The Role of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in Accounts Payable Process Management

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Robotic Process Automation: Potential Wins and Roadblocks

Some people doubt the appropriateness of Robotic Process Automation for AP tasks, especially as financial transactions are such a vital part of a company’s operational success. While RPA is gradually being adopted by companies worldwide to automate AP activities, an Oracle whitepaper titled “Process Automation for Accounts Payable” highlights some potential roadblocks:

  • Lack of Invoice Standardisation: When companies receive invoices from their suppliers and contractors, they can appear in a myriad of formats: in hardcopy, as a Word document, PDF attachment, and even a scanned copy. This non-standard quality of invoices creates problems for companies as they try to automate their processing using software.
  • Unstructured Data: The data from the various invoice formats must be transferred to the company’s database by the finance department. AP workers must also resolve any differences between the invoice, purchase order and bill of lading, as well as being responsible for payment approval. As the data in the invoices lack a consistent structure, manually transferring the data can cause inaccuracies while also being a slow process which proves problematic for some automation software.

These downsides notwithstanding, recent technological improvements have significantly developed the abilities of Robotic Process Automation, particularly in regards to optical character recognition (OCR) and the automation of approval and exception activities.

Improvements in OCR enables companies to hand over the interpretation and scanning of paper invoices to software robots, saving a considerable amount of time in the process. Similarly, their ability to manage discrepancies in invoices and paper documents with minimal employee involvement has also grown. Therefore, Robotic Process Automation can provide competitive advantages to companies adopting this new technology.

Some positive points associated with the use of RPA include:

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