How RPA Solves the Web Vendor Portal Problem

By Katarina Andersson

Electronic invoices are starting to take over the world (one report estimates 30 billion e-invoices globally with annual growth rates of 10 to 20 percent), but they’re just the first step in modernising cumbersome financial processes.

In response to the growth of e-invoices and the corresponding growth of emails, more companies have introduced proprietary web-based self-service portals to share information with customers and suppliers, including invoices, orders, receipts, and more. In a recent survey, 39 percent of respondents already had a supplier portal and 49 percent planned to implement one in the next few years.

Portals create efficiencies for buyers to process and pay invoices, but a mass network of portals for suppliers to manage in order to get paid creates inevitable inefficiencies as well. Whether or not you operate a stand-alone portal for your suppliers, more than likely your business navigates a disconnected network of web portals to manually submit invoices and other information in order to capture revenue each month.

One AR Director recently told us they manually submit over 10,000 invoices to more than 40 portals and wrote off over $US2 million in “bad invoices” simply because the invoices couldn’t be submitted in the right format. If those numbers sound painfully familiar, read on.

Robotic process automation is a flexible, economic solution to portal queries. Not only is the integration fast and inexpensive, but you don’t need a degree in software engineering to configure a robot to carry out the exact process a human would in logging into a portal, uploading or retrieving information and passing that information downstream.

Let’s take a look at exactly how a web vendor portal query might work.

  • Logging in: A robot can be scheduled to begin work at a certain time of day or when another task or system in another workflow triggers it. The robot logs into a web portal or series of portals using any data required for the login, like the URL, username and password.
  • Gathering data or documents: The robot finds the data or documents it’s tasked with. This may include navigating to new documents since its last visit or new fields of interest for data entry or indexing.
  • Sending data to the next step: The robot takes the next step dictated by your specific process. For example. it may forward invoice PDFs to an email address, enter the information in another application or check off a task in your financial processing software.

Why you need web portal query automation

Using RPA for portal queries has three main benefits.

  • Improved operational performance: Robots work 24/7, don’t make mistakes, and follow your exact process every time. (Most hardworking professional humans intend to follow processes, but the average human makes an error in 10 out of every 100 steps. And they only clock 8 hours a day.)
  • Happier humans: Speaking of those hardworking humans, logging into dozens or even hundreds of portals to retrieve or upload information or invoices is a monotonous job. In spite of the fear that robots will replace human labour, the truth is that they elevate our work. A robot performing these rote tasks frees up your employees to perform more knowledge work, which is more satisfying than a day of copy-and-paste.
  • Strategic business outcomes: Cost savings, the universal availability of data and better cash flow from faster processing of receivables and payables are just a few strategic advantages of web vendor portal query automation. And once your robotic process automation solution is up and running for this use case, you’ll already have a list of a dozen more processes that could use a few robots.

See more examples of how robotic process automation can power digital transformation in finance in our latest ebook. Download your copy today .

Katarina Andersson is Sr. Product Marketing Manager, Kofax