failure of each step. This gives us, and our auditors, full confidence in the process.”
Freeing up Human Brainpower
Now that robots have taken on the robotic work, Micro Focus’ financial analysts can take on more challenging projects that require critical thinking. There is no human dependency, and RPA runs during holidays and on weekends as needed. “RPA allows me to focus on the more important aspects of my job and develop my career,” said Rao. “RPA is powerful.”
Micro Focus IT will continue to help business teams understand the power of RPA. “It’s intuitive for every subject matter expert to record their screen actions for robots to mimic,” said Srinivasan. “RPA makes automation quick and easy. When you select the right business process, start small, and scale, RPA can add immense value.”