Co-author: Karpagasundari Sivasubramani
The Accounts Payables department in any organization is like a bank cashier struggling to cope with public pressure to encash their cheques. This department must handle the pressure of various business managers, vendors, and third parties who demand payment once they deliver the service to an organization. Outsiders fail to understand the numerous checks, reconciliations, and matching that this department must perform before approving any voucher or invoice.
With the advent of optical character recognition (OCR) technologies, the industry has come a long way in automating the entry of invoices from the file to an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. But still, we feel that there is a lot to happen, especially in areas such as matching of invoices, trial balance matching, and automatic payments thereafter. In complex scenarios, it could take multiple days to process an invoice completely.
A major electric company hired an accountant whose daily job is just to match the trial balance with the payment amount and email to a specialized group if they do not match. Basically, a monolithic and bot-like job.
Let us move our focus to Oracle PeopleSoft Accounts Payables (AP). This is a great product with great capabilities and a very wide customer base. We tried to check the effectiveness of robotic process automation of manual daily activities in the PeopleSoft Financials application that were time-consuming. We identified two business processes that bots can perform without manual intervention and increase the overall efficiency of the whole AP cycle. We decided to use Automation Anywhere as the RPA solution for many reasons which is a topic to discuss in another blog post.
Business Process #1: Three-way invoice matching
Three-way matching is between a Purchase Order (PO), an invoice, and a goods receipt. After running the invoice matching process overnight in PeopleSoft, exceptions get reported. These exceptions are manually corrected by the AP users, most of which involves pairing correct receipts to the invoice. Our use case had around 800 invoices per day to be corrected manually. This seemed to be one of the right candidates for automation.
Business Process #2: Pay cycle processing
In our use case, pay cycle processing involved a half-a-day manual procedure wherein ACH (Automatic Clearing House) and other payment cycles pay cycles (CHECK/WIRE) were run every day between 1 PM and 5 PM. Again, our monolithic accountant will come in the picture and will verify trial balances with payments in the payment gateway. This situation does necessitate the creation of bots with the amount of work at present.
BOT development and deployment
We started recording RPA Automation Anywhere (AA) scripts which is very user-friendly and flexible enough to modify the script as the semantics are very easy to understand. We faced some challenges like capturing logic to correct the invoices with high accuracy. We could not achieve 100% precision but were still able to achieve over 90% accuracy. This resulted in 800 manual corrections getting reduced to a mere 80.
Matching Process flow adopted by AA BOT
Payment Cycle Process flow with AA BOT
Finally, we were able to perfect our bots after some iterations and achieved our desired results. Before we end our blog post, we want to share some of the learnings.
- Automation Anywhere IQ Bot– Execute all steps from login till logout in one go rather than dividing into multiple steps
- Use Excel sheet instead of going with one-by-one invoice ID from the PeopleSoft Oracle search page
- Performance will be enhanced by downloading the search results into Excel and processing the values one-by-one instead of performing a search every time
- Ensure that the PeopleSoft Oracle component gets saved completely and capture all the messages (errors, warnings, and informational ones) till the page gets saved This may sound simple but you should know all scenarios to perfect your bot and this is where you will spend a lot of time
- Understand possible exceptions and steps to resolve and save the voucher or notify the user to work out a business justification
To conclude, the Automation Anywhere tool is easy to script and works very well for the PeopleSoft Oracle application. Once you create your product-specific framework, it will become very easy to capture errors/messages/warnings. Substantial ROI and gain-on use cases decide the priority of automation. An RPA solution for ERP applications, such as PeopleSoft, provides a resolution to the work-power involved in the process. This significantly reduces the work on happy scenarios and concentrates only on the exceptional scenarios by the users.