3 Ways Automation Takes the Pain Out of Accounting

John Gentry, President, Finance and Payment Services Group, Xerox

It can be a challenge to keep up with your own personal budget: how much money will enter your banking and investment accounts and when? How much will you pay for expenses within a month or more? Imagine what this process must be like for a corporation.

Take a global auto manufacturing company as an example. The uninterrupted production of cars depends upon myriad financial transactions and decisions that must cascade throughout their facilities. To name a few, they have to pay employees, order numerous car parts from various suppliers, perhaps hire a company to train employees or another to provide service plans for the vehicles they sell to customers, all in addition to paying for the electricity, water, and the buildings they use nationally and abroad. The complexity of the financial process involved is enough to give anyone a headache.

Recently recognised by Gartner as a Magic Quadrant Leader for Finance and Accounting Business Process Outsourcing, Xerox’s ability to provide finance and accounting services for our clients has increasingly benefited from robotic process automation. These solutions can take the pain out of the entire F&A cycle by automatically routing or processing data. This reduces manual work in high-volume, repetitive processes; improves speed and accuracy; and ultimately lowers the cost of doing business.

Here are three examples of how we can apply that to one key area of the F&A cycle, invoice-to-pay.


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Eliminate manual data entry for invoice processing

An automaker can receive hundreds of emails daily that contain invoices from suppliers. Xerox can design a process that automatically opens these types of email, extracts data from the invoice documents, and places it into the appropriate payment and transaction recording systems. The process can go further by sending email to inform suppliers of the total payment they will receive and which invoices are included in this amount.

Automate purchase data verification and routing

An automaker may utilise multiple systems to track purchases, invoice payment transactions and vendor contracts. With all of these systems in play, it’s almost impossible for the company to have a clear picture of how it is spending money. The automaker may never know that stores in the South are paying much more for service plans on vehicles than stores in the Northeast, unless its systems validate this data. Our automated “bots” extract data from each store’s procurement system to verify that purchase orders for certain goods match contract pricing. This information can be flagged and distributed to procurement teams and other reviewers to ensure use of preferred suppliers, avoid costly contract renewals and negotiate better prices.

Ensure purchase orders are complete or cancelled

Rather than manually track the status of every order with suppliers and risk backlog, an automated process ensures that the goods are received and accounted for within a specific timeframe. For example, Xerox robots can automatically update the automaker’s warehouse procurement system. The bots can notice, for instance, that a shipment of air-conditioning compressors was not received within the required 60-day window, then send an alert to the purchasing department and the supplier that that the order has been cancelled. This helps the supplier keep its inventory data up to date, and ensures that the money the automaker reserved to pay for the order does not show up as a liability in financial reports.

Taking the repetitive, manual work out of high-volume, transactional processes allows us (and our clients) to re-deploy talent to higher value roles and processes. Less focus on repetitive work means more focus on tackling the challenges of collecting, structuring and analysing the masses of financial and transactional data across an organization. It’s a way to help F&A departments work better so that they can make the most informed decisions about their company’s direction.

Gartner Inc. has named Xerox as a Leader in its annual Magic Quadrant for Finance and Accounting Business Process Outsourcing report for the sixth year in a row.