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Robotic Process Automation – What’s in it for procurement?

by | September 30, 2020

Every day we create technology that is better and faster, which in turn allows us to create new technology that is even better and faster. 

Now more than ever, we are changing the way we do business, as everyday processes are being improved by technology and companies all over the world are expanding their market reach, also due to the evolution of technology.

Procurement is no stranger to technology or digitalisation, however, it’s also no stranger when it comes to struggling to keep up with technology either. During the last couple of years, digital procurement and digital transformation have been on every CPO’s mind. Almost every company uses some form of digital technology to help with their Source to Pay and Purchase to Pay processes.

Most innovative companies are now expanding their procurement transformation by incorporating Robotic Process Automation (RPA) into their procurement technology suite.

Procurement and RPA

Robotic process automation (RPA) is software that automates manual and repetitive tasks. It works by mimicking human activity and replicating it as the user takes actions.  When it comes to RPA, procurement leaders see the biggest return from their investment when it comes to repetitive, time-consuming, lower-value processes. These include contract management, category management, risk management and supplier relationship management. This article explains the process in more detail: read it here.

RPA’s main goals are to cut costs and free-up procurement’s time to partner with the business on more strategic matters.

In spite of this, recent studies show that procurement organisations are at a very early stage in understanding how RPA technology can help automate their processes. Just 8% of procurement teams are using RPA — and 73% still have no plans to adopt RPA at all.

The benefits of using RPA are obvious, and the implementation costs are not as high as many companies would expect. It might just be a matter of teaching organisations how to get started.

Where to begin?

When talking to procurement leaders, the interest in RPA is obvious, however, for many of them the challenge comes from the lack of expertise and proof of concept needed to implement the technology. Here are some steps to help procurement leaders take the first steps to adopting RPA.

  • Draw lessons from other departments

Procurement has the advantage of interacting with every department within an organization and most definitely should draw lessons and best practices from other functions to help pursue the implementation of RPA technology. Organise sessions with other departments within the organisations that have already implemented some form of RPA technology.

  • Evaluate opportunities for automation

Once you have the basic understanding of the use cases for RPA, go back to the procurement function to evaluate the opportunities for automation. The potential for some areas might be very straight forward, whereas for others, a deeper analysis might be needed.

You should begin with time-consuming, repetitive, lower-value processes, and consider how new processes could fit into larger procurement workflows.

Remember: When going through the evaluation phase you should also determine the type of data that will be necessary to train the robots.

  • Incorporate RPA into your procurement strategy 

Like with any other piece of technology, RPA should be part of your overall e-procurement strategy. You should always start from your own business needs and challenges that you want to solve.

  • Create a solid business case for RPA technology

Building a strong and comprehensive business case should of course be a company’s first step in incorporating RPA into their procurement processes.

Although the adoption process is not as complex as the adoption of a Source to Pay solution, the business case should help define how RPA will fit into the procurement strategy and demonstrate how it is going to help achieve procurements’ objectives and increase efficiency.

This is just a brief overview of why and how companies can incorporate RPA into their procurement function. The complexities of robotic process automation (RPA) could drive extensive benefits for a function that is increasingly becoming strategic within the organization (e-invoicing).

If you would like to learn more about RPA or help your organization get started with the adoption of RPA, book a meeting with our team of consultants.