Robots and Payroll: The Future Is Now


Research

Payroll staff review a customized list of bonus payments from six months of payroll data, automatically processed and delivered over the weekend. The report, suggested by the system, flagged duplicate bonuses in the mix so they may be reviewed before the current payroll is approved and processed.
An employee's work time is tracked through geolocation based on his mobile phone's location, and payroll systems automatically pick up the new site and modify potential requirements for taxes and wage and hour based on the new location.
An employee decides that she wants to be paid on the hour for each hour worked. Why wait until a scheduled payday? And practically on demand, her pay automatically trickles into her bank accounts based on her direction.
Is this payroll's future? Will these systems properly integrate to do all the prorated deductions and calculations, timely deliver pay, notify, make tax deposits, and meet reporting obligations? Not only are some of these systems in place, at least partially, but they are to be developed using a form of robotics that could transform payroll staff beyond auditing to being in total command of the processes, said Dimitris Papageorgiou, a principal for people advisory services at the accounting firm Ernst & Young LLP.
Machines are rapidly progressing to the point that people do not need to initiate the activity, but they still need to “learn” from people what could be needed, Pagageorgiou said Sept. 27 at the American Payroll Association's Fall Forum in Indianapolis. This allows machines to connect more effectively with users and other machines to complete processes “faster, better, cheaper,” he said.
But payroll professionals need to become tech savvy in a hurry to effectively use and stay involved in leveraging the potential of what Papageorgiou said is the fourth industrial revolution, which is going on now. This new “cyberphysical systems” revolution comes as the pace of hardware development slows and data storage is cheaply acquired.
To leverage these new developments in “robotic process automation,” payroll operations need to move from active instruction to adopt to a more passive, machine-learning paradigm to enter into a “brave new world” of use of technologies. These are the technologies that payroll professionals should use to show command of the processes, Papageorgiou said.

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