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4 Reasons to Automate AP NOW

12 September 2019

5 minute read

4 Reasons to Automate AP NOW

In 2018, approximately 93 million (36.8%) of US consumers bought groceries online.1 But, 52% respondents to a recent survey say that 0% of their invoices are submitted electronically and can be processed without human intervention.2 In a world where convenience is king, why is AP still settling for inconvenience?

 

We’re living in a time of convenience. If I want my groceries, I can schedule a pickup time from my local Walmart where a shopper selects my requested items for me. All I have to do is pay online, pull into a parking spot reserved for me, and open my trunk. As if that wasn’t easy enough, Amazon and Whole Foods now offer grocery delivery in just two hours.

We’ve even become accustomed to the “Prime” standard—Amazon Prime delivers 2-day or even 1-day shipping on thousands of items. We’ve become used to automation and faster than ever processing in our everyday lives. So why should our Accounts Payable (AP) operations be any different?

It’s time to automate AP – Now.

Maybe AP has become complacent. It could even be that there’s an innate fear of a potential loss of jobs or certain skills becoming irrelevant as automation becomes a regular part of AP. And though these excuses may interfere with AP’s clear view of automation, they shouldn’t. And here’s why.

It’s a phrase as old as time itself: Change is inevitable. This isn’t meant to threaten AP into a digital transformation, but more so to show that all entities experience shifts and new phases in order to continue growing. So, that’s why it’s important to draw attention to the benefits of automating your AP operations and how automation software delivers a streamlined process.

1. Decrease human error

Remember in elementary school and middle school where you were forced to do all your math by hand? It was supposed to make you more accurate, more careful, and more vigilant about “careless errors.” Then, suddenly, in high school, you were given a calculator (I still have my Texas Instruments TI-83) and your errors reduced ten-fold. Sure, maybe it was because you were a math genius, but chances are your errors decreased because you were using technology to do the heavy lifting and reduce human error.

The same goes for processing invoices. Everyone knows the process by heart and accountants are notorious for thoroughly checking their math, but in a stack of a hundred manually processed invoices, careless errors are bound to happen.

According to Basware’s report, Fintopia Survey: The State of AP Efficiency in the US

When those errors do happen, you’re looking at untangling a mess of inaccurate invoice data, spending valuable time on tedious tasks, and frankly doing something that an intelligent AP Automation software could’ve done for you. Through automation, you can feel confident knowing that each invoice is captured correctly and visible to all other relevant parties. And any errors in the initial invoice will instantly be recognised and reported, meaning AP clerks only have to manually check the invoices with reported inconsistencies.

2. Increase efficiency

A common misconception and frequent fear of AP automation is that by adopting an automated solution, their jobs will automatically become null and therefore put their careers at risk. But automation actually does the opposite—it opens the door for more productive, strategic tasks while saving your company money.

Consider the process of returning an item. Traditionally, a customer might have to contact a customer services representative for return instructions or perhaps take the item back to the store themselves where it is then processed for restocking. Now, most retailers let customers process returns online and print a pre-paid shipping label. Then, all they have to do is drop the return off at a local UPS store or schedule a UPS pickup from their house. The return is processed, packaged, and sent all without intervention from anyone on the retailer’s team. So, if an organisation is outsourcing the tedious task of handling returns, why wouldn’t you do the same for your back office processes?

Much of the AP process is spent doing monotonous, manual work which inhibits AP employees from exploring the more strategic opportunities available within their roles. Automation opens the door for AP to use their skills to shift towards a more analytics-driven role where they can contribute to business-oriented activities like driving improved cash flow and securing discounts. And by automating, you could even cut your invoice processing time in half (like ABB did) and save even more valuable time.

According to Basware’s report, Fintopia Survey: The State of AP Efficiency in the US

With automation, all the information flowing through your system is gathered into one, succinct location. So, AP clerks can become masters of data, insights, and oversight. With this level of transparency at your fingertips, you can easily create data-driven reports and drill down into specific operations.

3. Streamline operations

Complete workflow automation. It’s possible and it’s where all trailblazers of the AP world are headed. AP automation empowers you to automate the entire approval and workflow process. Through automation and touchless processing, AP clerks won’t be stuck chasing down missing information and filling in the gaps of incomplete invoices.

Automation helps by checking to ensure that billed amounts are correct, the expense is approved at appropriate intervals, and locating areas in the process that need extra attention. Automated matching allows you to use any combination of invoices, POs, external POs, goods receipts, quality checks, and contracts at the line level and header level for straight-through processing.

4. Mitigate risk and prevent fraud

If you’re still using file cabinets to organise your critical business information, you’re holding the door open for potential risk and fraud. Stacks of paper forms and rooms of cabinets lead to lost files and slow document retrieval. And during high-anxiety audit times, the last thing you want is a missing or hidden file.

Automating your AP creates an easy to follow digital trail that safely stores and includes all vital transaction data. You’ll get 100% visibility into the journey of your invoice, tracking every step of your operations and retaining those records securely. With the click of a mouse, important audit documents can be retrieved from the system, providing a single source of truth about your invoices and payments.

Thanks to AP automation, you can also prevent duplicate invoices, enable third-party validation for supplier data, create an electronic approval trail for reference and auditing, and ensure compliance with global regulations.

Ready to learn more?

AP Automation comes with many more benefits than what we’ve covered here today. Learn more about the future of automation over the next two years in the recent EIU report—download now.

Questions about automating your AP operations? Contact us.

1. Fintopia: The State of AP Efficiency in the US

2. https://www.supermarketnews.com/online-retail/study-number-online-grocery-shoppers-surges