If you’re getting started with business process automation (BPA), you likely have an area earmarked for improvement. For example, you may want to automate your AP tasks so that you can minimize manual processing, get higher accuracy, and pay vendors faster.

But once you see how BPA can streamline your payment processes, you’ll find other areas of your company that would benefit from automation.

That’s exactly what happened with one of Canada’s largest retailers. In 2016, the company set out to streamline their AP processes so they could improve the flow of data within their company, reduce their costs, and ensure that they pay vendors quickly and accurately.

The first phase of their BPA project included the following:

  • Building a business case for BPA.
  • Developing an automation roadmap with key stakeholders.
  • Integrating BPA technology with their existing systems.
  • Using a multi-level security model to protect their data. Their security efforts included a Tier III data center, data encryption, and updating their disaster recovery plan.
  • Implementing BPA best practices.
  • Developing a training plan for employees. 

Results: Boosted AP Efficiencies and Reduced Paperwork

Phase I of the retailer’s BPA project led to the following results:

  • More accurate and efficient vendor payouts.
  • A self-service portal where vendors can view the status of their invoices.
  • Greater precision in revenue reporting.
  • Reducing the need to store and ship physical documents.
  • Catching 20,000+ exceptions before they became a vendor claim. 

In Phase I, the retailer created a digital roadmap that will help them bring BPA to other areas of their company. Now that they have a strong foundation, they can onboard other processes quickly and cost-effectively. The retailer plans to bring BPA to their warehouse receiving, logistics, regional AP teams, franchises, and digital initiatives.

The 4 Speeds of BPA: Which One Is Right for You?

BPA isn’t all or nothing. You can start small by automating one process. Then, once you are satisfied with your results, you can move to another area.

Here are the four speeds of BPA:

1. Crawl

  • Automate redundant tasks
  • Eliminate the physical shipment of hardcopies for storage
  • Use one touch imaging and indexing, leveraging existing technology
  • Start to automate your human and digital workforce 

2. Walk

  • Launch a self-service portal that vendors and employees can use to submit claims, track the approval process, and store documents
  • Outsource Level 1 claim processing
  • Integrate with business intelligence software 

3. Run

  • Outsource Level 2 claims processing
  • Gain additional efficiencies through robotic process automation 

4. Fly

  • Continuous improvement
  • Outsource Level 3 claims processing
  • Analytics for operational excellence

Many organizations get started with BPA by crawling. Once they achieve a quick win, they move on to walking, running, and eventually flying.

AP is a good place to begin your BPA journey, as automating your payment processes has an immediate impact on your business. For example, you can reduce your paperwork and make your financial records more accurate. You can also empower employees to spend less time on data entry and more time on projects that drive value for the business.


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