CPA Practice Advisor - 24

THE 21ST CENTURY ACCOUNTANT

The Four Stages of

Robotic Process Automation
PROCESS AUTOMATION STARTS with simple tracking and reporting of the activity with a
workflow management system, which gets the activity data out of the old paper routing
slips and into a structured format for analysis and reporting. The next step applies rules

BRIAN F. TANKERSLEY

CPA.CITP, CGMA (@BFTCPA, CPATechBlog.com
K2 Enterprises
brian.tankersley@cpapracticeadvisor.com

to automate the most simple, repetitive tasks in a process.
After that step, the learning
and experience that the team
has with the RPA tools make it
possible for more complex tasks
to be automated, including tasks
like taking data from one system
and cross-posting it to another one.
The final step involves reasoning,
where artificial intelligence and
deep learning are used to make
qualitative decisions that humans
used to make.
The diagram below illustrates
my four-step model for process
automation and shows how each
succeeding step builds upon the data
generated and work performed in
the previous step(s).
The stages in my four-step model
for RPA implementation are:
■ Simple process tracking in databases- Basic workflow tracking and
reporting in structured databases
is something you need to embrace
before you get started with RPA.
Since an RPA tool will perform
tasks like retrieving data from
one source and inputting it into
another application, it's important
that the transaction tracking data

is stored in a structured format,
like a relational database. If the
data for tracking your shop floor
activity is only recorded on paper
job sheets which must be scanned
or input, you're making it too hard
to use the tools.
■ Rules-based business process
management (BPM ) - Usi ng
automation and code (like macros)
or pseudocode (like scripts) within
BPM applications is the first real
step in adopting RPA. Some tools
will require format coding skills,
use of APIs, and other programming
tasks that will require that the
business analyst working on a
process create requirements that
will be coded by a programmer.
Newer generation tools allow both
traditional coding of logic, as well
as low code/no code interfaces like
drag and drop flowcharting tools
that facilitate non-programmers
creating an automated business
process. A process in this step of
maturity might route a purchase
requ isit ion to a manager for
approval if it is under $500, send it to
a vice-president if it's between $500

PROCESS TRACKING

RULES

Work Tracking/
Workflow
Management

Rules-Based BPM,
Outsourced Low
Value Work

24

JUNE 2019 ■

www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com

This column is the second in a
series on process automation. The
first article in the series can be
found at http://cpate.ch/bt-rpa-1.

make corrections to the data processed by the routine and provide
input to help it be more effective.
■ Reasoning is the hardest thing
for computers to do, and it is one
of the most challenging as well.
and $5,000, with larger purchases
In the intermediate to long term,
requiring the CFO's consent, then
the types of tasks to be automated
will be increasingly sophisticated.
route it along to the next actor in the
Reasoning requires artificial intelprocess after it is approved.
■ Learning and Bot Creation - Using
ligence and deep learning, where
t he success of t he last phase
large amounts of data are analyzed
automating the simplest tasks, in
for patterns, and is then used to
this step, more complex tasks are
refine the performance of the task.
automated. Tools which scrape data
Although offline legacy applications
from one screen and enter it into
(e.g. QuickBooks Desktop) do not
another are used to create "bots,"
have the hundreds of thousands of
which are like software-based
transactions required to optimize
workers. For accounting, bots can
these algorithms, when similar
do things like extract data from
applications are deployed in a
vendor invoices and record them
cloud-based environment, the data
in a spreadsheet or enter them
is centralized and it is possible to
into an accounting package. The
use the data in the aggregate to
automation software learns the task
use machine learning and deep
by having the software watching a
learning.
human enter one or more
The future for automation is
invoices, and then repeatbright, and while some leading-edge
ing the task multiple
enterprises have reached the third
times. Humans
and fourth steps above, almost
wou ld t hen
all mid-market companies and all
but the largest accounting firms
have progressed no farther than
the second step this
model. Next month we
LEARNING
REASONING
will discuss how some
Robotic Process
AI, Sophisticated
of these tools are used
Automation, Bot
Chatbots, and
to automate tasks in a
Creation and Training
Continuous Improvement
process. ■


http://www.CPATechBlog.com http://www.cpate.ch/bt-rpa-1 http://www.CPAPracticeAdvisor.com

CPA Practice Advisor

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of CPA Practice Advisor

2019 Most Powerful Women in Accounting
2019 Product Review - Tax Preparation Systems
From the Editor: Change is in the Air
The Millennial Advisor: Gone!?!
The 21st Century Accountant: The Four Stages of Robotic Process Automation
From the Trenches: Do Your Best Leadership
The Leadership Advisor: How to Adapt Our Habits to Create Stronger Connections at Work
The Staffing & HR Advisor: How to Quit Your Job Gracefully
Lean Six Sigma Advisor: 4 Steps to Ensure a Return on Your Technology Investment
Bridging the Gap: Automation is Here. How Are You Leveraging It?
Protect & Build Wealth Through Captive Insurance
How Simplification Has Complicated the Tax Office of the Future
Apps We Love: Legal Services
Can Employers Make Direct Deposit Mandatory?
Think Twice Before Not Paying Summer Interns
How to Gain Law Firm Clients With Clever Marketing
How to Set Up the Chart of Accounts for Law Firm Clients
Resources for the Law Firm Accountant
The ProAdvisor Spotlight: Next Day Funding for ACH: Powerful Payment Processing that Drives Prosperity
Don't Delay Implementing New Revenue Recognition Standard
AICPA News
How to Prepare for Summer and Not Leave Your Business Stranded
CPA Practice Advisor - 1
CPA Practice Advisor - 2
CPA Practice Advisor - 3
CPA Practice Advisor - From the Editor: Change is in the Air
CPA Practice Advisor - 5
CPA Practice Advisor - 2019 Most Powerful Women in Accounting
CPA Practice Advisor - 7
CPA Practice Advisor - Protect & Build Wealth Through Captive Insurance
CPA Practice Advisor - 9
CPA Practice Advisor - 2019 Product Review - Tax Preparation Systems
CPA Practice Advisor - 11
CPA Practice Advisor - 12
CPA Practice Advisor - 13
CPA Practice Advisor - 14
CPA Practice Advisor - 15
CPA Practice Advisor - 16
CPA Practice Advisor - How Simplification Has Complicated the Tax Office of the Future
CPA Practice Advisor - Can Employers Make Direct Deposit Mandatory?
CPA Practice Advisor - Think Twice Before Not Paying Summer Interns
CPA Practice Advisor - Resources for the Law Firm Accountant
CPA Practice Advisor - 21
CPA Practice Advisor - Apps We Love: Legal Services
CPA Practice Advisor - The Millennial Advisor: Gone!?!
CPA Practice Advisor - The 21st Century Accountant: The Four Stages of Robotic Process Automation
CPA Practice Advisor - The ProAdvisor Spotlight: Next Day Funding for ACH: Powerful Payment Processing that Drives Prosperity
CPA Practice Advisor - From the Trenches: Do Your Best Leadership
CPA Practice Advisor - 27
CPA Practice Advisor - The Leadership Advisor: How to Adapt Our Habits to Create Stronger Connections at Work
CPA Practice Advisor - The Staffing & HR Advisor: How to Quit Your Job Gracefully
CPA Practice Advisor - Don't Delay Implementing New Revenue Recognition Standard
CPA Practice Advisor - AICPA News
CPA Practice Advisor - Lean Six Sigma Advisor: 4 Steps to Ensure a Return on Your Technology Investment
CPA Practice Advisor - How to Prepare for Summer and Not Leave Your Business Stranded
CPA Practice Advisor - Bridging the Gap: Automation is Here. How Are You Leveraging It?
CPA Practice Advisor - 35
CPA Practice Advisor - 36
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