Accounts Payable Automation Doesn’t have to be Daunting

By Angelo Elias, AP Automation Specialist

Some businesses think the journey to accounts payable automation is long and complex however it doesn’t have to be.

There are many ways to start and in a lot of cases doing it in bite size chunks can provide quicker returns.

Its been my experience that a lot of the challenges in the invoice processing space focus around the document approval process and dealing with the paper itself. It’s important to understand the core business problem before embarking on this journey.

You may think the most obvious area of focus is the manual keying of invoice data, and while that’s a labour intensive process, it might not be the area that can deliver the quickest ROI. Consider the other factors in getting an invoice paid, for example:

a. Scanning and emailing of invoices

b. Opening and sorting

c. Chasing approvals or signatures

d. Finding an invoice when a dispute or validation is required

While each of these steps factor into a comprehensive Accounts Payable Automation solution, selecting just one of these areas and starting there can set you on your automation journey and deliver significant benefits.  Understanding your business and identifying which areas your staff spend the most time addressing or which present the most frequent hurdles is a great place to start.

Is it the tedious and costly input of information, or are your staff constantly fielding enquiries for copies of invoices and wasting hours finding and delivering them, or perhaps it’s the time spent chasing approvals and doubling up work already previously performed?  Once your narrow down your focus you’re ready to start adding real value with automation.

Take the approval process as an example. Optimising the approval process with digitisation may provide greater benefits initially, especially when the approvers are not in the office or are across multiple sites and branches.

When you factor in the indirect costs of inefficient AP processing, the dollars quickly add up.  For example you may be incurring penalty fees for late payments, missing out on early & on-time discounts or forfeiting the power to negotiate due to inconsistent payment patterns – all which can end up costing your business significantly.  Streamlining the approval process helps remove these challenges allowing you to improve payment cycles, hence delivering an tangible and immediate return on investment.

Once you implement a digital workflow that will provide visibility and reduce handling times, the data extraction piece, along with other parts of the automation process, can be tackled as a secondary phase to the project.

Critical to your success in AP automation is ensuring you select the right partner. Choose one that has the experience, skills and solutions to meet your objectives and one that will recommend the best path to take.

If you want to know more about how your company can get started, contact Upstream for a free consultation.