Example: Invoice Processing in a Large Corporation
Invoice processing in a large corporation often involves multiple departments, systems, and stages. The process might look something like this:
- Receipt of Invoice: Received via email, mail, or electronic data interchange (EDI).
- Invoice Validation: Ensuring the received invoice has all necessary details and matches with the purchase order.
- Data Entry: Manual entry of invoice details into the enterprise resource planning (ERP) system.
- Approval Workflow: The invoice needs multiple approvals, depending on the amount, type, and vendor. It could go through several hierarchical levels.
- Discrepancies and Disputes: If there's a mismatch between the purchase order and the invoice, it triggers a dispute resolution process.
- Payment Processing: Once approved, payment is processed, and the transaction details are updated in the ERP system.
- Archiving and Reporting: The invoice is archived, and the data might be used for monthly or annual financial reporting.
The complexity arises from:
- Multiple entry points and formats for invoices.
- Several systems in use: Email systems, ERP, financial software, etc.
- Human-dependent manual steps, especially data entry and approvals.
- Varied approval workflows based on certain conditions.
- Resolution processes that can further delay payment.
Process Discovery for RPA:
- Data Collection: Process discovery tools would monitor and capture the interactions of employees with various systems during the invoice processing.
- Visualization: The tool would then create a visual map of the process, showing every step, decision point, and interaction.
- Identification of Bottlenecks: With the visual map, it's easy to spot where invoices get delayed, whether it's in the approval stages, data entry, or dispute resolution.
- Highlight Repetitive Tasks: The tool would highlight areas where tasks are repetitive and prone to human error. For instance, manual data entry of invoice details into the ERP is a prime candidate.
Solution with RPA:
- Automated Data Extraction: An RPA bot can be programmed to extract data from the received invoices, irrespective of their format, and enter the details into the ERP system, eliminating human errors and speeding up the process.
- Approval Workflows: Based on the visual map from the process discovery, RPA can be set up to automatically route invoices to the appropriate approvers, send reminders for pending approvals, and escalate if there's a delay.
- Handling Discrepancies: RPA can cross-reference invoices with purchase orders and flag discrepancies. For minor discrepancies, the bot could be programmed to make corrections (like fixing a date format). For major ones, it can notify the concerned department.
- Payment and Archiving: Post-approval, RPA can trigger the payment process and ensure that the invoice is archived correctly.
- Reporting: RPA can also automate monthly and annual reporting by gathering relevant data and populating reports.
By using process discovery, the corporation gets a clear, data-driven view of its invoice processing, enabling it to implement RPA effectively. The result is a more streamlined, efficient, and accurate process with significant time and cost savings.