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The Transformation Of The Audit Function Through The Robotic Process Automation

Author:Mr Jorge Villanueva Salas

Recent studies reveal that between 40% and 45% of activities currently carried out by labor force can indeed be automated; however, no definitive figures exist on this topic¹. The main incentives for implementing this change are based on the fact that new technologies are being more and more able to imitate the human activity, taking over certain tasks with more speed and precision than persons themselves, with investment levels far from unreasonable.

In this sense, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been gaining ground as an efficient way to automate repetitive and labor tasks in a variety of business areas, such as: finance, accounting, technology, legal, human resources, compliance, etc.

The audit function is no stranger to this new trend since implementing RPA solutions can make such work more effective and efficient, allowing to augment the audit scope (e.g., statistical sampling vs. total population) besides automating more routine procedures (e.g., simple matching, confirmation circularization, arithmetic tests, etc.). This, in turn, allows "freeing up" time to focus on more strategic and value-added activities such as writing a report that requires a deeper analysis, as well as professional judgment, which would not be appropriate to process through RPA solutions.

In any event, it is of paramount importance to identify which activities or tasks are susceptible of being replaced by RPA solutions, which typically will include those of a routine nature, labor intensive, prone to human errors and controlled by rules (that is, not subject to judgment), and for which the information that gives them origin is available and easy to read.

The application of RPA solutions successfully in the audit function involves a 3-step process, described below:

Understanding the processes - The audit processes that more rapidly would benefit from RPAs are those involving defined audit tasks that are repetitive, take a lot of time and do not involve the auditor's judgment. The foregoing entails an ample knowledge of the business in particular and the industry, as well as the typical inherent risks of the latter. Once the auditor has determined that a process is a good option for implementing RPA, the next step within the understanding of the process is to divide the audit tasks in small sub-steps that may be "interpreted" by the RPA solution (what may be intuitive for a human user, not necessarily will be for an automated...

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