3 Reasons to Incorporate Robotic Process Automation in your Internal Audits
Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, is becoming increasingly common in internal audit to streamline and optimize straightforward, repetitive tasks involved in the internal audit process. With this automation, organizations see quality improvements, increased speed and efficiency, better accuracy, and growing value. If RPA isn’t something you’ve encountered yet, don’t worry. In this article, we’ll introduce you to the basics of RPA for internal audits and explain some of the ways you, as an auditor, stand to benefit from this technology.
What is Robotic Process Automation?
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be thought of as a next-level form of automation, but one which remains a step below an artificial intelligence (AI) application. RPA is all about taking the time-consuming, repetitive, simple, and rules-based tasks that eat up much of an auditor’s time and handing them to a computer program. RPA software interacts with other applications in the same way a human auditor would to input machine-readable data but does so faster, more accurately, and tirelessly, freeing human auditors to focus on more complex tasks.
The kinds of tasks that can be turned over to RPA include (but are not limited to) audit data preparation, file organization, data integration from multiple files, copying and pasting data between applications, and reconciling data between different systems.
Why Is RPA Valuable for Internal Audit?
In addition to the obvious time savings made possible with RPA, there are financial benefits. CAEs face pressure to raise Internal Audit’s contribution to the business while optimizing costs. It should be no surprise then at the interest in RPA and its potential to return significant improvements in productivity, cost, and risk coverage. As just one example, PwC estimates that 45% of audit work (i.e., basic, repetitive work) can be automated via RPA, offering $2 trillion in global workforce savings. Clearly, by adopting RPA proactively, Internal Audit can demonstrate its commitment to cost savings and efficiency within their organizations.
But beyond simple cost savings, RPA can enhance an auditor’s ability to do their jobs. While impressive at handling those aspects of the role that lend themselves to standardization and automation, RPA is no replacement for an auditor’s expertise and professional judgment.
By freeing up auditors from many of the mundane, repetitive tasks that are part of their role, RPA allows them to focus on the more complex aspects of their job. By sifting data with higher speed and accuracy than humans, RPA can bring to light issues requiring human auditors to make a final determination about their status, such as whether an accounting treatment or client behavior is reasonable.
And the good news for the technologically-averse within the profession is that RPA is generally known for three user-friendly characteristics:
- It does not require programming skills on the part of end-users
- It does not require complex, disruptive integration with existing systems
- It is designed to be managed and even implemented by a business user
Three Benefits of RPA for Internal Audit
Here then are three key benefits that auditors will experience with the implementation of RPA in their practice.
- Improved audit quality and reduced errors
As mentioned above, the automation made possible by RPA leads to improved quality of audits and a reduction of unintentional human input errors. When mistakes occur, they will be caught and corrected more quickly due to the systematic, automated nature of the RPA process.
Because of the tireless nature of computer programs, the audit process can be more real-time and ongoing, offering proactive insights and root cause analysis in reporting rather than everything after the fact. RPA can track progress against annual audit plans, track key risk indicators throughout the year, and perform ongoing evaluation of data quality, ensure completeness of fields, catch duplications, and double-check validations from human inputs.
- Improved efficiency and lower costs
RPA can perform simple, rules-based audit tasks more than 90 percent faster than a human auditor could, and can do so 24-hours a day, if necessary. RPA can populate audit committee and management report templates, internal audit’s balanced scorecards, identify open items, and send basic emails to conduct follow-up.
It is no surprise that the reduction of these time-consuming manual activities for human auditors via RPA can mean significant cost savings. These savings can be passed on to clients as reduced audit fees, helping the audit firm remain competitive.
- Demonstrate value to the organization
And, as mentioned above, RPA offers Internal Audit the opportunity to expand its capacity and focus on more higher-level, value-added activity. Freed of manual input drudgery, auditors can conduct more quality assurance reviews, exception management, and process improvements. A shift by auditors toward value-added activities will allow Internal Audit to increase efficiency, effectiveness, and create more value for the business by maximizing the effectiveness of its highly skilled human auditors.
Interested in learning more about how RPA can positively impact your audits? Check out our webinar on IDEA 11, CaseWare’s advanced analytics offering that includes RPA, seamless collaboration, and an intuitive user experience.