Artificial Intelligence (AI), Machine Learning (ML) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) are all poised to transform the way in which businesses work, but can they really have a direct and meaningful effect on the day to day experience of Accounts Payable (AP) and Finance professionals?
Error-free Accounting With Technology
Account payable departments are still heavily reliant on manual tools such as spreadsheets, or legacy systems that need to be augmented with complex workarounds or manual processes.
All of these are susceptible to human error as information is carried from one format to another, and regardless of how focused you are on carrying out the task, we all know that repetitive tasks are by their nature mind numbing.
What happens when we get bored? We make mistakes. We are only human!
New technologies such as Intelligent Capture Recognition (ICR) RPA, ML and other areas of AI can replace these disparate tools and processes, reducing both the likelihood of human errors shrinking the likelihood of financial loss.
This is before we take into consideration the fact that an RPA or AI solution has no interest in making money for itself so is unlikely to be involved in any fraud, or sign off anything that is fraudulent.
Let’s see how each of the processes involved in AP can be automated using a mix of RPA and different other technologies:
Purchase Order creation
The buyer creates an order in their ERP and then sends this order to its supplier. The order, depending on the supplier’s technical capability is either:
- converted and shows up on the supplier’s portal where she can confirm it and flip it into an advanced ship note / invoice or
- it goes straight to the supplier’s ERP. Here, our robots map and transform the buyer’s PO format to the supplier’s ERP preferred file format. Removing completely the need of expensive customizations, whether it’s xml, csv, idoc etc.
Ship notes, goods receipt & reconciliation
Once a supplier creates the advanced ship note, this is sent to the buyer system in real-time. This helps with warehouse operations, allowing employees to prepare for the merchandise arrival, speeding the process (e.g. clearing the landing for the delivery track in advance, so that unloading takes place as fast as possible).
Invoice capture and receipt
The biggest pain in accounts payable automation is invoice data capture – meaning that information from the invoice needs to be extracted and then inserted into an ERP or accounting software. The difficulty comes from the non-standardized invoice formats – paper, pdf, einvoice, xls etc, which makes it close to impossible for any buyer to have the input channels required to manage such a variety of formats. So, traditionally, invoice capture and receipt is done manually by AP staff or outsourced to a BPO, which also handles this flow manually.
Payment initiation and execution
After invoices have been posted into the ERP, the invoices are sent to payment. A payment file is created which is pushed to the bank. There, the solution performs payment checks – flagging invoices to avoid double-payments, fraud, blacklisted partners etc. Once the payment has been processed by the bank the statement file is brought back into the ERP system and payment allocated to each invoice. A “paid’ message can be sent back to the supplier, or even the entire statement so that reconciliation also happens in their AR system.
Reporting & analytics
Reporting and analytics is also available according to client business rules. Processed documents, documents with exceptions or any other type of report based on platform events and content can be created, ad-hoc or regularly.
In order to facilitate accounts payable automation our RPA-based platform has been designed to ensure rapid supplier onboarding and various functions that help with Accounts Receivable process. The supplier portal allow suppliers to upload invoices, receive eorders, flip orders to advanced ship notes or directly to invoice, check invoice status, correct document errors and receive payment / payment order messages. This portal facilitates communication and dispute resolution, eliminating calls and emails to the buyer’s accounts payable staff.
Matching and routing
Our RPA software is capable of customizing workflows and approvals depending on the document type and the buyer’s business rules. PO-based invoices are matched against corresponding POs, goods receipt notices or ship notes. Exceptions or discrepancies are either solved automatically or they are routed to the appropriate approvers. If invoice data is missing, as identified in field-level matching, our robots are able to check against third party databases and extract and then add the respective piece of information.
Our dashboard makes it easy for approvers to see the status of all invoices received (or issued – from a supplier’s point of view), checking document history and logs. This speeds up the audit process, as each document has perfect traceability and can also help with specific financing options. For example, one bank logs into his client dashboard each day, learns which invoices were approved and scheduled for payment in 60 days, and instantly releases funds to its customer for these invoices.
To ensure that purchase orders are placed correctly and invoiced correctly, our platform also has catalogue abilities. A supplier can upload several product catalogs and manage them according to each buyer’s business rules. This feature saves hours and hours of work, avoiding phone calls and emails about product codes that don’t match, price differences and other logistical details that often complicate the procurement process.
You can contact us , for end-to-end solution that includes invoice capture, comprehensive vendor invoice functions, workflow and exception handling, a supplier communication portal, and secure archival of process data in the cloud.