RPA for CPAs Series: Future Impacts

As RPA replaces mundane data processing and entry tasks, accounting activity will shift to higher value analysis and design work. Automation will handle much of the transactional accounting work that people perform today. With this shift in job responsibilities, work typically assigned to entry-level employees will largely be eliminated.

As time passes, a deep understanding of processes will tend to fade due to the lack of personnel performing the work on a daily basis. Companies will need to ensure that their process workflows are well-documented and maintained. Otherwise, the nuanced knowledge of the automated accounting processes could be lost. Companies will need to ensure that new accountants receive training on the underlying process to gain the kind of insights needed to develop and enhance accounting and audit programs. Future CPAs will be focused on the business impact of the accounting data. RPA will provide an increasing amount of structured data about businesses.

As a result, a CPA will have access to more up-to-date financial data about his or her company’s business efforts than ever before. Understanding and using the data to support management decisions will become a key responsibility for CPAs. The accounting profession itself will become much more focused on data analytics and reporting. CPAs will be asked to develop predictive data analytics to forecast future needs and trends within the business. In turn, this will aid management in running performance programs based on financial statistics and trends.

Use of RPA will lead to changes in how financial records are audited, too. Current practices use statistical risk-based sampling for auditing transaction documents. For high-volume transactions, audit test procedures may cover as few as 5% of the population. By incorporating RPA into the testing process, the enhanced speed and efficiency of the automation will allow for a greater amount of audit testing. Initially, larger audit firms will promote their increased testing assurance as a way to win engagements from audit firms that are not using RPA. Eventually, auditors should expect standard testing allowances to rise as automation spreads through the industry and becomes a regular tool in conducting audit test procedures. CPAs will continue to be valued for the business insights they can provide. The interpretation of complex business laws and regulations has been and will continue to be a core skill for CPAs. Subtleties in language and the meanings of tax and business laws will defy much of the codification necessary for machines to understand them. Business leaders will continue to rely on CPAs as trusted advisers when making financial decisions.

RPA will not replace CPAs, but it will transform the accounting role. The digital world is overflowing with data. As businesses adopt RPA to transform their terabytes of data into meaningful, business-focused, structured financial information, CPAs should expect to be asked to put greater meaning to the numbers.

This article is part of a series exploring how RPA technology can enhance a CPA’s work, past entries are listed below:

  1. RPA for CPA’s Series: Bringing on Bots to Enhance a CPA’s Work
  2. RPA for CPA’s Series: Advantages to Automation
  3. RPA for CPA’s Series: Changes Underway

How Can Schneider Downs Help?

The Schneider Downs Business Process Automation team is committed to assisting clients with the evaluation, adoption and implementation of robotic process automation technology. We work with our clients to evaluate use cases, develop cost-benefit analyses, implement process automation, and provide continuous support to the operation of your business automation processes. 

Learn more at www.schneiderdowns.com/RPA

This article is reprinted with permission from Pennsylvania Institute of Certified Public Accountants, Ten Penn Center, 1801 Market Street, Suite 2400, Philadelphia, PA 19103. (215) 496-9272 ©2019. View the full article here.

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