This article was originally published in the Autumn 2018 issue of The Record.
Businesses need to do more than simply implement technology and press ‘go’ if they want to become best-in-class strategic enterprises; it takes time, planning and a well-developed strategy. Today, accounts payable (AP) departments need to make more tactical and data-driven decisions. That’s where new and emerging technologies like robotic process automation (RPA) comes in. RPA automates repetitive tasks that are taking up the valuable time and resources employees could instead be using to make those data-driven decisions. The technology makes structured and unstructured data more readily available. And by advantageously implementing RPA into your AP operations, you are well on your way to increasing the value of your company’s AP department.
For most organisations, the ultimate goal of implementing automation technology is to increase efficiency by improving processes and eliminating manual tasks. However, it’s still important that you work with leaders in both your AP team and other departments across your company to establish measurable business goals for the new RPA solution implementation. This enables you to identify how the technology could improve operations in each department and understand how those departments work together.
The value of your new RPA solution can, and should, go beyond just automating manual AP tasks. Intelligent automation software paired with an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, such as Microsoft Dynamics ERP, provides greater insight into a company’s financial status, allowing executives to make more informed business decisions. The strategic value should be known to the entire AP department, as well as leaders in other areas of the business, so that everyone understands the value RPA is adding to your enterprise and the wider industry.
You must think carefully about how RPA will affect your existing business and financial technology platforms (like ERP), as well as how your department will need to adapt to incorporate a new automated solution. This means that if you simply need to enhance your current financial solutions, you should work with your IT team to see how they can work alongside new technology – both within the AP department and elsewhere in the company. Doing this helps AP departments to harness the power of modern AP technology.
So many AP departments are still bogged down with manual tasks that are tedious, time-consuming and take the focus away from bigger, more strategic (and more interesting) projects. But by automating menial paper-based processes and tasks, such as invoice matching, you can give your staff the bandwidth for more strategic and pertinent projects.
Being strategic, agile and versatile in the use of technology is key to the ongoing success of modern, best-in-class AP departments. Establishing goals, finding value, leveraging existing technology solutions and automating manual tasks with the help of RPA are steps that companies can take to create innovative AP departments and a more efficient enterprise.
Alyssa Putzer is marketing communications specialist at Metafile Information Systems
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