How RPA Unlocks Value from Web Vendor Portals

How RPA Solves the Web Vendor Portal Problem
October 16, 2018 | By Art Sarno

According to Billentis 2017 Market Report, the worldwide volume of invoices reached over 500 billion, with 8.4% exchanged electronically. In the US alone, there is 6.8B invoices generated each year and an expected increase by 5% annually. Plus the lack of standards and increasing providers (suppliers) just complicates the invoice processing workflow. While electronic invoices and invoice automation are increasing in popularity, it’s just the first step in modernizing cumbersome financial processes.

In response to the growth of e-invoices and the corresponding growth of emails, more companies have introduced proprietary web-based self-service portals to share information with customers and suppliers, including invoices, orders, receipts, and more. In one survey, 39 percent of respondents already had a supplier portal and 49 percent planned to implement one in the next few years.

Supplier portals create efficiencies for buyers to process and pay invoices, but a mass network of portals for suppliers to manage creates inevitable inefficiencies as well. Whether or not you operate a stand-alone portal for your suppliers, more than likely your business navigates a disconnected network of web portals to manually submit invoices and other information in order to capture revenue each month.

Related: Power Your Financial Close with Robotic Process Automation video

One AR Director recently told us they manually submit over 10,000 invoices to more than 40 portals and wrote off over $2 million in “bad invoices” simply because the invoices couldn’t be submitted in the right format. If those numbers sound painfully familiar, read on.

Automate web portal access with RPA

Robotic process automation is a flexible, economic solution to portal queries and data extraction. Not only is the integration fast and inexpensive, but can be implemented by non-technical users for configuring a robot to execute the exact process a human would in logging into a portal, uploading or retrieving information and passing that information to a downstream process.

Let’s take a look at how access to a vendor supplier portal might work.

  1. Logging in: A robot can be scheduled to begin work at any time of day or when invoked by another task or workflow. The robot logs into a web portal or series of portals using any authentication required, such as the URL, username and password.
  2. Gathering data or documents: The robot locates the data or documents it’s tasked with. This may include navigating to new documents since its last visit or to new fields of interest for data entry or indexing.
  3. Sending data to the next step: The robot executes the next step dictated by the process definition. For example it may forward invoice PDFs to an email address, enter the information in another application or initiate a task in financial processing software.

Why you need web portal automation

Using RPA for portal access has three main benefits:

Improved operational performance: Robots work 24/7, don’t make mistakes, and follow your exact process, every time. (Even the most hardworking professional humans intend to follow processes, but the rel="noopener noreferrer" average human makes an error in 10 out of every 100 steps). Robots deliver consistent 100% accurate data.

Happier employees: Speaking of those hardworking humans, logging into dozens or even hundreds of portals to retrieve or upload information such as invoices is a monotonous and repetitive task. In spite of the notion that robots will replace human labor, the truth, and proven outcomes for RPA initiatives we have seen, is that they elevate workers from transactional to more strategic tasks.

Better business outcomes: Cost savings, real time access to data and better cash flow from faster processing of receivables and payables are just a few strategic advantages of web vendor portal automation. And once your robotic process automation solution is deployed for this use case, the benefits will drive additional investments.

One of our customers Duke Energy, observed shortfalls in their current accounting systems which resulted in manual business processes. During their automation journey, they looked for a RPA solution that would easily integrate with their legacy systems of record. Just as important was a fast time to get the RPA solution up and running quickly as part of proof of concept (and showing a faster return on investment). Hear their story.

See how robotic process automation can transform your finance and accounting with Complete the Productivity Picture in Finance Ebook, Download your copy today.

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