Contract management involves a number of time-consuming, manual processes that are ideally suited for ‘bots’ created with robotic process automation. What if you could improve your company’s contract management process and cut costs, all without hiring new staff or making a major IT investment?
Has your team spent hours or even days validating a supplier invoice due to the volume of data or complexity of pricing?
Have they found errors only after an invoice has already been paid?
Or worse, do they perform sample-based validation because the volume is all too overwhelming?
For contract managers and accounts payable teams, the rapidly developing technology of robotic process automation (RPA) offers an opportunity to improve the quality, speed and functionality of the post-award contract management function, while allowing for the better utilisation of scarce contract management resources.
RPA ‘bots’ are sophisticated software that lay on top of an organisation’s IT systems to manipulate existing application software in the same way that a person today processes a transaction or completes a process.1
RPA is therefore suited to clerical task processing which requires manipulation of systems and/or application of rules-based decision-making that may otherwise be performed by a human.
Robotic process automation contributes to the following:
Compared to human labour, RPA is more capable of carrying out tasks both continuously and reliably. Consequently, errors and clerical mistakes are greatly reduced.
Data editing, screen operation and other tasks via RPA do not involve physical manipulation of devices and therefore a task can be accomplished at tens or hundreds of times the speed of human labour, resulting in increases in speed of operation.
RPA reduces the need for human intervention in certain processes, thereby freeing personnel from routine work and allowing them to engage in more value-adding activities.
Contract Managers should identify repetitive, data-driven and rules-based tasks in contract management that lend themselves to RPA implementation. In this paper, we explore how you can evaluate RPA opportunities in your organisation and the process to automate invoice validation, typically a prime candidate for automation.
Alignment with other functions within the organisation on the use of RPA is important. Contract Managers and Procurement practitioners should work with IT, finance, and other functions on selection of the specific RPA tools to be used, on the governance of RPA, and on the approach to change management.
RPA presents a clear advantage to alternative processes as a relatively inexpensive method for achieving greater efficiency without disrupting existing systems.
Organisations should consider the ability of RPA to take up the many low-value tasks that distract highly skilled resources, preventing them from strategic work.
Automation is not designed to replace Contract Managers or Procurement practitioners given the complexity of decision-making required. It is however a valuable tool to augment existing systems and personnel.
The benefits of RPA in uplifting work and enhancing the speed and accuracy of clerical tasks are a clear first step on the contract management automation journey.
1 Source: HfS Research, “Framing a Constitution for Robotistan” (2013)
If you'd like to discuss the implementation of robotic process automation in contract management, please contact us.