How to Choose the Right Accounts Payable Automation for Your Business and Best Practices - 2021 Guide

Apr 28, 2021 12:48:02 PM

A consistent, efficient accounts payable department is key to a successful business. Miscommunications, human error, and inconsistent workflow in AP can cost a company significant amounts of money.

This is why many businesses have turned to AP automation. Finding the right automation solution for your company creates consistent workflows, prevents miscommunications, mitigates human error, and most significantly reduces the time it takes to process invoices.

So how can you tell which automation strategy is right for your business?

Accounts payable is not the part of a business that many people think of as being on the cutting edge of a technological revolution, but automation in AP is at the center of a watershed moment in workflow management.

Manually processing invoices and invoice matching are vital processes for any business’s health, but they take a great deal of time, and they are very repetitive. AP automation takes the time, costs, and mental bandwidth required to complete those tasks and reduces them dramatically. AP automation also improves security and provides a quick return on investment.

Tailored solutions

The biggest mistake some companies make is treating automation as a one-size-fits-all solution. Just as every individual business has its own needs, each AP department has its own requirements — but by following best practices, you can achieve the most out of your automation.

Of course, there is no such thing as a single accounts payable best practices PDF. But by applying your knowledge of these practices to what you know about your AP processes and personnel, you can find the best AP automation solution for your business.

Choosing the Best Automation for Your Business

AP automation best practices begin with choosing your AP automation provider. In order to make sure you connect with the right provider for your business, follow these best practices.

Know Your Goals and How to Measure Them

This is the most deceptively difficult part of the process. To find the best AP automation software for your business, you have to know what you’re looking for.

How many processes do you want to automate? Do you need to automate one process first as a pilot program with the goal to expand automation to more AP processes and other areas of your company within a year? Or are you on a five-year plan?

Timely decision

By taking the time to consider how you want your automation to scale, how to incorporate the cloud, and whether or not you wish to create a paperless process by creating a portal for your vendors to enter their invoices directly into your system themselves, you will be better informed when choosing between automation providers.

After all, the lowest-priced AP automation software may not have all the features you need. 

If you know what you want to get out of your AP automation, you can gauge whether or not your strategies and software have been effective. To set your automation goals, consult your AP team and the automation experts you are working with for this transition. Make your goals aspirational but realistic.

Know Your Workflows

To automate your processes, you need to know exactly how those processes work. By detailing every step of the workflow you wish to automate, you will be better able to spot areas that can be simplified with your new software.

Your organization’s AP Automation workflows will be built based on taking your existing workflows and optimizing them for better efficiency.  Skipping a process or step in documenting your existing manual workflows may be detrimental to your initial rollout because the flow(s) may be missing some steps, which will both slow invoice processing down and lead to frustrated users.

Remember: you can’t have accounts payable process improvement if you do not know those processes inside and out.

Establishing Best Practices

When you understand your automation goals and how you want to improve your workflows, you can find an automation provider that fills your needs. 

To guarantee that you get the most out of your automation, keep these best practices in the accounts payable process in mind.

Prioritize Communication

To ensure that your automation goals and process specifics are communicated to your automation development team, put an AP automation project manager in place.

Having a voice that is both familiar with your AP workflows and with software design and implementation makes the process of implementing automation so much simpler. A single project manager can also keep the higher-ups appraised of progress on automation with purpose and clarity — one voice that makes sure all relevant parties understand each other.

And having a project manager with an existing relationship with your AP team can help those team members buy into your automation. People can be resistant to change for several reasons. Giving them a voice they trust to explain how automation can benefit them will keep them on board and pushing for excellence. 

Stages of Automation

Rome wasn’t built in a day, and neither will your AP automation be able to replace every single workflow immediately. Work with your automation provider to create a plan.

Just as a child must learn to walk before they run, automating and refining your invoice processing workflow before you expand your automation to three-way matching is a natural progression.

Dealing with Paper

As you transition into an automated future, you will still have vendors that send you paper invoices. Make sure your team scans them into your new system as soon as possible.

There are a few reasons why scanning paper invoices quickly is important.

One of the primary metrics improved by automation is Days Payable Outstanding (DPO). By entering paper invoices the day they arrive, your team can record the liability and ensure the shortest possible DPO.

DPO metrics can be used as proof that transitioning to an automated portal for your vendors to submit their invoices and or entering their invoices can bring value to both your organization as well as your trading partners/vendors. Your workflows become more efficient without paper invoices, and they get paid faster than they ever could have with an analog system.

Build on What Works

Your automation should be able to integrate with your existing IT architecture. If you have software that you rely on and trust, use automation to augment that existing tool.

Building on top of existing systems will help your team transition to a new automated workflow and will make it easier to integrate more systems as your automation scales.

Make Automation Work for You

Making the AP processes more efficient is at the core of every accounts payable best practice. 2021 is shaping up to be a year in which automation is standard practice. Many industry-leading companies have already gotten to that point.

The fact of the matter is that automation is the key to how to manage accounts payable effectively. The trackable nature and metrics/reporting of automated processes can make finding bottlenecks simple. 

In Conclusion

The amount of time saved by automating the most time-consuming and labor-intensive AP processes will allow your team to focus on tasks that require more critical thinking and less data entry.

If you haven’t looked into automation, you are falling behind your competition. Your accounts payable invoice processing could be so much better than it is now with the right AP Automation software tools. The time is right to give your AP department those tools. Leverage TEAM IM’s over 25 years of business process automation and Accounts Payable experience to help your business with AP Automation. Contact us today.

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