Accounts Payable Workflow poses a big challenge to any business, especially if you’re transitioning from a small to medium level business. It is a very important area of the financial department and can either make or break a company. This process was executed manually which wasted a lot of valuable time of companies until the era of AI & RPA came along.

Problem

Businesses of all shapes and sizes waste valuable time and energy every day by managing their invoices by hand. The accounts payable department is bloated with the manual process of entering invoice data, creating paper invoices, matching purchase orders, and filing endlessly. To complete a single invoice, AP controllers must toggle back and forth between their email and invoice preparation application, be it Oracle NetSuite, Wave, QuickBooks, Tipalti, Xero, SAP, Microsoft Dynamics, ERPNext, Odoo, GunCash, TurboCASH, Sage Inacct, or other ERP softwares.

Not only is this process time consuming, but it is also riddled with human error leading to costly consequences and more delays in the payment processing. This might lead to you losing your vendor or receiving your orders late.

One main challenge that AP Controllers face is that the invoices are received in different structures and formats. So, they always have to figure out what is what. Some businesses do use RPA to automate this process, but in the case of format change, even automation is not helpful. As RPA can only automate rule-based tasks and will always need humans to intervene in case of a slight change.

Another challenge faced is keeping payment records, did you or did you not pay for any particular purchase. Humans tend to make mistakes unlike machines, which is capable of keeping records of each and everything. This strikes out the issue of double payments and also for late/delayed payment charges.

robotic process automation for invoice

Solution

Robotic process automation can rescue your employees from boring tasks, save your company from expensive mistakes, and deliver a fast and efficient workflow solution to your organization. Invoice processing is the perfect candidate for RPA because it is boring, repetitive, and rule based. Software bots can be programmed to process invoice data, validate information, create business exceptions, send invoices, and even generate summary reports once they’ve finished a job—all automatically. Here’s an example of how it works using Wave Invoices as the AP application:

While RPA addresses the structured aspects of invoice processing, the integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) further enhances this process. In many instances, invoices arrive in unstructured formats, varying between vendors who utilize different Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) systems.

RPA bots alone may struggle to comprehend these diverse invoice structures. However, with the incorporation of AI and Machine Learning (ML) technology, specifically Optical Character Recognition (OCR), the automation system gains the capability to scan, analyze, and understand invoices, regardless of their format. OCR enables the extraction of precise information and its placement into the corresponding fields accurately. OCR software analyzes the shapes, patterns, and arrangements of characters within these documents and translates them into machine-readable text. With OCR, we can extract texts, recognize images and characters from any image, document PDF, etc.

The AI-powered RPA bot manages the entire invoice processing journey, encompassing tasks such as matching purchase orders, creating invoices, and responding with instructions for check printing. This automation not only expedites the entire process but also eliminates the need for Accounts Payable controllers to meticulously review each step. The AP staff receives ready-to-initiate print receipts or notifications of exceptions that require their attention, streamlining the overall efficiency of the invoicing process.

Here’s How It Works

The software robot receives invoices as attachments in emails, creates a folder with run dates, and then downloads all the invoices. The RPA bot then opens the Wave application and logs in with secure credentials. It then creates the invoices using the data from the email attachments. If any errors are detected—like a past-due notice—the bot automatically sends an email to the business detailing the problem with the affected invoice attached. A summary report that includes the validated invoices and failed invoices is also sent automatically once the bot has finished its tasks. We used Wave in the example above, but no matter what AP application you use, RPA can be implemented to automate your specific accounts payable workflow.

Impact

Using Artificial Intelligence & Robotic process automation to streamline the invoice workflow significantly and positively impacts the cost, time, and accuracy of the task. If we remove the knowledge workers from the typical invoice processing workflow above and replace them with digital workers/software bots, invoices can be completed in just 2 minutes at a cost of $0.40 to $0.50. And rather than spending $36,000 annually to manage invoices, the company will only spend $1,200 thanks to intelligent automation.

robotic process automation for invoice

Why Does Your Business Need Account Payable Workflow Automation?

Businesses can benefit a lot if Account Payable Workflow is automated. As we all know the time taken and unscalability of human work, bots can be businesses best friends. This not only helps in cost-cutting but also allows employees to work on strategic tasks.

1) Time and Cost Savings

The company’s most precious resource is time, and spending it on monotonous, repetitive tasks can be both tedious and draining. Automation offers a solution, transforming tasks that might consume an entire day for an employee into a quick two-minute process handled by a bot. This not only rescues valuable time but also translates to significant cost savings.

2) Increased Accuracy

With less human intervention, the chances of manual errors decreases. Automation tools themselves cross verify each and everything. This protects from unnecessary delays and late payment charges.

3) Faster Approval Cycles

Automated workflows make it easier to approve things quickly by cutting down on the time it takes for manual approval steps. It also sends automatic reminders to make sure everyone stays on track, ensuring timely actions from the right people. This helps things move faster and keeps the process smooth.

4) Scalability

As your business grows, the automation system can adapt to handle higher transaction volumes seamlessly. This allows businesses to reap benefits in the same time and costs, without any added expense.

5) Data Insights for Decision-Making

Analytics tools can be integrated anywhere and everywhere to analyze spending patterns, identify opportunities for cost savings, and optimize financial processes. This helps in strong decision making and strategic planning for the future.

Conclusion

For decades, businesses have been invoicing the same, wasteful way. Now, RPA has arrived to disrupt the process for higher yields, greater savings, and more accuracy. Accounts payable teams no longer waste away toggling between applications, manually verifying data, and sending emails. These jobs are now replaced by robots, freeing up knowledge workers for more important jobs like tracking down payments from customers. A high-functioning workforce consists of robots and humans working together to achieve maximum efficiency and output.

Let’s together automate your business workflows so you can achieve your goals and focus on your customers better. Contact us today and our team will be happy to assist you.