Accounts Payable Automation Strategies for Success
- Posted by: David Watters
- Category: Best Practices
Organisations looking into automating their accounts payable functions understand the real value that it can return to their business, benefits such as:
- Completely Digital Workflow – supporting remote working
- Fraud mitigation – automating verification of invoice data to mitigate the risk of invoice fraud
- Improved Accuracy and Reduction in Manual Work – shifting high volume, low value transactional activities, like manual entry of data, away from your staff so they can focus on higher value activities.
- Increased control – through purpose built approval chains ensuring invoices are seen by the right people.
As Accounts Payable Automation has such a strong benefit case behind it, it’s easy to assume that it will solve all of an organisations challenges, however as with most technologies, the automation itself is not a silver bullet. To help organisations make sure they get it right, we’ve compiled a list of the top strategies for success with accounts payable automation.
Seize the Change Opportunity
The temptation to look for what seems to be the easiest path is very real, for example looking at what your current technology providers can offer rather than going out to market. However, this is a great opportunity to improve and transform your accounts payable operations – rarely in business do you get an opportunity to consider your back-office functions. Take the opportunity and consider how you can use this as a springboard to transform your business.
Understand the Scope
There are many facets to accounts payable automation and its hard not be upsold by a savvy SaaS platform sales person. The basic workflow for invoice processing should be your main focus:
- Invoice receipt
- Invoice data capture
- Invoice coding workflow
- Invoice approval workflow
- Invoice transfer to ERP
Consider the invoices that give you the biggest headache today and investigate if there will be any major deviations from a basic workflow -then make sure you get a good understanding of how the platform will handle that and whether it will actually save you any time or not.
Ensure Strategic Alignment
Consider your organisations key strategic objectives, how would AP automation contribute or deliver on those objectives? What is your organisations appetite for transformation? How might these impact your rollout and delivery timelines? There needs to be a strong connection between the project, your transformation appetite and strategic goals for the project to be successful.
Drive a Great User Experience
We have seen time and time again, user adoption being severely hampered by a solution making technical and process sense but delivering a poor, disconnected user experience. Automating your accounts payable processes creates a great opportunity for a big improvement in user experience by accessing through mobile apps, browsers and other devices. To ensure a smooth transition, make sure that you are mapping the current user experience against the future experience so you can identify and describe the gains that will be delivered.
Integrate, integrate, integrate
Integration capabilities are becoming more and more in demand as user experience, business requirements and suppliers expect a more connected and integrated service. This will usually require data exchanges between systems like your ERP, People Data etc. Make sure you understand what data needs to be made available to the accounts payable automation platform to deliver the great user experience outlined above. Then ensure you have a plan to ensure that data is transferred automatically.
Manage the Change
Projects like this live and die on how well they are adopted by users and suppliers alike. Take the time to consider the communication needs both internally and externally and map out the impact on the way that these groups will interact with your business and processes. Your provider should have some expertise in this area and be able to support both user and supplier adoption.
Build a solid business case
We know that accounts payable automation is not seen as particularly sexy and typically doesn’t drive top-line growth. However, it can drive real value to your bottom line and a dollar saved is as good as a dollar earned. The key to this is taking the time to build a high-quality business case mapping out the return on investment and the value of the project over its a 3-5 year period. Doing a solid job on the business case helps in gaining a high level of internal sponsorship.