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Robot process automation
A Robot to Speed Up the Accounting Close Process

A project presented by Vincent Lefebvre, Henri Houllevigue, Eduardo Hurtado and Roberta Mano

vincent_lefebvre_exploration_production_total
Vincent Lefebvre

Best Innovators

Robot Process Automation (RPA) is a technology in which software robots (or bots) carry out repetitive tasks that require little or no complex decision-making, while interacting with a group of unrelated systems. Total E&P do Brasil’s Finance Department recently deployed an RPA system for the first time to simplify the monthly accounting closure process. This application both optimizes our accounting processes and makes them more reliable.

Automating the Most Frequent Manual Processes

Total E&P do Brasil’s accounting and information technology teams felt that the monthly accounting close process was perfectly suited to automation given the large number of routine, time-consuming tasks. Those include entering data in different accounting transactions, searching for data to be input and reprocessing transactions.

A feasibility study was conducted on the basis of this analysis. No fewer than 25 practical cases were developed to test the software bot's different functions: connection to SAP, execution of transactions in the order of the list, routine data entry in test mode and then production mode, processing in Excel, connection to the Internet to obtain data to input, such as exchange rates, interaction with users via Outlook and recording of results in dedicated closure files.

This simulation revealed that the bot carried out these tasks faster than a human, cutting two days off the processing time for the monthly closure and creating the potential for substantial financial savings each year. Freed up from these time-consuming, low-value-added tasks, the accounting team can concentrate on analysis and more complex controls. What's more, automation offers a solution to the risk of error that comes with repetitive, routine data entry tasks, especially since artificial intelligence should make self-correction of minor errors possible in upcoming versions of the software.

A Tool to Support a Fast-Growing Affiliate

The affiliate's software bot was configured to collect data from spreadsheets, the Internet and other sources, execute the appropriate accounting transactions at the right time, create and store Excel documents, perform controls and send out error messages if necessary. By handling these tasks, it offers valuable assistance for fulfilling the legal and tax requirements for reporting and compliance and, more broadly, supports the rapid development of our operations in Brazil.

Deployed in just four months, the RPA architecture has been stabilized since late 2018. The robot will be installed in 2019 with the migration to UNISOL, the enhanced version of our SAP ERP.

This simple, inexpensive solution could soon be used for other administrative tasks, such as purchase order and invoice processing or tax compliance procedures. Certain affiliates have already expressed their interest.

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