SMBs – Think Robotics Process Automation (RPA) is Out of Reach? Think Again!

Think Robotics Process Automation is Out of Reach?  Think Again!.png

Listen to the podcast with Guest Wilton White, CEO of Diversified Robotic for how his company helps small to medium sized businesses stay competitive AND for a special offer that will only be given to the Putting the AP and hAPpy podcast listeners 😊

I recently posted two blog posts/podcasts episodes where I talked about using Robotics Process Automation (RPA) to perform 4 fraud tasks as well as the steps for AP to identify other manual, repetitive, rules driven tasks that could be automated using RPA. Large companies we know have access to RPA tools and additional team members to implement this technology, but what about small to medium size businesses that may not have the access or staff?

Technology Budgets for SMBs

Source:    SMB Group

Source: SMB Group

 Small and medium sized businesses have annual technology budgets that are less than large sized businesses. But what does that mean?  For U.S. based businesses reviewing the visual below from SMB Group, it means that the majority of small businesses with 50-99 employees are spending $50,000 - $99,999 on technology annually.  If you have 1-19 employees (welcome to my box!) you are most likely spending $1,000 – $9,999 annually on technology. 

 What does all that mean? It means that SMBs may think that RPA is out of reach.        

Why SMBs Can’t Afford Not To Automate with RPA

Without technology in place, SMBs rely on manual processes and employees handling many “hats”.  Here is where SMBs are vulnerable to and how can RPA help: 

  • Segregation of Duties Issues.  Due to a smaller staff SMBs may not be able to separate accounts payable tasks that create a segregation of duties conflict such as having the same person that creates vendors, also post an invoice (more on fraud prevention below).  Compensating controls such as reviewing reports are put into place, which is great, but that’s more manual tasks.  

  • Bot Resolution – Have the Bot automate those daily or weekly reports prior to scheduled pay cycles.  These reports can come from separate systems (e-Invoicing, vendor portal, Accounting system) or from different modules (Vendor, Invoicing) and be combined into a usable report for review prior to pay cycles.

  • Better Yet, Eliminate Segregation of Duties Issues  –  Automate the invoice posting process to remove the segregation of duties with vendor creation.  Maybe not for all invoices, but how about those utility bills that come in regularly and have the same coding month after month?    

  •  Increase Profits by Freeing Up Staff for Sales and Customer Facing Activities.  The time that staff gets back when automation is implemented can now go towards activities that bring in sales or satisfies your customers, which, brings in more sales.  Free up the boss’ time for more strategic planning activities and analysis.

  • Fraud Prevention.  The RPA Bot only does what they are told (programmed) to do.  They don’t have the fraud triangle characteristics (Pressure, Opportunity and Rationalization) that will eventually lead to occupational fraud.  They leave an audit trail, have their own sign-ins. Not only with internal fraud, but external fraud as well. Don’t have an approval process for vendor add/changes or posting invoices yet?  Implement by automating workflow approval and reduce the potential for fraudulent vendors to be setup in your Vendor Master File and prevent fraudulent invoices from being paid. 

No employee to learn RPA to build your bot?  No problem!  Companies such as Diversified Robotic will build the Bot for you, working with you to identify and map processes and using the latest software, security controls on the market.     

How to Not Blow Your Budget: Don’t Automate the Whole Process and Look for a Pricing Option That Fits Your Budget

Are you “looking for a drink of water, but getting the water hose?” (Wilton White quote from podcast) Think of RPA bots as your very own virtual assistant.  For example, if you had an assistant, you would give them part of your tasks, such as generating the vendor add/change report, but you would review it. In the examples above, pulling reports and automating only utility invoices – these were only a portion of the full end-to-end process.  Don’t think full automation – instead think of automating steps or specific tasks.

There are other options to reduce the investment for automation.  Diversified Robotic, for example, is not only subscription based, but they also customize the cost to build a Bot as a % of what it costs to perform the same task manually. 

With this outlook and new pricing solution – are you thinking of eligible steps in a process right now you can assign to your Bot?  Before you go, listen to the podcast to see the process for you to get a Bot, name it, then take it for a test drive!

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Debra R Richardson

MBA, APM, APPM, CPRS

Debra is an accounts payable speaker, consultant, and trainer with over 20 years of experience in AP, AR, general ledger, and financial reporting for Fortune 500 companies including Verizon, General Motors and Aramark.

For the past eight years, Debra has focused on Global Vendor Maintenance, and implemented a vendor self-registration portal for 140k+ global vendors across five Accounting Systems/ERPs. In her consultancy, she focuses on internal controls and authentication to prevent fraud in the vendor master file.