This writer was tasked with the job of writing a blog entitled Bots vs Human Bookkeeper. It is the position of Valenta that the only versus to be discussed regarding this blog title is; which one is a better fit in a specific business scenario. Both are the right choice in different circumstances. It is never robots versus people or software bots versus people. It always comes down to a business decision. The comparison of what is most efficient and what is more cost effective is what is critical. Bots have their place and people do as well. People will never completely be replaced, after all, we are running the show.
If there is a high amount of repetitive rules based tasks, if there is a lot of structured data and digital information, if a business seeks to improve accuracy, increase productivity, improve compliance, gain better insights and analytics, or is attempting to save money – bots might be an excellent option to investigate.
However, if there is a need for creative thinking and cognitive abilities, or if processes change frequently, if there is a significant amount of unstructured data, if there is low task volume for specific functions, and if human interaction is needed – a human bookkeeper will always be the best choice.
Level Set, What is a Bot?
As we mentioned in an earlier blog, a bot is simply a piece of software that acts like a human by reading information through screen scraping and can move a mouse, copy and paste information, enter data, and use multiple software tools to execute business processes – all just like a human would do.
When might Bots be a Better Choice?
Conditions that are usually good signs that an organization should examine bots is if there is a high volume of repetitive and rules based tasks that involve large amounts of digital information plus the use of multiple software tools. If an organization wants to connect software tools together or address integration with legacy software without using APIs, bots / RPA can also make a good choice. When it comes to accounting bots vs bookkeeper the following bookkeeping and accounting tasks are good matches, invoice processing, PO processing, invoice receipt, delivery entry, vendor reconciliations, ledger reconciliations, journal entries, expense tracking, customer data set up, CRM processes, and more. Additional use cases would include payroll automation, daily P&L, bank statement reconciliation and report preparation.
Let’s go a little deeper on some of the items mentioned above for when else bots might be a better path to explore.
Business seeks to improve accuracy
Bots can dramatically improve accuracy, and this is because a bot never gets tired. It also never gets bored and never gets distracted like a human can. As a result of this a bot never or rarely makes mistakes. When there are inaccuracies related to bots it usually comes back to poor input data or poor design of an RPA by the human developers. On the flip side humans are not attentive 24/7, and we have limited attention spans. A bot can work around the clock, have limitless attention, and not make mistakes. This all results in improved accuracy.
Drive increased productivity
Another of the benefits of RPA in business is increased productivity. A bot can be working every nanosecond, and this is something a human cannot do. Because bots can work around the clock it provides unlimited possibilities for companies to run their businesses with off the chart productivity. Also, bots use software applications just as a human would use the different applications, but at hyper speed leading to more productivity gains. Lastly and again, using RPA as a substitute for APIs especially when it comes to legacy software applications can be a real game changer and unburden many organizations.
If a business needs to know how, document and record for audit or compliance purposes how a particular repetitive task is completed, bots are an incredible resource. Financial, accounting insurance, medical and legal based businesses are all good examples of companies that have compliance requirements. A bot can perform predefined sets of instructions and do them the same way every time. This makes a strong case for using it in compliance, governance, auditing, and risk management.
Gain better insights and analytics
Another benefit of business process automation is improved insights and analytics. Bots can be used to collect more and better data and to analyze and report business data. Using a bot to interact with customers, clients, patients, and even workers on the front end can assist in the easy capture of important business data. A bot never loses or misplaces information and never forgets to report or update data. This reliable capture of data, and automation of business analytics is often an overlooked way bots help a business.
Attempt to save money
The cost of a bot is typically 1/3 the cost of a human dedicated to do the same job. Redeploying of people within a company can save money also and focus personnel on more customer facing roles to provide better and more individualized service and care to customers & clients. Increased worker time and energy dedicated to critical and creative thinking as well as innovation is also a big upside. The ROI of RPA projects are often measured in FTE (full time equivalent) that is saved. If there is a significant FTE in a bots vs bookkeeper comparison a project should likely go to a POC (proof of concept).
When is a Human Bookkeeper a Better Choice?
The accounting bots vs bookkeeper discussion is about putting the right resource on the right task or function. A human bookkeeper will always be the right choice when cognitive skills are needed. They will also always be the correct option when human interaction is required. Let’s now go a little deeper on some of the items mentioned above for situations when a human bookkeeper will be a better solution vs a bot.
Tasks are highly cognitive
If tasks are highly cognitive bots are not going to be a good match. Bots work best when there are Y/N or multiple-choice decision tree options. AI and machine learning can help but is always best to start with tasks that can be defined as rules based when rolling out bots in any organization. Combining bots and humans on tasks with “human in the loop” deployments is an option. Human workers value how their bot digital assistants can make their work lives easier.
Process changes frequently
Human bookkeepers will always be a better match if a business’s processes are changing frequently. Bots need to be redesigned and requalified for ROI if processes change often. RPA bots are not hard to re-program, but it defeats the whole set it and forget it goal. Bots will not be a good fit and humans will be required if regulations related to processes are changing often. This aspect should be kept in mind when examining the viability of bot projects.
Lots of unstructured data
If a business must process considerable amounts of unstructured data bots and digital transformation will not have much to sink its proverbial teeth into. The classic example of unstructured data is handwritten documentation. Video files, audio files and images are also unstructured data examples. AI can help with some of this, but not all of it. A human in the loop option with a bot is also a consideration, but clearly this is another case where humans are essential.
Maybe one of the biggest reasons bots can be a poor fit and humans a better one is a low volume of a specific task to automate. Frequently there is high amounts of work in a business but perhaps no giant volume of any one task that is an automation and bot candidate. Volume refers to the frequency in the number of times a task or process must be performed. Bots can tear through high volumes of well-defined multi-step and multi-application tasks, but if these types of processes do not occur in a business and there are many different but lower volume tasks humans are going to be the better resource.
Want to Learn More?
So, there you have it, our blog entitled “Bots vs Human Bookkeeper” hopefully drives home the point that there is a place for both, and both are invaluable. If bots are the right tool for your business, Valenta offers all these services to mid-sized enterprises and focuses 100% of our time and effort on these types of companies. If bots are not a match, there are other ways to optimize a business. Valenta provides outsourced staff, bookkeepers, and accountants among them, and this can be a way to reduce costs and focus existing employees on the highest value tasks or the highest value customers.
Everything we do at Valenta is about helping companies focus on and have time for what they do best and their core mission. We do this through process consulting, the automation of tasks, and virtual staffing and outsourcing. We would be pleased to have a no charge consultation at anytime to determine if any of these options will work for your business.