RPA (Robotics process automation) is one of the great buzzwords. Basically, RPA can be defined as software robots that carry out and facilitate the cumbersome and time-consuming routine processes in administrative work. One of Azets’ main business areas is payroll administration, which consists of many routine and repetitive processes.
And payroll consultants are among the most perfectionist and precise people you can find. These are necessary characteristics when working with payroll, as the figures must be 100 per cent accurate each and every time. Therefore, it may be difficult to convince a payroll consultant that a robot can handle some of the payroll work as well – and perhaps better. It pushes your limits having to hand over control, in a process in which accuracy is paramount.
I am such a payroll consultant myself.
When we at Azets were introduced to RPA, I was far from convinced of the technology’s potential. However, the results now speak for themselves.
In the following, I will describe my initial experience of RPA and the very evident advantages that were achieved.
As a senior payroll consultant at Azets, I have handled payroll administration for companies in various industries for 6 years. My clients are Nordic companies with 1-500 employees with different collective agreements. As a payroll consultant, parts of my work are routine, and many tasks associated with payroll production are the same from client to client. For these tasks, it is the same process that is repeated every month in connection with the payroll run. The very fact that many payroll tasks are routine and repetitive was the reason that my manager proposed implementing RPA for payroll work in 2017.
What is RPA?
RPA is not a physical robot that you suddenly have as a colleague. RPA is a piece of software that can copy your work, click-by-click. In connection with a task, the robot learns which programs should be opened and the order in which to click, from where and to transfer data, etc. Since the robot is a piece of software, it can perform its work 365 days a year at any time of day. It is I who decides when the robot is to perform the selected tasks and have a status report ready for me with any discrepancies in the results.
Looking for more RPA facts and arguments? Check out this blog post: RPA – a small guide for businesses
RPA in Azets
At Azets we would like to be one step ahead, and we do not doubt that within a few years RPA will change the terms of execution of the tasks that exist today. Therefore, Azets invested considerable resources in RPA; both regarding investment in the necessary software and not least in education and continuous training of the professionals who develop and configure up the robots.
An RPA team has been established in each of the four Nordic countries: Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Finland.
I am part of the Danish team, and my job includes identifying processes where RPA is a possibility. When a process is identified and selected for RPA, the RPA consultants take over. Their task is to develop the robot, implement, test, etc. We collaborate and coordinate continuously with other RPA teams, exchange experiences, results, knowledge and so on.
Exciting – but also scary
When we at Azets were introduced to RPA, I thought it sounded exciting. We always have a sharp focus on optimising processes and workflows, so that we can offer our clients the best possible service.
But I was also a little worried. There are so many things to relate to when working with payroll: rates, laws, collective agreements, company’s special requests, customised setups, and so on. How could a robot relate to all that and then act correctly?
Since I think that there is a lot to take into account, how do I get a robot to be able to relate to all the conditions? I am very detail orientated, and as a payroll consultant, it is crucial that the work is 100 per cent accurate. You must have a handle on and control over all stages of a given payroll process. By implementing robots that now have to press the buttons, I have had to let go of some of this control, and it has been a challenge.
It really pushes the limits having to rely on a robot doing it 100% correct and informing me of any deviations that there might be.
Accuracy and efficiency
When we decided to implement RPA in the payroll work, we had to start by identifying the appropriate processes.
We went through the following steps:
- We reviewed all the payroll processes and evaluated them based on how many hours we spend on the task each month
- Next, we assessed tasks based on how standardised the process was
- We prepared a description of each step in the process
- Finally, the robot was developed, tested and the workflow configured in the robot
When the robot was running the selected processes, it quickly became clear to me that my concerns were unjustified.
The robot can perform the job efficiently and 100 per cent accurately. It makes no typos, cannot be upset and does not have the ability to change the process.
It is also incredibly smart that a robot has no working hours; it can work around the clock throughout the year. This means that it can, for example, work at night, and so the status report is ready for me when I come in at 8 a.m. Then I can immediately start the payroll tasks that require my attention. I no longer have concerns about implementing RPA in our work. I would certainly recommend RPA to others as it is an excellent opportunity to optimise processes, achieve higher accuracy and it allows staff to focus on the more exciting tasks.
Confidence in RPA increases as we experience more and more processes running successfully. It is an exciting development to be part of!