The 2015 IT publication InfoWorld defines robotic process automation (RPA) as “robotic” software that organizations configure to capture and interpret actions of existing applications employed in various business processes. Once RPA software has been trained to understand specific processes, it can then automatically process transactions, manipulate data, trigger responses, and communicate with other systems as necessary (InfoWorld, March 23, 2015). This RPA definition is over 10 years old but still holds true today. Can you believe that RPA has been around that long?
For those less technical: RPA is being used for digitizing many of the manual, repetitive internal or external Utility Bill Management processes that have previously resulted in less speed, accuracy, and control.
RPA and the Billing Lifecycle
Robotic process automation is making bill payments a key enabler and vital part of Utility Management. With RPA, the software easily and efficiently manages every aspect of the billing lifecycle without human intervention.
What are the benefits of RPA managing the Billing Lifecycle?
Leveraging RPA results in huge speed and accuracy benefits, tasks completed much less expensively and with the added benefit of all a company’s usage data being captured, stored, and immediately accessible to CFO’s, energy, and category managers, procurement teams, and other key decision-makers. Unlike the alternatives, RPA does all the work from extracting the utility bill data to running validation checks, quarantining an inaccurate invoice, passing the bill onto a payment file that links to the accounting system. All this is achieved automatically, at a fraction of the time. With robotics pulling and storing bill data, validating bills, and paying it all in an automated fashion – companies are moving beyond simply paying bills fast to also quickly identify billing errors and reducing operational costs as a result.
Building a data foundation that is central to better utility management is an essential step for all businesses. Good data from utility bills provide the information needed for Carbon and Energy Star reporting, establish proof-of-concept programs around lighting and solar, and budget and forecasting actuals to budget. Good data is also key to identifying outliers in your company’s portfolio, allows you to benchmark like sites, and segment the portfolio in a meaningful way. If you have 1,000 sites or locations across the country with the same physical footprint and 20 are using twice as much energy as the others, data can help you identify and address the problem more quickly.
And once you have a rich data set, specifically around usage, you can begin to dig deeper, asking more informed questions:
- Are all my sites captured in an energy contract?
- What demand charges am I paying, and can I take action to reduce these?
- Given my energy load shape, should I be considering solar, or could I load shift to reduce costs?
- When the sites are dormant is their correlating energy reduction. Why/why not?
- Should I consider sub-metering to get a granular understanding of my sites?
- Are my sites using energy at the worst times?
RPA is no longer for the early adopters. It’s for pragmatic businesses. Our Utility Bill Management Services powered by RPA allows businesses to manage, automate, and optimize utility spend across departments. RPA encourages business-wide access to the data and assists the distributed workforce during the COVID 19 recovery.