January 3, 2018 | Written by: Amol Mategaonkar, Princeton Blue
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Invoice processing is possibly one of the oldest business processes known to mankind. From barter to bitcoin, payments have come a long way. However, despite all the innovations and technology, invoice processing is still burdened with a large number of manual tasks and inefficiencies. This can result in issues such as delayed payments and incorrect payment amounts.
Typical Invoice Processing
Typical invoice processing
Here are some key pain points with invoice processing that we have heard about from our customers:
- Many manual tasks, mostly repetitive and mundane. These include downloading invoice attachments from emails, reading them carefully or entering data into enterprise applications like ERP or accounting systems. Routine tasks can take a lot of time away from the team involved in invoice processing, leading to fatigue and even frustration.
- Shadow IT such as spreadsheets and local access databases. Almost every organization’s invoice processing is supported by a number of shadow IT artifacts, like spreadsheets that track tax deductions and payments. These supporting files and programs are a very important part of the puzzle. It can be too complex to integrate these workarounds into the approved IT solutions. And as a result, these shadow tasks are left out from automation initiatives.
- Longer cycle times. Invoice processing today takes longer than one would expect, because of the large number of manual activities and approvals required from different roles within the organization.
- Service level agreement (SLA) violations. Invoice processing normally requires the review of multiple approvers, which can slow the process down. SLA violations can result in not only vendor frustration but also added costs in the form of penalties.
Digital automation of invoice processing
The key to addressing the above pain points lies in analyzing the business process in depth. An analysis of invoice processing reveals that most activities belong to one of the following categories:
- Mundane and repetitive activities like reading attachments, maintaining spreadsheets and entering data into legacy systems
- Human activities that include managerial approvals, decisions that involve human judgement and negotiations
- System activities, such as creating business rules for approvals, processing of accounting entries in the system, updating vendor records and payment processing
Invoice processing deserves a solution that automates these activities across all three categories. Digital automation powered by business process management (BPM) and robotic process automation (RPA) can provide nearly everything needed for invoice processing. RPA automates the mundane and repetitive activities. System activities can be configured in BPM, which orchestrates all the activities across humans, bots and systems. Only human activities such as managerial approvals remain.
This diagram shows the transformed invoice processing workflow:
Process orchestration across humans, bots and systems
The solution stack
Here is what the solution for digital automation of invoice processing looks like:
The invoice processing BPM RPA solution
The solution consists of:
By bringing these two digital automation technologies together, invoice processing can be transformed into a more efficient business process. As a result, companies can increase productivity and improve customer service.
See for yourself
Interested in seeing how this could work for your organization? Register for a webinar demonstration of how IBM BPM and IBM RPA with Automation Anywhere can help you strengthen your invoicing processes and tasks.