Friday 14 February 2020

*GUEST BLOG* Robotic Process Automation eases expense management

Most business owners and senior managers would agree that in order to both survive and thrive in business in 2020, it’s critical that organisations continually evaluate their practices, maximise efficiencies and look for new, better ways of operating. This doesn’t mean the way things have been done previously doesn’t work; in some organisations it may well be that’s how things have always been done; it simply means as the business landscape changes there are greater opportunities for businesses to adopt new ways of working in order to achieve greater business outcomes.

Technology of course plays a huge role in the development of best practice. Its advancements mean businesses can operate 24 hours a day, 365 years a day, on every continent around the globe, all with relative ease. The challenge can come in selecting the technology that is best fit for your business needs.

What is Robotic Process Automation?

As its name suggests Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that can automate business processes in a very simple and efficient way. Governed by business logic and a structured set of rules, RPA has emerged over the last few years to remove some of the monotony of manual management of business operations; it processes transactions and then seamlessly manipulates and interprets data from said transaction. From there, the technology triggers a response, set out by the rules it’s programmed to follow, before finally communicating with other digital platforms to record the transaction and all relevant data.

How is it applied to expense management?

When it comes to expense management, there are very evident ways the implementation of RPA technology might make life easier for both traveller and approver, as well as organisations’ respective finance departments.

Traveldoo Expense app is a mobile application that not only utilises RPA but also has OCR functionality. Optical Character Recognition (OCR) allows digital devices to turn photos of handwritten or printed paper documents into machine-readable text. Coupled with RPA technology the app automates the creation of expense reports by scanning receipts and automatically fulfilling the relevant fields with the right data. It speeds up the process and perhaps most helpfully, means all of this can be done ‘on-the-run’.

This integrated functionality uses machine learning to continually enhance performance; the more you use the technology, the better the robot will recognise the right information and in turn, the greater it will perform. It will in a few months, for example, identify the VAT element from the receipt as it scans, and automatically files this in the relevant place on your business expense reports.

Time is money. This isn’t a new concept. But what is new is what we can do about giving more time back to employees and thus back to the business. Technology allows us to do this better. It allows us to reduce the time employees spend on processes that don’t need such level of staffing resource dedicated to them.

Alain Lefeuvre, head of digitalisation of finance at Groupe Rocher pointed out that it’s not only the amount of time it saves employees and organisations but it gives a much greater opportunity of when and where staff can get a handle on their expense management:

“Thanks to the Traveldoo Expense mobile application, employees can take advantage of ‘hidden time’, such as train or air travel, to manage expenses.”

RPA technology also increases efficiency, not only efficiency of employees who have more time to dedicate to other tasks, but because it almost completely removes the opportunity for human error, saving the business even more time, money and resource. 

A barrier to introducing new technologies for organisations can often be the cost of implementation. It’s absolutely a factor any savvy business decision maker needs to consider. But with low implementation costs, leveraging RPA technology quickly delivers a return on the investment and one that is fast becoming a popular choice in the world of expense management. 

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