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How Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Impacts Accounts Payable (AP) Process Management

RPA Benefits and Drawbacks

RPA Downsides

There’s been some doubt about the propriety of Robotic Process Automation being used in AP tasks, especially with financial transactions being such a crucial part of operational success. With RPA slowly being adopted by companies throughout the world, it’s important to explore some potential drawbacks to this implementation:

  • Invoice Continuity: Oftentimes, companies receive many invoices from a variety of suppliers and contractors, and they can come in a variety of formats: Word documents, hardcopy, PDF attachment, or even scanned copies. The sheer lack of continuity with invoices can create significant problems for companies when they attempt to automate their processing via software.
  • Unstructured Data: During the processing of the various invoices, they must be input to the company database. This means that the AP workers must also be able to resolve differences between the invoices, purchase order and bill of lading, while also having the responsibility of payment approvals. Due to this lack of consistent structure, there is potential for inaccuracies and slow process times, which can prove problematic for some software. 

However, even with these downsides, recent technological advancements have significantly improved the abilities of RPA’s, specifically in regards to optical character recognition (OCR) and automation within approval and exception activities. 

RPA Benefits

OCR advancements are enabling companies to hand off the interpretation and scanning processes for paper invoices to RPA, saving significant time and money overall. Additionally, the ability to note/correct discrepancies found within invoices and paper documents with little employee intervention has also advanced. This means that RPA can provide notable advantages over competitors for companies that adopt this technology. Let’s look at some of the advantages of doing so:

  • Identification and reconciliation of errors: The resolution of errors in purchase amounts, contact information within invoices and orders, as well as other inaccuracies can be the source of many headaches for an AP staff. RPA’s can remove a great deal of this manual labor while also ensuring a higher degree of accuracy and freeing your employees up to spend their time on more important financial tasks, such as strategy and budgeting.
  • Scalability: RPA workflows have the ability to be reused across various departments and locations, allowing for extremely simple scalability. Robots can easily be shifted to busier areas to match the current needs, be it from ongoing growth or simply fluctuations in workload. 
  • Quicker account reconciliations: Many times, closing out the books is dependent on different employee inputs and that can become awfully time-consuming and complicated. However, when RPA software is utilized in the automation of data transfer, troubleshooting and managing minor decision-making, human error almost completely eradicated, rendering account closures a quick and accurate process every single time. 

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