How to Address Straight Through Processing Challenges in Accounts Payable with Intelligent Automation

by Kris Subramanian, Chief Operating Officer | Posted on Friday October 29, 2021

Today, the Accounts Payable (AP) team of an enterprise has a significant role to play in supporting the business —by managing supplier payments efficiently so that business isn’t interrupted.

Moving beyond their traditional responsibilities, AP teams are also driving growth, optimizing working capital, and mitigating risks. Therefore, ensuring maximum efficiency in their processes has become the prime focus of every organization.

One of the key hallmarks of efficiency in the AP function is the ability to leverage technology to achieve Straight Through Processing (STP) of invoices.

What is Straight Through Processing? Why can’t every company achieve this?

In the context of AP,  straight through, or ‘touchless,’ processing is defined as an invoice being received, approved, and paid without any manual intervention. With automated STP capability, the AP team can process a vastly higher number of invoices quicker and with far lesser effort. STP brings in enormous value as it is significantly cheaper and faster than any other invoice-approval workflow process.

Almost seven in ten AP teams (as many as 72%) spend up to 10 people-hours per week, or 520 hours per year on tasks that could be automated — such as invoice processing, supplier inquiries, supplier payments execution, PO matching, new supplier registration, and payment reconciliation. According to APQC, the cost of processing an invoice manually varies between $2 and $10 – and these are very conservative numbers.

Though most organizations realize the need to achieve true straight through processing of invoices, many find it tough to choose the right technology that can help them address all the perceived challenges involved.

Why OCR and RPA ‘bots’ are not intelligent enough

Gathering all the necessary information spread across invoices in multiple formats, item description matching, data cleansing and exception handling are the most important tasks of invoice processing.

Industry-favorite Optical Character Recognition (OCR) solutions fail through most of these processes. As they scrape data from the screen, errors are bound to happen and invariably your AP team members must spend hours or even days reviewing the data and tracking down the missing pieces. They might also have to cross-check whether the extracted invoice data conforms with the PO requirements and business rules. Errors and mismatches could spring up anywhere in price, quantity, dates, conversion of currencies, etc.

On the other hand, RPA ‘bots’ deployed in these processes have simply not been able to scale. Most organizations that have implemented RPA have not made it beyond a handful of business processes even after several years of work. 

RPA brings in an additional layer of architecture into the technology stack – or technical debt – which requires additional governance efforts. Even a minor change made to the UI, APIs or data transposition could potentially interrupt the bots’ functionality. Such breakdowns in automation can cause downtime and lost business value with the potential need for additional technical resources.

In order to avoid these cost and effort overheads, future-oriented AP teams are adopting intelligent automation to achieve STP for invoices. Intelligent automation platforms leverage the powers of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) and are the true enablers of STP in invoice processing.

Intelligent invoice processing automation with HyperApp’s Invoice Processing HyperApp is a low-code application that helps your AP team to achieve end-to-end straight through processing. Its automated workflows connect seamlessly with third-party business systems such as ERPs. Pre-configured business rules enable your AP team to handle disruptions in the receipt of invoices, including fluctuations in invoice volumes, and suppliers requesting part or early payments.

With intelligent document processing capabilities, it can handle structured (e.g., invoices, loan applications etc.) and semi-structured (e.g., financial reports) data from many types of documents, and ‘learn’ these variances continuously. It can extract complex data from OCR, handwritten notes, and even from tables within PDF documents (deep document processing) thus enabling completely ‘touchless’ processing. By helping your AP team to set up a supplier portal, it enables suppliers to submit invoices electronically, and also to speed up the approval processes with minimal manual intervention.

Discover how’s Invoice Processing HyperApp, built on our intelligent automation platform, is changing the paradigm of enterprise automation in our white paper titled Optimizing working capital for the enterprise with intelligent automation’.

Drop an email to and our HyperApps experts can help you accelerate invoice processing, straight through!

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