Bots abound. There are robotic arms swiveling around in cages that weld and paint car bodies at a dizzying clip. Collaborative bots zip around modern warehouses alongside human workers, helping them speed up picking, packing and shipping. And a growing number of people welcome robotic vacuum cleaners into their homes.
But when we look into the realm of accounting and technology, it's clear that cutting-edge finance and accounting departments are making room for the equally, tireless army of invisible, software-based bots to help boost performance and streamline their business' AP process.
Robotic process automation (RPA) in finance and in accounts payable functions has a lot of potential to unlock significant cost and time savings, increase a company's overall efficiency, and give employees and their managers valuable and actionable insights that affect the bottom line, and impact their industry more than anyone could have guessed.
An example of this is companies delegating simple and increasingly complex tasks to small programs that go to work independently and intelligently. Using RPA in this way is now such a growing trend that it has engendered its own research outfit, the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and Artificial Intelligence (IRPA AI).
Defining robotic process automation in finance
RPA defines the work of those invisible bots as follows: "Robotic process automation is the application of technology that allows employees in a company to configure computer software or a 'robot' to capture and interpret existing applications for processing a transaction, manipulating data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems. Any company that uses labor on a large scale for general knowledge process work... will boost their capabilities and save money and time with robotic process automation software."
That's particularly true for the accounts payable function. Automation has, of course, been the name of the game for a while now, with optical character recognition augmenting or replacing manual entry. But the implementation of robotic process automation goes further than scanning invoices or purchasing orders and turning them into a file because those robots have the capability to get multi-step tasks done without human intervention.
RPA for accounts payable teams: From invoices to inquiries
The RPA-powered workflow on Yooz's AP Automation platform is able to ingest invoices, add data to a database and manipulate it, exchange information with other applications such as an ERP or CRM system, and even trigger complex actions such as flagging suspicious items for human review, respond to a query or initiate an initial chat with a supplier up to the point where a human expert should step in.
What's more, RPA in finance is no longer the domain of large banks or other companies with big IT budgets. Since Yooz is completely cloud-based, we give every small and medium-sized business equal and affordable access to use our powerful RPA tools. Even better, Yooz is constantly finding new ways to continue improving the system by incorporating the latest in machine-learning and artificial intelligence. That way, an AP team can easily and quickly automate its entire purchase-to-pay workflow with our AP automation software.
Our AP automation software includes
- Automatically process invoices regardless of the file type or how it's formatted allowing more flexibility in the way banking and transactions are handled
- Reads, understands and indexes each word in a document for later searches and retrieval
- Assigns the correct GL codes and handles multiple currencies like an experienced AP clerk does on a daily basis
- Routes invoices to the right human to approve them or flag outliers for further review
- Generates real-time insights to lock in early-pay discounts and reports to optimize cash flow that will benefit the entire company's costs
80% of finance leaders want to implement RPA systems
It's no wonder then that "around 80 percent of finance leaders have implemented or are planning to implement RPA," according to IT consultancy Gartner. They estimate that 89 percent of finance robotics is "evolving from simple individual task automation to full process automation that could improve the accuracy of financial analysis and forecasts."
What could the impact of this type of new technology mean for a business' accounting office?
The answer is simple. Once a company turns to Yooz's intelligent, self-learning platform, they can bank on being well on their way to end-to-end automation and a new outlook on what it means to be hands-free and streamlining an AP process. RPA systems, Gartner points out, have the same level of security and access as a person to handle data and act on it, but with one key distinction; they can work without interruption. The end state sounds like a job description from a science fiction film: "A robot FTE works at least 20 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year."
Don't make the mistake of thinking this means that RPA robots are job killers who take away the need for any human interaction in the business, specifically the accounting department. In reality, they have the completely opposite effect in the financial realm. Their job is to merely excel at taking over rote and repetitive tasks of the traditional manual process and use it to improve efficiency and accuracy in a modern, hands-off form. Exactly the work that most, if not all, AP clerks would happily trade in for work that really challenges them like: tracking down fraudulent submissions or building relationships with suppliers and partners. RPA software gives AP staff the opportunity to provide deeply human and therefore valuable input in the finance department.