Robotic Process Automation in Public Accounting

62 Pages Posted: 11 Sep 2018

See all articles by Lauren Cooper

Lauren Cooper

West Virginia University

Kip Holderness

West Virginia University

Trevor Sorensen

West Virginia University - Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems

David A. Wood

Brigham Young University - School of Accountancy

Date Written: August 29, 2018

Abstract

This study investigates the adoption and use of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software—often referred to as bots—in the public accounting industry. Accounting firms use RPA software to automate the input, processing, and output of data across computer applications in order to streamline repetitive and mundane business processes. We conducted individual, semi-structured interviews with 14 accounting professionals including at least two RPA leaders at each of the Big 4 accounting firms to gain insights into how RPA software is currently being used. Interviewees note that bots are implemented in all areas of the firm but have gained the most traction in tax services, followed by advisory services and assurance services. Interviewees report that bot implementation has increased quality and resulted in stunning increases in efficiency—although bots are a nascent technology, firms report improved processing times by 70 to 80 percent and reductions of over one million human work hours in 2017. Although bots are more efficient, respondents report that bot implementation is not reducing headcount, but it is decreasing offshoring and increasing employees’ job satisfaction and upward career mobility. In addition, respondents provide perspective on skills that will be needed to succeed in an accounting profession that melds RPA and human judgments. This study is the first to identify and discuss the potential benefits, opportunities, and challenges to implementing RPA in the accounting profession and serves as a catalyst to spur future research in this area.

Keywords: Robotic Process Automation (RPA), Automation, Accounting Efficiency, Accounting Effectiveness, Hiring Decisions, Offshoring

JEL Classification: M4, M40, M41, M42, M31

Suggested Citation

Cooper, Lauren and Holderness, Darin Kip and Sorensen, Trevor and Wood, David A., Robotic Process Automation in Public Accounting (August 29, 2018). Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3193222 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.3193222

Lauren Cooper

West Virginia University ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

Darin Kip Holderness

West Virginia University ( email )

PO Box 6025
Morgantown, WV 26506
United States
3042937847 (Phone)
3042930635 (Fax)

Trevor Sorensen

West Virginia University - Department of Accounting and Management Information Systems ( email )

Morgantown, WV 26506
United States

David A. Wood (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - School of Accountancy ( email )

518 TNRB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States
801-422-8642 (Phone)
801-422-0621 (Fax)

HOME PAGE: http://marriottschool.byu.edu/employee/employee.cfm?emp=daw44

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