Early Evidence of Digital Labor in Accounting: Innovation With Robotic Process Automation
31 Pages Posted: 27 Jun 2019 Last revised: 22 Oct 2019
Date Written: June 24, 2019
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an emerging technology that enables the automation of rules‐based business processes and tasks through the use of software bots. Drawing upon the theory of Task‐Technology Fit and Technology‐to‐Performance Chain (Goodhue and Thompson 1995) and research on expert systems (Messier and Hansen 1987; Sutton 1990), this study explores emerging themes surrounding bot implementation for accounting and finance tasks. We collect and analyze interview data from adopters of RPA and document task suitability, implementation issues, and resulting organizational performance outcomes. We find that securing technical capability is only a part of RPA implementation process. Organizations engage in standardization and optimization of processes, develop scorecard‐like tools to rank tasks, adjust governance structures to include digital employees, and redefine internal controls. Organizations benefit from automating only certain processes, those that are structured, repeated, rules‐based, and with digital inputs. Along with cost savings, organizations experience improved process documentation, lower error rates, more accurate measurement of process performance, and better report quality.
Keywords: robotic process automation; intelligent process automation; digital labor; accounting automation; accounting innovation; accounting digitalization; robotics
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