Five key features you should look for in an AP solution

Accounts payable processes are often characterised by manual data entry and inefficient workflows that can hold businesses back, create extra work for staff members, and prevent the business from leveraging supplier relationships to their maximum advantage. However, accounts payable automation software can automate these processes to a large extent, saving time and providing opportunities for the business to save money.

Accounts payable (AP) automation streamlines the invoice processing workflows in an organisation. Through data capture software you can aggregate emailed and scanned invoices to a central location, and extract key field data from the invoice for processing.

Automated workflows can also be applied to match invoices to purchase orders and queue for approval for payment once recognised as valid and legitimate. These approval workflows are implemented according to your pre-set business rules, such as limits for automatic payments, and can prevent your organisation from paying the same invoice twice.

The best AP automation software could save your business many thousands or even millions of dollars depending on how many invoices you process every month.

Here are five key features you should look for in an AP automation software comparison:

1. Digital document and information capture

Your AP automation software should be able to consolidate all invoices regardless of origin, including paper-based and emailed invoices, as well as automatically identify and capture the key data fields for processing.  Extracting key information such as purchase order number, type of invoice, amount of invoice, payment deadline, etc. not only saves hours in data entry, but also reduces mistakes that come with manual processing. This will require digital document capture and optical character recognition (OCR) capability, which should be built into the solution you choose.

2. Automated workflows

The best AP automation software will allow flexible and customisable workflows to suit your business needs. This could include everything from approval-based workflows on set invoice values, expense type or supplier name, to matching invoices and purchases orders or even creating exception reports to identify missing documentation.

3. Fast payments

Your AP automation solution should have the ability to allow integration with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system so you can accelerate invoice processing to pay suppliers sooner. This will let you take advantage of early payment discounts and also develop strong relationships with your suppliers, who will appreciate your prompt payments. This will stand you in good stead if, in the future, you need to delay a payment. It can also provide you with ammunition to negotiate better deals in the future.

4. Data visibility and analysis

Excellent AP automation solutions will give you visibility and insights by analysing invoice data so you can see how much your company is spending, on what, with which suppliers. This can contribute to your business case for a better deal from key suppliers and it can also help you identify areas where your company could save money by consolidating purchases or choosing a cheaper supplier. This visibility into invoices can yield significant cost savings without requiring onerous manual data analysis.

5. Security and governance

When conducting an AP automation software comparison, you should look for a secure solution that is fraud-resistant and includes clear audit trails. This should include the invoice status visibility, access permissions and detailed access and action information.

Whether you process a dozen invoices a week or thousands of invoices per month, an AP automation solution can save you significant amounts of time and money. Your staff can be freed up to contribute more meaningfully, while your financial resources can be redirected to other activities, all of which can contribute to significant business growth. However, it’s important to choose the right solution so you can get the maximum benefits.

To find out how Upstream Solutions can help you maximise your time and cost savings, contact us today.