The goal for finance and accounting teams is to reduce costs and improve efficiency throughout the financial process. And investment in SAP Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) is critical for managing the key business functions of your organization, but you will still find some productivity gaps in managing and controlling the associated document and request driven processes. The most significant threat to growth is spending too much time completing manual and repetitive tasks in processes that can be automated, according to ASUG research. The close second is moving data across too many often disparate systems.
Many organizations are implementing automation technology to improve productivity and address these gaps. According to an Accenture Strategy, nearly half the tasks in corporate finance departments will be automated within 3 years. But with which technologies?
The Dynamic Automation Duo: Cognitive Document Automation (CDA) and Robotic Process Automation (RPA)
Cognitive document automation serves a critical function for accounting, as it leverages traditional capture, extraction and machine learning to address processes and simplifies capture, extraction and perfection of documents. It’s the “head work” of understanding what the invoice, purchase order or requisition is and what to do with it. Robotic process automation addresses the manual and repetitive “hand work” of automating manual and repetitive tasks, processing data and integrating it with your SAP solution.
These two technologies work together as a powerful duo to transform your accounting and financial processes.
3 Steps to Process Transformation
- Acquire: CDA captures and transforms documents: paper, fax, mobile devices, digital scanners, pdf, tiff, jpeg files and email. RPA accesses electronic data from databases, Citrix, websites, portals, enterprise ERP and data files (Excel, EDI, etc.)
- Understand: Through machine learning/AI, both technologies work recognizes the document type, convert the document to digital, extract information, aggregate and export the data.
- Integrate: All the data now can be easily integrated into any ERP, CRM or line of business.
Here are some examples of how CDA and RPA transform each part of the accounting process:
- Supplier onboarding: Typically, it’s a time-intensive process bringing on a new supplier which includes credit checks, references and company and contact information. And for larger enterprise organizations, their supplier list might include tens of thousands of suppliers. To automate and replicate this process, RPA can automates access to services for validating address data, reviewing credit history and other validation tasks. In addition, once the supplier is onboarded, RPA facilitates supplier maintenance tasks.
- Invoice processing: RPA extracts invoice data from e-invoicing provider web portals. CDA automates paper capture via extracting and perfecting all documents into digital formats and finally RPA completes the process by integrating the data and images into SAP
- Supplier Price Comparisons: Sourcing the best pricing for goods and services often delays time-sensitive purchases from your customers. RPA is able to access supplier catalogues for even the most difficult portals and websites. After collecting this information, RPA can map this data for preparing quotes and estimates, allowing your customers to be served faster.
- Delivery reconciliation: Moving away from the “stare and compare” checking delivery notices with purchase orders, CDA and RPA work together to scan, verify and approve all matching orders. And when there’s an issue or mismatch, your staff will be notified immediately.
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- Data extraction for accounting close: Excel spreadsheets continue to dominate many financial close processes. Posting these transactions can make the accounting close intensely time-consuming. RPA can extract this excel data, log on to the target systems and post these transactions for facilitating consolidation and reconciliation.
- Identifying duplicates: Tracking duplicate invoices, especially in paper form requires more manual work to find and reconcile. RPA can easily locate and notify you of duplicate transactions, helping you close the books faster.