The Future of Accounting: Robotic Process Automation

The RPA Revolution

Accountants have been using automation tools to enhance  workflow efficiency for years, but recently, with technological advances in hardware capabilities and software a new approach, called Robotic Process Automation (RPA), has emerged as an exciting new tool for the accountant of the future.

Two students working on an RPA in class.

Creating an RPA in the MPAcc program

RPA automates actions and processes of repeatable tasks. You might, for example, train your RPA to read, extract and enter data into a spreadsheet. Data entry and processing which may have taken weeks in the past, now happens with a few clicks of a mouse, and this example barely scratches the surface of what is possible with RPA, which can automate almost all software on your PC to undertake complex tasks.

In the past few years, many of the large accounting firms have begun to invest into RPA technology. On the cutting edge of the RPA revolution are the students of the Foster School’s own Master of Professional Accounting—Audit/Analytics (MPAcc). Associate Professor and MPAcc Director, Asher Curtis, has been on the cutting edge of RPA for accountancy, recently co-leading a hands-on RPA workshop for academics from around the country at the Ernst & Young Academic Resource Center (EYARC) Colloquium.

Professor Asher Curtis teaching about RPA in the classroom

Prof. Asher Curtis teaching about RPA in MPAcc’s Advanced Codification Accounting Research class

Prof Curtis has also been working with the EYARC to develop case materials to teach the innovation mindset, cases that the EYARC provides to Universities around the world. Fortunately, MPAcc students get direct benefit from Prof. Curtis’ efforts. In class, MPAcc students have the opportunity to work directly with advanced RPA software, completing cases and challenges that will set them apart from other graduates entering the market.

Note: This is the first in a series of posts about how the MPAcc program curriculum is constantly adapting to the needs of accounting professionals of the future. Find out more about the MPAcc program at UW’s Foster School of Business.