Process Mapping for Accounts Payable

Find ways to streamline and automate the process… faster than you might expect

Accounts Payable, or AP, is a pillar of the finance and accounting function. According to AP software-maker MineralTree, as companies seek ways to manage their cashflow more efficiently, they want to transition AP-related processes from a “cost center” to a more strategic “profit center.”

It’s a laudable goal, but how do you achieve it?

The first step is to map the end-to-end (E2E) process for AP. Only then can you identify what we at The Lab call “NIGO” or “not-in-good-order” input bottlenecks (sound familiar?), along with opportunities for robotic process automation or RPA, in order to offload mundane, error-prone chores and gain newfound speed and efficiency.

So it all comes down to the process map.

At The Lab, we take a grassroots/front-line approach (vs. a traditional top-down methodology). We document employees’ daily, minute-by-minute, and even keystroke-by-keystroke work activities for all end-to-end processes.

You might think that this mapping takes months, or years. But it doesn’t. We typically perform it, with minimal commitment of your staff, in just six to eight weeks.

Once complete, there’s a veritable diamond-field of benefits to be reaped. We’ll identify standardization improvements (typically 200-plus), RPA use-case candidates (100-plus), and advanced-analytics candidates (60-plus). These are all are summarized, databased, meta-tagged, and quantified by the business unit and process they nest under.

The final map, which is validated by your own frontline employees, is huge and detailed. But it’s what’s in it that really matters to your AP process.

Here are a few examples from a real AP process map which The Lab created for a leading business.

NIGO in the crosshairs

As we’d mentioned above, “NIGO” stands for “not-in-good-order” input. Those are the missing fields for things like employee names, dates, dollar amounts, and so on.

For one specific area of AP for this client—expense processing—we installed what’s called a “NIGO tracker,” which allows us to identify where things fall through the cracks. This one client used SAP Concur to track travel expenses and related vouchers. Guess what our NIGO tracker found?

Turns out that their Concur in-box receives an average of 20 emails per day—but lacked an effective process to identify and address the root causes of the NIGO submissions. As a result, Accounts Payable employees had to spend a combined 20 hours each month resolving these inquiries.

The fix was straightforward: The Lab helped to implement a standard work request and backlog prioritization and review process for Concur emails.

Robotic Process Automation Opportunities Discovered by Mapping AP

Robotic Process Automation Opportunity Number 1

Here’s another expense-process opportunity. Every day at this client, data files were manually downloaded from Concur, then uploaded into their core and ERP systems, where they were validated and then re-uploaded into Concur.

“Download.” “Validate.” “Re-upload.” Can you say “mind-blurring drudge-work that’s ideal for automation”? At this one client, a single AP employee would spend about five hours each month on this “swivel-chair” activity.

With the process map helping to provide the “shopping list” of bot opportunities, the client jumped at the chance to have The Lab install one, which now automatically retrieves and analyzes data between the different accounting systems.


Robotic Process Automation Opportunity Number 2

Here’s another. In its “pre-bot life,” this company’s Accounts Payable function would manually verify that the details of some 4,000 invoices loaded into Concur each month…  had been loaded correctly.

There’s 40 hours of monthly work that could be eliminated forever with RPA bots. It was another “shopping list opportunity,” called out in the map with a bright red box. Simple as that.


Robotic Process Automation Opportunity Number 3

Here’s one more for you to consider. This one is all about automating the uploading of invoices.

Each month at this business, about ten percent of vendor invoices (400 of the 4,000) are received through an online portal—where they are then manually downloaded, and then transferred into Concur.

It takes an overworked AP employee about ten hours a month to handle this chore. Thanks to the E2E process map, it was another “red-box bot opportunity.”

Today, the downloading of invoices and subsequent uploading of them to Concur is completely automated.

Map out the benefits and savings

To recap, from this single AP example:

  • Total benefits for the AP end-to-end process came to 216 hours per month.
  • There was a 20-percent saving of capacity/employee time by implementing NIGO and RPA improvement opportunities.

And the details are equally enticing:

  • The NIGO tracker of expense vouchers saved 10 to 20 hours each month by flagging each incomplete/incorrect expense voucher submission.
  • The Concur mailbox fix saved 20 to 40 hours per month by implementing a standard work request and backlog prioritization review process.
  • The automatic data transfer saved five to ten hours per month by automatically retrieving and analyzing data between accounting systems.
  • The new automatic invoice-verification process saves 40 to 50 hours per month.
  • The automatic invoice-uploading bot saves another 10 to 20 hours per month.

See AP process mapping in action

Here’s another interesting detail, amid all these “bot opportunities”: Guess who draws the actual detailed process map at The Lab? One of our own bots.

You’ve got to see this in action. So we invite you to schedule your free, no-obligation 30-minute screen-sharing demo with The Lab. You’ll see how we perform E2E AP process mapping, remotely from our offices in Houston, in just weeks. And we handle all the NIGO elimination, RPA, advanced analytics and more.

Simply call (201) 526-1200 or email to book your demo today, and get all your questions answered by our friendly experts.


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