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Transforming the Accounts Payable Function with AP Automation

Posted by Rory Jordan

28th of November, 2023

10 Min Read

Transforming the Accounts Payable Function: Unleashing Efficiency Through AP Automation

In today’s fast-paced business landscape, staying ahead means streamlining operations. One area that’s often a source of headaches for companies—large and small alike—is managing accounts payable. Thankfully, automation has emerged as a game-changer, offering a lifeline to industry leaders drowning in payables pain.

The Current Accounts Payable Predicament

  • Time-Consuming Processes: Manual handling of invoices, data entry, approvals, and payments is a time-intensive task. Employees spend considerable hours sorting through paperwork, entering data into systems, and seeking approvals from multiple stakeholders.
  • High Probability of Errors: Manually inputting data leaves room for human error. Mistakes in data entry, such as incorrect figures or mismatches between invoices and purchase orders, can lead to payment delays, overpayments, or underpayments.
  • Delayed Processing and Approvals: In a manual system, invoices may get stuck in various approval queues or on someone’s desk. This delay impacts the payment cycle, affecting relationships with suppliers and potentially incurring late fees or missed early payment discounts.
  • Lack of Visibility and Tracking: Without a centralised system, it becomes challenging to track the status of invoices or understand where they are in the approval pipeline. This lack of visibility can lead to confusion and hinder financial forecasting.
  • Difficulty in Scaling: As businesses grow, the volume of invoices and payables increases. Manual systems struggle to accommodate this growth, leading to inefficiencies and added complexities in managing a higher volume of transactions.
  • Compliance Risks: Manually managing payables raises compliance risks. Errors or discrepancies in records might result in audits, penalties, or even damage to the company’s reputation.
  • Inefficiency in Handling Disputes: Resolving disputes or discrepancies in manually managed payables is often more time-consuming. It involves back-and-forth communication between stakeholders, further delaying the payment process.

The Rise of AP Automation

Accounts payable automation involves leveraging software and technology to streamline and optimize the entire accounts payable (AP) process, from invoice receipt to payment, by replacing manual, paper-based tasks with automated workflows and digital systems.

Significance of Accounts Payable Automation:

  • Efficiency Boost: Automation eliminates manual data entry, streamlines workflows, and speeds up the entire AP cycle. It reduces the time required for invoice processing, approvals, and payments.
  • Error Reduction: Automated systems significantly minimise human errors inherent in manual processes. This leads to increased accuracy in data entry, ensuring that invoices match purchase orders and payment amounts are correct.
  • Faster Approvals: Automation enables seamless routing of invoices to the right approver, facilitating quicker decision-making and reducing bottlenecks in the approval chain.
  • Enhanced Visibility: AP automation provides real-time visibility into the status of invoices, allowing stakeholders to track the progress of payments, identify bottlenecks, and have a clear view of cash flow.
  • Cost Savings: By reducing manual labour and errors, automation decreases processing costs associated with handling invoices, leading to overall cost savings for the organization.
  • Improved Relationships with Suppliers: Faster and accurate payments through automation lead to improved relationships with suppliers. Timely payments can potentially result in better terms or discounts from vendors.
  • Scalability and Growth: AP automation systems can easily scale with the business as it grows. They are equipped to handle increased invoice volumes and evolving business needs without sacrificing efficiency.
  • Data Analytics and Reporting: Automation systems often provide robust reporting and analytics capabilities, offering insights into spending patterns, payment trends, and other financial metrics crucial for informed decision-making.

Industry Leaders Embracing AP Automation

Implementing accounts payable automation brings tangible benefits such as faster processing, improved accuracy, cost savings, strengthened supplier relationships, and access to valuable data insights, ultimately contributing to improved operational efficiency and financial health for businesses.

Success Story: JMC opted for a comprehensive Accounts Payable Automation Solution from Enterprise Imaging Systems. The system streamlined their invoice receipt, processing, and approvals. It incorporated intelligent OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to capture and digitise invoice data, eliminating manual data entry.

Results and Benefits:

  • Reduced Labour Costs: Processing time reduced significantly accelerating invoice approvals and payments.
  • Improved Accuracy: Error rates decreased significantly, ensuring accurate data entry and matching of invoices.
  • Enhanced Supplier Relationships: Timely payments resulted in improved relationships with suppliers, leading to better terms and discounts.
  • Strategic Insights: Detailed reporting and analytics empowered better financial decision-making.

Now they have complete visibility of the payment cycle, and they know what invoices have been assigned, approved by who, on what date etc. This means the entire accounts payable process is much easier to manage – they just log in and the invoice pops up, they can see people’s comments on it, and it feeds forward and back and if there’s an invoice that’s outstanding, they know what it is and who has to respond to it.

“Nobody has found a single fault with it, it’s just perfect.”

(Brian Murphy, Customs, IT & Projects Manager, JMC)

 ‘TraX APA has been an absolute game-changer for the business.’

(Brian Murphy, Customs, IT & Projects Manager, JMC)

Choosing the Right AP Automation Solution

By considering the factors listed below comprehensively, businesses can choose an accounts payable automation solution that aligns with their specific needs, fosters efficiency, ensures compliance, and supports their long-term growth objectives.

  1. Business Needs Assessment:

  • Current Workflow Analysis: Ensure your vendor takes the time to understand your existing accounts payable processes, pain points, and inefficiencies that need addressing.
  • Scalability Requirements: Assess the scalability needs considering the business’s growth trajectory and potential increase in invoice volume. Ensure proposed solutions can scale with ease.
  1. Functionality and Features:

  • Invoice Capture and Data Extraction: Ensure the system offers robust OCR capabilities to accurately capture and digitise invoice data.
  • Workflow Automation: Look for solutions that streamline approval workflows, automate routing, and allow for customisable approval chains.
  • Integration Capabilities: Ensure compatibility and seamless integration with existing ERP or financial systems to maintain data consistency.
  • Mobile Accessibility: Evaluate if the solution offers mobile access for on-the-go approvals and visibility into the process.
  1. Customisation and Flexibility:

  • Tailored Solutions: Seek solutions that can be customised to match specific business needs and processes rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
  • Adaptability: Ensure the solution can adapt to changing business requirements and evolving industry standards.
  1. Usability and User Experience:

  • Ease of Use: Prioritise systems with intuitive interfaces to minimize training needs and encourage user adoption.
  • Accessibility: Verify the system’s accessibility across devices and platforms for remote access and ease of use.
  1. Security and Compliance:

  • Data Security Measures: Ensure the solution offers robust security features to protect sensitive financial data.
  • Compliance Standards: Check for compliance with industry regulations and standards, such as GDPR, to ensure data handling meets regulatory requirements.
  1. Vendor Reputation and Support:

  • Vendor Reliability: Research the vendor’s reputation, experience, and track record in providing accounts payable automation solutions.
  • Support and Training: Assess the vendor’s support services, including training, implementation assistance, and ongoing technical support.
  1. Cost Considerations:

  • Total Cost of Ownership (TCO): Evaluate the overall cost, including implementation, licensing, maintenance, and potential hidden expenses.
  • ROI and Cost Savings: Calculate the potential return on investment through efficiency gains, cost savings, and improved accuracy.
  1. User Feedback and References:

  • User Reviews and Testimonials: Seek feedback from other businesses using the solution to understand real-world experiences.
  • References and Case Studies: Review vendor-provided case studies and references to assess successful implementations in similar industries

Embracing the Future of Accounts Payables

The landscape of payables automation is continually evolving, driven by technological advancements and the growing demand for efficiency and accuracy in financial processes. Here’s an overview of the evolving landscape and potential future advancements:

  1. Hyper automation:

    • A convergence of multiple technologies like AI, ML, and process automation to enable end-to-end automation, enhancing efficiency and minimizing human intervention.
  2. IoT Integration:

    • Integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices for seamless data exchange, facilitating automated invoice processing and approval.
  3. Advanced Security Measures:

    • Continual improvements in security protocols to combat evolving cybersecurity threats, ensuring the safety of sensitive financial data.
  4. Personalised and Adaptive Systems:

    • Systems that adapt to individual user preferences, offering personalised workflows and predictive suggestions for approvals.
  5. Regulatory Compliance Enhancement:

    • Further development of compliance features to keep pace with evolving regulatory requirements, ensuring adherence to global standards.

In summary, the era of manual payables management is fading fast. Industry leaders are embracing AP automation to unchain their businesses from the burdens of outdated processes. As technology continues to evolve, the future promises even greater efficiency, accuracy, and scalability in managing payables.

Want to find out more about how AP automation can benefit your business?

Does your accounts payable team waste endless hours on manual data entry? Do you find it hard to get invoices approved and paid on time? Do you want to avoid costly mistakes? Do you want better visibility on your finances? Accounts Payable Automation software will deliver all this and more.

At Enterprise Imaging Systems (EIS) we’ve been helping our clients save time, money and a whole lot of hassle for over 20 years. If you’d like to find out more about what our accounts payable automation software can do for your business, talk to one of our experts today.