Companies have been using Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to automate various repetitive activities and back-end business processes (such as payroll and invoice processing) for the past few years.
Traditional RPA uses computer-coded, rules-based software robots to automate specific human tasks, save time and costs, and reduce the potential of errors. With increasing digitization, the complexity of organizational processes is growing manifold. While traditional RPA has been successfully compensating for the precision and carrying out mundane tasks, organizations have been slowly bringing intelligence onto the table, paving the way for the automation of more complex processes.
That’s where Cognitive RPA comes into the picture. Cognitive RPA, also known as Hybrid RPA, is an amalgamation of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and RPA to perform more complex tasks intelligently, thus requiring fewer full-time human equivalents to complete challenging, often time-consuming jobs.
Cognitive RPA integrates automation and AI-powered bots to understand the deep complexities of a task, sift through structured and unstructured data sets, and drive analytics-based process automation. With its ability to leverage Natural Language Processing (NLP), Optical Character Recognition (OCR), and Machine Learning to make sense of volumes of data, cognitive RPA is being used to yield better productivity, scalability, and enhanced efficiency.
Payroll Processing and Invoice Processing
To interact with users, complete tasks on their behalf, and answer their queries, chatbots must access information from different enterprise systems, including LoB, CRM, business intelligence, HR, and many more. That is where cognitive RPA comes into the picture. Integration of RPA helps chatbots effectively navigate legacy enterprise systems that do not have modern APIs, leverage enterprise information, and handle complex, real-time customer/employee requests more effectively.
Deloitte’s Annual Global RPA Survey Report has stated, “A perfect storm of circumstances seems to be finally landing intelligent automation a permanent place in day-to-day business operations. 73% of the respondents said their organizations have embarked on a path to intelligent automation: a significant 58 percent jump from the number reported in 2019.”
Indeed, cognitive RPA has been taking the business landscape by storm by automating a plethora of business processes. While RPA is used in various finance and accounting processes, invoice and payroll processing are prime examples of the technology’s potential in automating data input, updates, calculations, error reconciliations, and some of the decision-making employees require when processing invoices and completing payroll disbursements.
Let’s understand further.
1. Payroll Processing
Payroll processing is a time-consuming and data-intensive task that businesses must carry out every month. If not done correctly, organizations may have to deal with delays in payment and employee dissatisfaction.
RPA addresses these challenges by completing end-to-end payroll-related transactions, avoiding inaccuracies in employee data and delays in payment. Some of these processes include the following –
- Verify employee data consistency across multiple systems
- Calculate new joiners’ salary and benefit components as per enterprise hierarchy
- Execute contract level changes monthly/annually and prorate employee compensation packages according to perks, position, and responsibilities
- Automate paycheck creation and administer benefits and reimbursements
- Incorporate changes in employee details, including residential address, contact number, salary, perks, out-of-pocket expense reimbursement, etc., using bots
- Reconcile hours worked against budgeted hours and check for missing time entries
- Perform month-end reconciliations and periodic audits to payroll records
- Calculate outgoings towards loans, travel cards, pension, etc.
- Auto-load disbursement and deduction batches to initiate import activities outside of working hours
- Automate full and final settlement by calculating attendance and entitlements on a pro-rata basis using RPA bots
2. Invoice Processing
Cognitive RPA can help set up automated workflows to process invoices and vendor payments automatically.
Automating critical invoice processing using cognitive RPA reduces cycle time and eliminates errors resulting from manual human intervention.
- Leverage OCR to intelligently scan, transform, and capture data from paper invoices into the ERP system
- Configure bots to separate invoices based on client, vendor, location, etc.
- Auto-read unstructured data like email invoice requests, attachments, and excel files to create invoices. Automatically send an email to the concerned person in case of a missing invoice.
- Automatically capture invoice data in the ERP system
- Match purchase order (PO) data with that of invoices to identify PO/debit memos, void POs, and exceptions
- Cross-check documents to verify payments are accurately made
- Create separate workflows to process bulk payments, monitor outstanding balances, approve accounts payables, and monitor past-year adjustments
- Forward received invoices to appropriate authorities for process approvals
Cognitive RPA Benefits
- Enhance the quality of work by eliminating human errors
- Reduce turnaround time
- Operate 24X7 and increase scalability
- Improve decision-making
- Enhance employee engagement by enabling employees to do more interesting, value-adding tasks
- Reduce cost by automating tasks that would otherwise require full-time employees
How did Coca-Cola Bottling Company United streamline order and invoice procedures with RPA in Microsoft Power Automate?
Coca-Cola Bottling Company United has long been supplying Coca-Cola products directly to restaurants and retailers. When Coca-Cola introduced its Freestyle vending machine, Coca-Cola United was challenged to streamline order and invoicing with Microsoft Power Automate Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Coca-Cola’s Freestyle product depends on cartridges that must be delivered to countertop vending machines in restaurants and stores across an expanded territory. As the back offices couldn’t keep up, this new product hampered the company’s ability to handle sales at scale.
The production of the small flavor cartridges was outsourced, requiring the company to employ an 11-step process that included a dedicated CRM agent to take the order, manually push it through the system, scan the invoice, and walk it to the Accounts Payable (AP) department. Moreover, the purchase orders (POs) and invoices were exchanged via email, and the customer, supplier, and material numbers had to be cross-referenced with internal numbers in Coca-Cola’s SAP.
Coca-Cola used Power Automate RPA bots to create APIs for our legacy applications like SAP and others. The company then leveraged Microsoft Azure and Microsoft Power Platform to create a master automated service agent, “Asa.”
Asa accesses order information from the Microsoft Azure SQL database, creates a PO in the company’s SAP system, monitors emails for invoice and delivery notifications, matches them to the correct order, extracts information necessary to close the Accounts Payable process from email attachments, and releases the invoice and PO from SAP.
“We avoided having to hire ten full-time employees,” says McDaniel, Manager of Development for BI and Master Data at Coca-Cola Bottling Company United. “Better still, the existing CRM agent is now free to work on other projects.” Kaylan Cannon, the company’s Customer Service Manager, is enthusiastic. “We are very excited about this solution,” she says. “It will dramatically reduce labor costs, minimize the various points of error in our current solution, and will allow us to rapidly expand the local Freestyle campaign to better support our customers.”
How can Acuvate help?
At Acuvate, we help clients reduce costs, optimize turnaround time, and enable the workforce to focus on tasks that add value with a wide range of RPA and Chatbot solutions and services.
As a Microsoft Gold Partner, we help clients implement the robotic process automation (RPA) capability in Power Automate to connect old and new systems and reduce repetitive tasks using UI-based automation with desktop flows.
If you are interested to explore more about this topic and want to deploy Cognitive RPA bots for your organization, please feel free to schedule a personalized consultation with our experts.