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Capturing Technology Expense Data at Scale with Robotic Process Automation

The most annoying bills to pay are bills you really don’t have to pay. No supplier or provider is immune from making billing mistakes, and usually they’re not intentional. Whatever causes a billing error, though, you are fiscally responsible to catch and correct the errors to avoid making unnecessary payments.

As your company grows this problem gets larger too. More invoices coming in means more time spent recording and analyzing them. Human error can always occur not only when evaluating each invoice, but also when entering them into your payment system. Slow and error-prone are not how you want to be describing your system for paying the bills.

Then you first have people visiting each provider’s online portal to actually pay each bill. All in all, that’s a large number of manhours dedicated not to making money, but to spending it.

Don’t you have better things for your talented people to do?

Enter Technology Expense Management (TEM)

Proving that anything worth doing is also worth outsourcing, many companies began taking advantage when firms entered the market for collecting and processing these communications-related invoices for them. In the earliest days this consisted of having external people collect and process all invoices instead of your own employees.

Then the earliest digital transformations started happening, way before they became in vogue. Some providers were offering digital data transfer for billing information. This defrayed a portion of the load of invoices to be paid that had to be manually captured, but it was certainly an improvement. This soon evolved into full telecom and now technology expense management (TEM) services.

TEM anticipated that more providers would be offering billing in digital format that could be collected machine-to-machine with little or no human intervention. While more did, even more shifted to generating files in portable digital format (PDF). Even here, there were two different types of PDF files to contend with. The earlier “first gen” PDF files were composed of highly predictable and consumable text directly by the receiver. Others were scans of printed invoices that contained no capturable data. These could be easily scanned by optical character recognition (OCR) software.

The very few invoices that still come through as printed paper documents can still be manually scanned, processed using OCR, and then added to the database.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) was developed to support and improve service providers’ processes. By automating the data collection and ingestion processes, payment processes, and collating functions, RPA further accelerates the process making it easier for TEM providers to capture, collect, and process technology invoices. Robotically automated data capture can process anywhere from a few hundred to a thousand invoices in the time it would take a human to process one.

It’s All About Scalability

Imagine the travails of an accounts payable manager who is confronted by having to maintain tight control even as their company is acquiring or merging with another. Suddenly the sheer volume of bills leaps, not to mention the need to align the technology services in use between the two companies. When their technology expense management leverages the advantages of RPA, scaling becomes no problem.

At this point, the question becomes how could you possibly invest the same amount necessary, especially if you're a large multinational, to build out a TEM methodology enabled by an RPA strategy for doing this at a cost price that is lower than just engaging a quality TEM provider who has already done it? Beyond how, why would you ever undertake such a project?

Cost Savings and Other Rewards

Processing invoices to be paid at a rate of as much as 1000 to 1 significantly reduces costs. It also benefits companies who engage an RPA-enabled TEM service provider by making more of their personnel available to perform far higher-order functions than data entry.

For more information about engaging an RPA-enabled TEM service provider to manage your technology bills and get them paid properly and accurately, talk to MDSL today.