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It’s the digital age, and yet many finance organizations still find themselves mired in paper and manual processes – searching for, transferring, copying, sorting and filing information. But it doesn’t have to be this way. Studies show that 50-90 percent of financial processes can be automated by Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
This is true even for companies with highly automated processes. There are always gaps where manual intervention takes place, such as constantly re-keying data from one application to another (swivel chair activities), validating pricing and contact terms or extracting data from supplier portals. Such tasks are prime candidates for automation.
The good news is that RPA can free companies from arduous, expensive and error-pronefinance and accounting processes. By deploying an intelligent robotic workforce, financial teams are able to focus on more strategic business initiatives as they transform from tactical data gathering to transformative data interpretation.
In addition, businesses could see a 25-50 percent cost savings and 30-50 percent reduction in invoice cycle times. They can typically achieve ROI in six to 12 months. These returns make deploying RPA across finance and accounting processes for buyers (Procure-to-Pay), sellers (Quote-to-Cash), and finance (Record-to-Report) especially appealing.
But where to start? I have identified nine finance and accounting gaps that RPA closes, enabling teams to eliminate paper, enhance exiting processes and move further along in their digital transformation.
Mind the Gaps in P2P
An automated Procure-to-Pay (P2P) process is a requirement for seamlessly sourcing, managing and paying for raw materials needed to manufacture products or provide services. RPA closes three gaps in this process flow.
Supplier onboarding: Many companies have invoice portals that streamline e-invoicing, but onboarding new suppliers is still a manual process. With RPA, accounts payable teams can deploy a robot to access services for assessing new suppliers for address validation, credit scores, tax data and other relevant information, generating a complete profile for vetting new suppliers.
Portal queries: Organisations often work with suppliers through portals that don’t have well- defined interfaces. This forces staff members to manually log in and out of portals to copy and paste data between systems. An RPA robot can be developed to automatically gather and post portal-based information at preset times, or as part of a defined workflow.
Compliance: Invoices must be validated to ensure compliance of data and vendor contract terms. If your organisation is still validating manually, using RPA ensures greater accuracy, as one global telecommunications provider discovered:
“The robots access vendor portals for extracting invoice data. The software then inserts the data into an interface table, where it goes through a series of checks and validations to make sure it’s all correct and complete,” said the company’s AP Shared Services Director. “Once the invoice data is validated, it runs right into our finance system. It’s a completely digitised, touchless process, and it’s much faster and more accurate than scanning paper invoices.”
Mind the Gaps in Q2C
RPA also streamlines the process of selling goods and services. Automating the Quote-to-Cash (Q2C) process simplifies and accelerates your ability to quote, sell, fulfill, bill and collect revenue.
Supplier price comparisons: Comparing your suppliers’ prices is often a time-consuming, manual process when preparing a customer quote. RPA automates this process, gathering and delivering the required data in significantly less time.
Delivery reconciliation: Delivery notes are typically hand-reconciled with purchase orders to validate orders against shipments. A robot can check and approve all matching orders, notifying a human only when an exception is discovered. The process saves time and improves the customer experience. For example, one transportation provider cut the time to schedule appointments to just five minutes from several hours and increased the number of appointments by 25 percent.
Customer onboarding and master data maintenance: Onboarding and vetting new customers manually is slow and error-prone. Customer data also needs to be periodically validated and updated. Instead, a robot can vet new customers with a complete report on credit scores, tax data and other relevant information. Scheduled automatic updates to master data ensure records are accurate and up-to-date.
Mind the Gaps in R2R
An automated Record-to-Report (R2R) process ensures your organisation has a relevant, timely and accurate understanding of how the business is performing strategically, financially and operationally.
Data management: Reporting on financial and operational data is critical to any business. Gathering and aggregating this data and supporting information is slow, yet there is a pressing need to have the information immediately available. Robots speed up financial data collection and aggregation, making sure executives have the information they need to gain insight into the business.
Accounting close support: Before they can close accounts, the accounting team must reconcile transactions in journals across departments and divisions. An RPA robot not only gathers and consolidates transactions, but also reconciles them in your ERP.
Financial close support: The financial close and reporting process encompasses tasks and processes from multiple systems, departments and people – such as closing out subledgers and creating and delivering financial filings to regulatory bodies. RPA saves time and reduces errors by automating the data posting process from sources such as Excel to the required subledgers.
You simply can’t afford mistakes and delays in finance and accounting. They have real revenue implications. RPA can help you achieve true end-to-end control of your financial and accounting process gaps, enabling you to work like tomorrow today.