Supplier portals, or marketplaces, are interactive, web-based environments that suppliers can access 24x7x365. These portals enable organizations to have constantly up-to-date information available to customers and suppliers. Some give self-service functionality to improve supplier relationships, providing better service, more efficiently. What once was a manual, time-consuming process can now be automated, reducing risk and cost. For example, AP staff no longer need to answer supplier or invoice questions – all information can be found on the system.
Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Manual AP processes are repetitive, time-consuming and typically require high levels of involvement from employees. As such, robotic process automation (RPA) is an excellent fit for the automation of AP processes.
Like other automation solutions, RPA isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, but the technology has the ability to help companies streamline their financial tasks in order create enhanced efficiency and operational control. Here are some of the challenges to consider if you are looking into an RPA solution.
- Non-standard invoicing: Invoices that companies receive from their suppliers sometimes still arrive in multiple different formats: as a paper copy, a Word document, a PDF email attachment, or a fax. Because invoice formats are not always standardized, it is often a challenge for companies without automation software to handle them in the same way each time.
- Unstructured data: A company’s Finance team is responsible for transferring the data from various invoice formats into the company’s database. AP staff are also responsible for manually dealing with any discrepancies between the bill of lading, purchase order, and invoice as well as approving payments.
- Automated reconciliation of matching errors: A large, time-consuming burden for a company’s AP team is error reconciliation. This can include discrepancies in purchase amount or supplier contact information between various essential documents, such as invoices and purchase orders. By automating most of this manual matching, you can reduce the amount of oversight and exception handling required by employees, meaning they can focus on more critical finance responsibilities.
- High scalability: Accounts payable workflows designed with RPA can be replicated or reused across different business departments and between locations, meaning that quick scalability can be easily achieved. The number of active robots can be scaled up or down with little to no additional cost.
Forward-thinking companies recognize the impact that spend management has on the organization. Alleviation of manual processes can speed up the processes highlighted. Automation also helps to reduce accruals and ensure the accuracy of liabilities. There are solutions available to make it happen.