Leveraging RPA and AI in Accounts Payable Process

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The accounts payable (AP) process is the backbone of any organization as it directly impacts cash flow optimization, fraud prevention, and vendor relationships. Advancements in automation technologies have made accounts payable a major area of focus for process improvement in small to mid-sized organizations. Technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) are gaining attention for their ability to automate manual, time-intensive tasks that obstruct the overall efficiency of the accounts payable processes.

But before we talk about how to automate the accounts payable process with RPA and AI, let us understand how it works.

How does the accounts payable process work?

Accounts payable (AP) teams rely on business units, procurement, and third-party vendors or suppliers to capture information and process invoices for payment. In more detail:

  1. Your procurement team creates a purchase order (PO) that serves as a contract between your business and the third-party vendor to exchange cash for their products or services. The PO lays out the basic information such as quantities of the materials, agreed price of the order, when to fulfill the order, etc.
  2. Once delivered, the team carefully examines the shipment, comparing it against the original PO, and prepares a receipt report. If there is any mismatch or damage, the team will follow up with the vendor for credit or replacement.
  3. The vendor then shares the invoice that lists their records indicating what they have delivered at what price. However, before your AP team makes the payment, the invoice needs a thorough review/approval through a two-way match or three-way match of an invoice against PO and/or Goods Receipt Notice (GRN).

We will elaborate on these steps more in detail while we talk about how RPA and AI can help automate the end-to-end accounts payable process, but first, let us look at how a typical company processes an invoice.

Generally, companies’ invoices from their different suppliers vary in formats: paper invoices, word documents, PDF attachments via email, or fax. Moreover, the invoice data is not always in a structured layout. Many times, they are semi-structured or unstructured.

Today, companies face two significant challenges in their efforts to streamline invoice processing: manual data entry and routing of invoices for approval.

  • It takes between 4.1 and 16.3 days for companies to process an invoice from receipt through payment approval, as per Aberdeen Group, a technology services company.
  • If done manually, both the cycle time and the cost are affected. Manually processing one invoice can cost as much as $23. Automating the process reduces the cost to merely $4, an 80% reduction.

Cost reduction is just one of the many reasons why businesses need to automate their accounts payable processes. Together, RPA and AI can automate a range of manual tasks, eliminating most payment delays and human errors. Some of the areas where RPA and AI can apply are:

  • Intelligent data capture from different types of invoices (physical, scanned, emailed, faxed, electronic data interchange – EDI)
  • Invoice classification and sorting
  • Duplicate invoice checking
  • Data validation against ERP
  • Invoice exception flagging
  • Invoice approval routing
  • Automated tasks and reminders for payment
  • Seamless flow of information through discrete systems
  • Reporting and analytics

Automating your accounts payable process

Any mid-to-large-sized business receives hundreds or thousands of invoices weekly. Manual tasks including, receiving the purchase orders, scanning invoices, extracting data to verifying them against multiple documents, and posting the data into an ERP system, can be automated by combining RPA, AI, and business process management (BPM).

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Touchless Invoice Processing

RPA bots alone can handle structured data types in the same way each time, but need advanced automation to process unstructured and semi-structured data types. This is where artificial intelligence can help. AI-based machine learning models are used to train the RPA bots to effectively interpret and extract data with higher accuracy eliminating human involvement for a variety of invoice formats.

Invoice Data Entry

RPA Bots seamlessly interact with a range of applications and systems, including ERP or any accounting system to feed the extracted data. By automating the invoice data entry process, you can expedite the AP approval process and minimize the risk of human errors and the cost associated with it.

Two-way and Three-way PO matching

The matching of invoices against purchase orders (POs) is called a two-way match, and when matched against both POs and goods receipts, it is called a three-way match. This process involves comparing invoices line-item-by-line-item against these essential documents to reconcile discrepancies in purchase amount or vendor contact information. The manual PO matching process is a highly time-consuming and burdensome activity for accounts payable staff.

RPA Bots can automate most of this manual matching, thus reducing oversight required and exception handling. As a result, employees can focus on more critical finance responsibilities, such as budgeting and planning.

Accounts Payable Approval Process

Automating the invoice/AP approval process along with PO matching significantly eliminates the need for human intervention. Invoices can be automatically routed to the appropriate approver once matched effectively. Automated follow-ups are triggered to remind them of upcoming deadlines.

Benefits of using automation in accounts payable process

  • Improved turnaround time
  • Increased process transparency
  • Better compliance and process control
  • Significant improvement in data accuracy
  • Reduced human errors and costs
  • Optimized cash flow
  • Improved relations with vendors
  • Enhanced customer satisfaction

How Nividous can help

Nividous helps businesses streamline their AP processes with a holistic automation approach. The Nividous platform natively includes RPA and AI, allowing you to automate more tasks with enhanced process efficiency. Machine learning models are built-in to process a range of structured and unstructured documents with the ability for humans to annotate feedback on the fly.

Check this on-demand webinar on intelligent invoice automation to learn more about the platform’s capabilities and use cases.

The natively embedded BPM component included in the platform can help in streamlining end-to-end accounts payable workflow for complete automation. You also get

  • Custom dashboards for business users with slice and dice reporting
  • Real-time visibility of the process workflow within the same platform
  • Intuitive and interactive interface for human review

Let us look at the accounts payable process automation case studies where leading companies across different industries have used the Nividous platform for end-to-end process automation.

1. Success Story of CNM LLP, A Leading Financial Advisory Firm

CNM LLP uses resources billed at hourly rates who work on multiple projects to offer accounting services to their end-customers. Ensuring that the proper rate is used, for a given resource, in a given role for the customer, required a manual comparison of timesheets to engagement letters before creating the invoice.

This manual process was automated using Nividous RPA Bots scheduled to fetch and compare semi-structured and tabular data from letters against timesheets using intelligent OCR capabilities. The Bots create any missing rates in the invoicing system and flag any discrepancies in a report sent to the stakeholders. The Bots complete the data extraction and entry tasks for hundreds of records in just a couple of hours without any human intervention.

Watch an on-demand webinar jointly organized with CNM LLP to learn more about this success story.

2. Automating Complete Accounts Payable Process for a Leading Consumer Goods Company

The company receives more than ten thousand invoices monthly from over 400 vendors across the globe. It required significant staff time to manually extract data from invoices and then review, approve and enter data into ERP.

Nividous’ intelligent automation platform for accounts payable process was deployed to automate as many manual tasks as possible. Natively embedded RPA, AI, and BPM capabilities within the platform allowed for seamless management of invoices, approvals, and vendors within one single interface.

Read the full success story

3. Automation of Varied Formats of Release Orders for a Leading Media Company

This media company receives over 1000 release orders daily from more than 11000 agencies. Each agency/vendor has a different format of the release order and method of sharing. There was a very high risk of human errors and payment delays while manually handling the orders. The Nividous platform streamlines and automates as many manual tasks as possible within the end-to-to accounts payable process using natively embedded RPA, AI, and BPM capabilities.

Read the full success story

Automation technologies can radically improve AP processes, driving speed, accuracy, and cost optimization. Today, organizations are willing to invest in proven technologies to drive better outcomes with low implementation risk. If you are looking for a vendor that can offer a compelling accounts payable automation solution, get in touch with the Nividous team. Request a demo or write to us at [email protected]

Accounts payable ebook

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