We’ve all been through a lot over the past few years – from COVID to unprecedented natural disasters. We have more to do and often need to do it from hybrid ‘workplaces’, including offices, airports, hotels, and homes. And naturally, we want to be more efficient, responsive, cost-effective, and accurate (and to spend less time on unrewarding and mundane manual tasks!).
However, it’s important to realise that the move to remote working has been easier for some roles than others.
For example, accounts payables teams have often shouldered a disproportionate burden of risk and stress as they continued to make regular trips to the office to process supplier invoices and make on-time payments.
But it doesn’t need to be that way. The adoption of automation in AP process transforms not only the function, but allows staff to complete their tasks from the safety and comfort of home. All the while improving organisational efficiency and productivity, saving trees, reducing overheads, and delivering happiness to AP teams, suppliers, and management.
So, moving forward, what AP automations should be top of your list?
1. Bye-bye form filling!
There’s little joy or job satisfaction to be found by the AP team in populating forms with the same data they know has been entered into your AP software time and time again. By introducing digital forms with auto-fill features, not only will they save on time and tedium, but increase accuracy.
Sometimes the simple things in life can bring much happiness.
2, 3 & 4. Hands-off invoice ingestion, validation, and approval
Let’s start with ingestion.
If the business has hundreds, thousands, or tens of thousands of incoming invoices every month, you can guarantee that your AP team is over manual data entry. With automation, you can accurately and at speed capture the necessary information from every invoice – paper or PDF. So, as the business grows, receiving more supplier invoices doesn’t mean the need for more staff or having to tolerate a higher volume of data entry errors.
Then we have validation.
Checking that the invoice is from a known supplier and the dollar amount matches the purchase order (or even has an associated PO!) is time-consuming. Whereas with the application of automation, each invoice is electronically cross-referenced against purchase orders and other business logic. Depending on company policy, the AP team only needs to obtain sign-off if an invoice exceeds a maximum dollar value, doesn’t match the PO amount, or if the invoice issuer isn’t on your supplier list (reducing the opportunity for fraud).
And finally, we have invoice approvals.
Gone are the days of requiring your AP team to chase down individual approvals and despairing over piles of paper invoices languishing on desks. By introducing automation to the invoice approval process, the approval request is delivered directly to the approver’s device, and the automation platform can use time-bound alerts (emails, SMS etc.) to chase them down if they are tardy.
5. Always on-time invoice and payment reminders
For those AP teams tired of chasing suppliers for their invoices, or remembering to pay on deadline to achieve discounts (for utility bills as an example) or for seven-day invoices – automation takes away the pain. Auto-remind suppliers if their invoices haven’t arrived, and set up payment terms to trigger alerts to pay on time.
Your business will never miss out on an early or on-time payment rebate, attract a past due payment penalty again, or have to manage irate supplier calls again!
Time to automate?
Unfortunately, AP is often last in line when it comes to transformation. Yet, with the addition of automation, it can deliver significant, measurable, and rapid benefits to your business, people, cash flow, and supplier relationships.
While we’ve only focussed on five automations, each one makes a very real difference to the speed, efficiency, and accuracy of your AP processes – and cost overheads. And your AP team are no longer disadvantaged by manual processes which compel them to return to the office environment while others continue to work remotely.