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Implementing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in Accounts Payable

Introduction

Recent Peeriosity research shows that 75% of our member companies have either approved the implementation of Robotic Process Automation in Shared Services or are currently evaluating doing so.  One of the major process areas that lends itself particularly well to this type of automation is Accounts Payable.  Such structured sub-processes like vendor setup and invoice entry are just two examples where companies can make significant improvements in this area with RPA and Artificial Intelligence (AI) technology.

Company Experience

A recent Peeriosity PeercastTM featured a large technology company with over $50 billion in annual revenue, and they shared some of their experiences with the implementation of RPA technology in Shared Services, with specific examples from Accounts Payable.  Until their proof of concept (POC) was recently carried out, their RPA strategy was fragmented, with the following attributes:

  • Only utilizing lower level “RPA like” automation
  • Multiple RPA proofs of concept in different functional groups
  • Different opinions on desired level of IT support
  • Central IT was limiting the number of RPA applications in the environment
  • Automation resources generally focused on deeper levels of integration with enterprise systems

Working primarily with representatives from Accounting and their cross-functional partners, the team looked at implementing an “Enterprise Grade” RPA solution, combined with creating a Center of Excellence (COE) and governance structure within Shared Services to provide process automation solutions to process owners.  The project was divided up into three phases: Exploration, Project Execution, and Results and was carried out over a ten-week period, with RPA pilot deployment taking the most time.  The process scope for the POC was based on three criteria: suitability, complexity, and impact, where the processes within AP were weighted for each of the criteria as part of an opportunity assessment. 

A demo of the application of Automation Anywhere RPA technology to the New Supplier Evaluation & Document Request process was then shared with the PeercastTM attendees, details of which are included on the member website.  This was followed by their next steps with this project, which include finalizing the COE working framework, performing an RPA technology head-to-head comparison, utilizing business process improvement to identify RPA projects, and developing an enterprise automation strategy.

iPollingTM Results Review

A poll created using Peeriosity’s iPollingTM technology provides some interesting background information related to this topic.  The first poll question asked about the extent to which companies are planning to utilize RPA/AI in AP over the next 2-3 years.  This is clearly an area of focus for the majority (85%) of the companies, with a moderate level of use in several areas of AP being the most prevalent response at 55%.  Just 15% of companies have no plans for RPA/AI in Accounts Payable at this point in time.

The second poll question was very similar, but focused on the extent to which RPA/AI technology has actually been implemented in Accounts Payable.  Just 27% of companies are already utilizing the technology either on a moderate (6%) or limited (21%) basis, with another 27% that are just testing this technology now in AP. 

Some of the comments made by Peeriosity members related to this poll include the following:

Consumer Products & Services Member: As we adopt cloud-based platforms, we are leveraging RPA to drive, wherever feasible, touchless processes.

Retail Member: Focusing initially on AP invoice processing.

Computers & Electronics Member: RPA is being used to communicate to vendors for certain issues. The vendor responds and the robot updates the PO.

Energy & Utilities Member: Just beginning to explore this within our AP Department.

Healthcare, Pharmaceuticals, Biotech Member: We are highly automated, however, I do not think our automation is categorized as RPA/AI.

Consumer Products & Services Member: Pilot completed and team is in process of being built.

Closing Summary

While the research shows that most companies are just getting started with RPA/AI technology in Accounts Payable, there is clearly a strong interest in employing this technology over the next 2-3 years.  As was well exhibited by our feature company, treating the implementation of RPA and AI as a formal project will reap considerable benefits in the long run.

What is the status at your company with respect to the implementation of RPA and AI in your Accounts Payable operation?  Is this a key priority for you and your team in the foreseeable future?

Who are your peers and how are you collaborating with them?

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“PeercastsTM” are private, professionally facilitated webcasts that feature leading member company experiences on specific topics as a catalyst for broader discussion.  Access is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from attending or accessing discussion content.  Members can see who is registered to attend in advance, with discussion recordings, supporting polls, and presentation materials online and available whenever convenient for the member.  Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, attendees can easily communicate at any time with other attending peers by selecting them from the list of registered attendees. 

“iPollingTM” is available exclusively to Peeriosity member company employees, with consultants or vendors prohibited from participating or accessing content. Members have full visibility to all respondents and their comments. Using Peeriosity’s integrated email system, Peer MailTM, members can easily communicate at any time with others who participated in iPollingTM.

Peeriosity members are invited to log into www.peeriosity.com to join the discussion and connect with Peers.   Membership is for practitioners only, with no consultants or vendors permitted.  To learn more about Peeriosity, click here



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