Automate accounts payable and prepare for growth

Written by Semyon Sergunin in Software robots in the workplace on July 25, 2019

It’s well known that businesses require data to plan for the future, and accounts payable is attracting renewed attention from leaders because of its outsized impact on planning growth. It’s the data that provides companies insights about such things as forecasting budgets, controlling corporate spending, reducing fraud, and analyzing cash flow to better manage their working capital. Cash flow is, of course, a huge issue when scaling companies and accounting firms.

But despite the importance of accounts payable data, many executives are still flying blind. In many accounts payable departments, essential information is not captured, invoice processing is a laborious manual repetitive process, and systems are not well integrated. Consequently, decision makers cannot easily access the information they need. It’s no wonder that forecasting cash is so difficult for big businesses, putting supply chains at real risk for many businesses. And without modern approaches to compliance, it’s also not surprising that businesses lose so much money to fraud year after year.

The blame for this lack of visibility can be laid at the feet of the legacy systems most accounts payable departments use for capturing, managing, and reporting information. More than three-quarters of accounts payable departments manually key and validate invoice data while matching it to POs and receipts. Traditional accounts payable systems only handle structured data–the kind of data that comes from paper or electronic spreadsheets, databases or standardized forms. But organizations are drowning in semi-structured and unstructured information. Many departments just ignore this data because of the complexity in processing or analyzing it. In fact, this data is referred to as “dark data” because organizations don’t know what it contains.

Bots deliver visibility business leaders need

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) with Artificial Intelligence (AI) makes it easy for accounts payable to capture, manage, and report on the data that executives need. RPA automates simple, repetitive tasks that can be easily replicated by instructing a software bot to follow a defined set of rules. Bots interact with systems and applications, just like humans. Intelligent automation builds on RPA by applying AI technologies that imitate the way the human brain works–technologies such as image processing, pattern recognition, contextual analysis, and natural language processing help bots with making decisions or completing tasks.

Using RPA to digitize invoices and accounts payable provides higher visibility into accounts payable data, along with greater control for compliance and security. The modern capabilities of RPA feature cognitive capabilities with built-in domain expertise for finding critical information. A combination of computer vision, Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology, and fuzzy logic extracts and sorts data while machine learning helps to improve the accuracy of captured data. Cognitive automation also helps to make sure that an intelligent system extracts all unstructured data. And the technology logs and stores the data at each stage of the workflow.

What’s more, the technology eliminates most of the work involved in formatting, generating, and distributing the accounts payable reports that executives desire. The technology automatically:

  • Collects data from any application, legacy system, browser or database
  • Collates, manages and organizes reports
  • Generates reports at pre-scheduled times
  • Shares reports and facilitates collaboration
  • Identifies e-mails that contain reports of interest and assigning them to custom processes

RPA and cognitive automation ensure that critical accounts payable information is captured, correct, complete, well organized, timely, and integrated with downstream systems and processes.

Automation gives companies of all sizes the chance to transform accounts payable and invoice management from a tactical operation into a strategic, savings-generating initiative. With these insights, executives can better manage their operations, cash, spending, and risks in real time. And that’s appealing to any cost-conscientious executive.