Fixed Assets Management: Driving Continuous Improvement through Automation
Acronyms like RPA and API have infiltrated the tax and accounting vocabulary. Both are the latest industry buzzwords surrounding how automated processes are making inroads into tax and accounting functions. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) automate time-consuming, repetitive, manual tasks that define much of tax and accounting work, but they do it in different ways. Robotic processes and application programming can be used together or separately.
Advantages of Automation
As with advances made in computing in years past, the advantage of RPA and APIs is that they automate processes that can now be accomplished in a fraction of the time. Businesses that embrace automation see many benefits, such as:
- Cost-effective, streamlined operations
- Higher rate of accuracy
- Improved financial controls mitigate financial statement risks
- More strategic use of employees reduces attrition costs
Both RPA and APIs can be configured to perform specific tasks continuously until the job is done. This opens up many possibilities in the world of fixed assets, but even so, automated functions can only do what they are programmed to do; they can’t think, act, or problem solve like a human.
Automation Doesn’t Always Mean Hands-Free
Although both RPAs and APIs reduce human workloads and automate manual processes, it doesn’t necessarily follow that they are totally hands-free. Companies can automate business processes and tasks with RPA by configuring computer software or ‘bots’ to capture and interpret various routine, repetitive applications and transactions. Although, bots are able to run 24/7, RPA is highly dependent on the user interface – any changes to the interface will require reprogramming the bot.
APIs are software intermediaries that act as a bridge or messenger between various applications making data transfer easier, and more accurate. APIs generally require less work than RPA because they are maintained by software vendors and updates take place automatically. This helps ensure continuous functionality without oversight from the end user.
Both RPA and APIs remain excellent tools for completing tax functions, but subtle differences in how they function impact whether or not true automation is achieved. It is important to understand that automated functionality does not necessarily mean 100% automation. There will always be a need for some type of human oversight and/or intervention.
APIs for Asset Management
RPA and APIs can automate repeatable tasks, but when it comes to fixed or leased assets management, APIs have the advantage. Thanks to their lower cost, greater reliability, reduced need for post-installation oversight and maintenance, APIs are well suited for:
- Application of business rules. APIs work well with rules engines that capture and automate manual processes, such as reviewing and updating data. The data can then be used to support specific workflows and transactions that provide staff with enhanced visibility into processes. This improves turnaround time for tight deadlines.
- Streamlined data capture and transformation. APIs are capable of collecting data from multiple sources, and can be leveraged to import that data for reports and analytics. This eliminates the need for manual capture and rekeying.
- Reliable data transfers. The automated data exchanges of APIs can be configured with checks and balances that ensure data integrity; again, eliminating the need to do this work manually.
- Automated file import and export functions. Importing and exporting data is one of the most time-consuming aspects of fixed assets management. APIs are capable of automating these time-consuming steps, easing the administrative process.
- Enhanced reporting. Reporting accuracy and analysis are enhanced and improved with APIs and business rules that can turn incomplete data into useful information.
Automation Paves the Way for Continuous Improvement
Automation can deliver real and immediate benefits to the tax and finance function. By reducing many labor- and time-intensive processes surrounding fixed assets management, the team can eliminate administrative demands and be freed up for more strategic and value-added work. The end result is improved data quality, increased accuracy, and better financial controls.