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Take Procurement to New Heights with RPA in 2018

By Ankita Sharma
In Procurement Technology
Jan 29th, 2018

The Procurement process is all about paying attention to the details, to make the best utilization of resources while streamlining costs. As we step into the new year, we reflect on the happenings of the year that passed to identify the areas to improve upon in the year ahead. Procurement professionals often feel that they spend a lot of time on tactical processes and are left with less time for growth strategy. In the coming year, this trend could potentially change!

The answer lies in the recent and much talked about development in the field of procurement, Robotic Process Automation (RPA). While some companies have started investigating RPA led processes, there are some who are still wondering what and how it can beleveraged. Here is a gist about what one needs to know.

What is Robotic Process Automation?
Richard Bell, Founder of Steps 4 Consulting, explains Robotic Process Automation (RPA) as the use of a computerized tool than can carry out repetitive (or clerical) tasks involving transfer of information between applications. For example, an accounts payable routine can be automated using RPA, where the robot will be trained to check information in emails and attachments, retrieve relevant information, log data into ERPs, very much like how a human would do.

Where can RPA be used?
RPA can be used across various applications that do not require constant monitoring or manual intervention. Currently, some industries are using RPA implementations for specific processes such as processing insurance claims, managing financial risks and maintaining databases and other resources. These tasks and processes are usually data intensive, repetitive in nature and have a set structure in place, which makes them apt for automation.

How can Procurement benefit from RPA?
Imagine improvising your organization’s end-to-end procurement process and streamlining costs, without any major investments or recruitment. RPA aids in improving the procurement function by efficiently enhancing utilization of resources, and automating time-consuming manual tasks which are best suited for bots. A few examples of such tasks can be:

  • Suggestive milestones and alerts to track contract utilization, expiry, payment dates and receipt of goods based on historical patterns
  • Defining user specific approval workflows based on the contract types and people involved
  • Managing vendor information, on-boarding and multi-parametric evaluation
  • Automating request generation and management through a logic driven model
  • Enhancing evaluation and reporting through dynamic dashboards
  • Flipping spend data into savings booked automatically

The Road Ahead
Though RPA is in a nascent stage across industries currently, with the right planning, procurement can reap a lot of benefits from it. Companies can look at introducing RPA to processes that can be identified to benefit from it the most, and then slowly move onto more complex processes, based on the results achieved. If implemented correctly, RPA will not onlyfree up employees’ time , but also increase resources which could be utilized in focusing on growth strategy and other initiatives.

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