Disputed payments, missing invoice data, incorrect posting information, mismatched invoice and purchase orders – ring a bell? Research shows that Accounts Payable (AP) staff spend nearly a quarter of their time dealing with such matters.
Automating, at least the front end of the process, and invoice receipt and approval, is a necessity to reduce per-invoice processing costs and invoice approval time, which in turn will result in enormous cost and process savings. More importantly, it will enable AP to become strategically valuable to the greater organisation by focusing on the more strategic aspects of the operation – including data gathering, data analysis, and dissemination of the data/intelligence.
AP organisations can leverage Intelligent Automation to automate processes, producing easily accessible data surrounding business operations, with:
- Robotic Process Automation (RPA). Manual processes – such as extracting invoice data from portals, vendor onboarding and financial reporting – add time, complexity and risk to the AP process. However, as many AP tasks are already optimised, they make good candidates for RPA, which can be rolled out quickly. Once deployed, robots shorten the payment cycle and reduce error rates to zero.
- Cognitive Capture. Automatic upload of invoice data enables AP teams to save time and reduce errors. But to truly transform AP, this process must also be intelligent. “Cognitive” robots do more than just copy and paste. They also read and extract invoice data, validate it against the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system and general ledger coding, and route it through automated approval and exception workflows. Humans only get involved when the robots encounter low-confidence data. As Cognitive Capture tools also learn and improve, when the enterprise increases in size and complexity, AP organisations are able to adapt in real-time.
- Advanced Analytics. An enormous amount of valuable data rests within AP systems, especially as it relates to managing cash flow. Advanced analytics provides insight into outstanding liabilities, days payable outstanding, cash flow planning, end-to-end productivity and even compliance risks. With access to business-critical data, AP payable staff can:
- Gain total visibility into performance and process metrics
- Identify (and correct) bottlenecks in AP processes and workflows
- Catch potential problems early
- Ensure invoices are paid on-time
- Take advantage of discounts
- Support finance in evaluating the overall health of the company’s cash position
- Mobility and Engagement. With a mobile app, AP teams can engage seamlessly with colleagues, managers, suppliers and partners. Intelligent automation routes invoices to finance executives and functional managers, who can review and approve on their mobile device – thus eliminating bottlenecks and reducing processing time.
- Process Orchestration. To improve efficiency, AP teams must find ways to reduce friction across their organisations. There are numerous spots in the workflow where breakdowns, slowdowns or bottlenecks can occur. An invoice might get stuck in approvals, for example, or it may not match an existing purchase order. When payments are delayed, organisations miss out on discounts and the experience for customers and partners becomes less than optimal. Process orchestration changes this dynamic, eliminating friction by bringing together multiple disparate processes and acting as the connective tissue. For example, a self-service portal can improve the supplier experience while also transforming AP end-to-end. Intelligent Automation gives accounts payable organisations the ability to seamlessly orchestrate multiple data and content workflows between people, software robots, policies and systems.