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The 10 Advantages of Automating Your Accounts Payable Process

August 23, 2018

We can all admit it: Change is scary. It can be especially daunting when it comes to switching processes within organizations that have been completing the same tasks, in the same ways, for ages. But the reality is that there are abundant, compelling, cost-justifiable reasons to automate — particularly when it comes to accounts payable.

Although your organization may have survived using manual, error-prone and inefficient AP processes in the past, it may be time to take a closer look at accounts payable automation benefits and how they can empower your finance team to work smarter, not harder.

The Downfall of Traditional Accounts Payable Workflow Processes

Accounts payable departments across all industries continue to process their invoices manually. However, more and more, we can see how these traditional procedures slow companies down in light of more efficient and digitally advanced solutions. Manual, paper-based AP environments, while they have been effective for many years, may be struggling to keep up today.

One example of this shines through in dealing with the aftermath of human errors. In a 2015 Ardent Partners business survey, 48 percent of respondents claimed exceptions were the top accounts payable problem they face.

Resolving these errors in a traditional setting requires doing extensive research and communicating with purchasers and suppliers to determine discrepancies and their causes, and this process can cost valuable time and energy. In extreme cases, it may even lead to a thinning of the essential trust between parties.

While this chaotic turn of events has been familiar to many AP departments for so long, it no longer has to be this way. There's a solution waiting to free you from the weight of potential human-caused issues and the redundant double-checking of invoices — and that is AP process automation.

The Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation Software

Automation is a trending topic in the 21st-century business world. You may be wondering what exactly makes these new technologies so unique when tried-and-true manual methods of invoicing are still so prevalent.

If it weren't for the frustrations so many organizations experience with manual errors and delays, perhaps these new technologies never would have shown much promise. However, it's impossible to deny an increasingly digital world requires unique digital overhauling across various departments. Not only can you eliminate current frustrations through automation, but having the best processes in place can skyrocket your potential for growth and give your organization an incredible competitive advantage.

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Benefit 1: Completing AP Processes With Greater Time Efficiency

Your team will be able to process invoices at a much faster rate using AP automation technology. Without automation, it can take as long as two weeks to fully process an invoice, confirming the numbers and getting all the necessary signatures and approvals. However, with automated accounts payable systems, you can reduce that time to one to seven days.

There are many stages in the invoice processing timeline where you can cut the time costs and streamline your productivity, for example:

  • A tool called advanced optical character recognition, or OCR, will automatically index your scanned invoices and decrease your amount of manual data entry. One case study revealed automation eliminated 95 percent of invoice-related data entry. Imagine the benefits of freeing your staff from hours of entering figures and checking whether they're accurate.
  • The digital filing system makes it a breeze to find invoices, rather than searching through stashes of receipts and paper documents.
  • Cloud-based storage allows managers to receive access to invoices sooner for immediate approval.
  • You won't have to worry about process delays caused by end-of-month invoice bottlenecking, thanks to individual processing times being much shorter.

Because you're moving through the process faster, your staff has more time to focus on analysis and offering valuable cash-flow insights to improve company efficiency. You'll also be much less likely to see time slip away during the process of correcting human errors.

Benefit 2: Improving Accuracy and Reducing Errors

With manual calculations, data entry and various types of communications coming from several departments, there is always room for mistakes. From misfiling and losing documents to paying the wrong amount, process errors can occur at any time, for reasons that may not be easy to isolate and eliminate.

Accounting errors can cost your business in multiple ways. Not only does backtracking and resolving the mistakes take essential time away from performing necessary tasks, but there is a chance human error will result in duplicate payments and overpayment. Errors can also cost regarding your company's reputation and quality of service.

Imperfect invoices full of errors and exceptions create some of the biggest frustrations for finance employees. Ineffective communication is an area in which costly workplaces failures can occur. Having reliable software on your side that validates data entry and identifies exceptions along the way may be the solution you've been looking for to help you continuously improve, ultimately leaving the competition behind.

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By automating your accounts payable, the system will recognize inconsistencies and provide unhindered communication by granting all parties digital access to files. Two- or three-way AP matching validates data across the board, ensuring accurate bookkeeping, and the document management system will provide reliable routing, so your AP department can focus on productivity, not just controlling exceptions.

Benefit 3: Saving Money and Optimizing Cash Flow

Naturally, saving time and energy and preventing costly errors can work wonders for your financial invoice processing costs. These streamlined elements grant you a substantial return on investment after undergoing accounts payable automation overhaul. Retraining your staff to become familiar with automation software to increase their productivity may take initial cooperation and adjustment, but industry studies have shown these efforts will quickly pay for themselves.

Here are some examples AP automation benefits related to monetary cost-efficiency:

  • Automating invoices imaging can amount to nearly 90 percent savings on processing costs as opposed to manual invoice processes.
  • Eliminate printing costs for creating paper copies to file emails and electronic receipts physically.
  • Cut down on storage costs for extensive document filing and enjoy the perks of a digital storage system.
  • Receive alerts regarding duplicate invoices and reminders of upcoming due dates, enabling you to avoid late fees.
  • Cash in on early-pay discounts, which can lower costs by 30 percent or more.

An added sense of control over cash flow can help your organization prevent unnecessary costs and making the most out of potential savings. You'll also be able to decrease the typical repetitive verification needed to avoid incorrect or possibly fraudulent payments.

Benefit 4: Monitoring Compliance and Increasing Process Control

Adhering to compliance regulations and creating trackable audit trails are part of what makes accounting teams so essential to a company's success. Without the right systems in place to rigidly control processes and data, there is a chance for details to slip through the cracks.

The Association for Financial Professionals recently projected U.S. companies will experience $19 billion in fraud losses in 2018. Having an automated system to limit users to authorized functions, while simultaneously ensuring invalid invoices get flagged and reported, is crucial for anyone who aims to pull ahead of the competition.

Electronic archives made possible by invoice software enable the tracking of invoice locations, processing stages, authorization rules and compliance with IRS regulations. Automated systems like Artsyl's InvoiceAction then directly integrate data from your digital storage to your Quickbook, SYSPRO or other financial software, giving you even tighter process control.

With an automated accounts payable business process, you can have peace of mind regarding the secure filing and protection of all your invoice processing information.

Benefit 5: Expanding Process Visibility

Manual filing and stacks of paper receipts are difficult and time-consuming to sift through, and they make it nearly impossible to see the entire process on a single page. While it may appear the clockwork of automation would obscure operations, we find the opposite is the case. Electronic systems provide an increase in visibility by showing relevant data exclusively to authorized parties.

The overall awareness automation provides is an indispensable component to monitoring compliance. For example, a higher sense of control and transparency in your invoicing process can help you prevent putting cash flow at risk through incomplete accruals and under-reported expenses. You will know exactly when and where any issues arise, and any necessary data to resolve them will be at your fingertips.

Additionally, transparency through all process stages allows you to make more informed decisions about when to pay vendors, how to maximize efficiency and how to scale operations. All decision-makers will see the information relevant to their departments, and the digitization of approvals and all necessary forms reduces process maintenance to a few simple clicks.

Benefit 6: Enhancing Customer Satisfaction

Sometimes accounts payable encounters delays, errors or other issues that keep both internal and external customers from being completely satisfied in the end. The reasons for supplier dissatisfaction usually involve late payments caused by lost or misfiled invoices. AP is a strategic asset to internal customers, but it may not appear that way if exceptions lead to duplicate payments that increase costs.

These discrepancies are where an automated AP system can work its magic, leading to timely operations and enhanced relationships with vendors thanks to an increase in speed and control. You'll be able to ensure your accounts payable department visibly contributes to company goals regarding finances and maintaining a positive reputation in your industry.

Benefit 7: Promoting Workplace Collaboration

With the speed and visibility of a digital storage system, all parties involved in capturing and approving invoices can have simultaneous access to necessary files. This accessibility allows for real-time collaboration and streamlined efficiency when sharing documents, confirming details, receiving clarification and working through inaccuracies.

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When workflow is smooth and progress is constant, people are less likely to have disputes and experience frustrations. Additionally, since an automated system decreases manual data entry, AP employees will have more flexibility to seek out relevant departments and resolve discrepancies, and it allows time for logging any critical conversations. It's one example of how intentionally breaking down collaboration barriers can lead to better workplace communication and happier employees.

Benefit 8: Personalizing Your Processes

Another way to enhance the quality of your AP department is through personalizing your invoicing process to suit your company's specific workflow needs. By configuring your automation software to handle areas that most effectively increase productivity, you can create a growth-oriented culture using software that is specially customized to fit how your accounts payable process works.

If you receive invoices through multiple media — such as email, fax and snail mail, for example — data capture through OCR technology and rapid compiling may provide the most significant change in your AP efficiency. Or, maybe your invoices need to follow specific routes to attain the required approvals and signatures, and you can direct the automated workflow to follow the path that will save you the most time.

Additionally, you can configure the settings to balance AP staff workloads. Whether it's in routing invoices to different employees to share responsibilities or in granting exclusive access to bring more parties into a specific project, you can have the kind of control that makes streamlining each of these processes possible.

Benefit 9: Setting Yourself up for Growth

Companies that succeed in achieving operational excellence have a good chance of generating more revenue, increasing their profits and growing their business. While mergers and acquisitions, expansion into new markets and organic growth are signs of a successful organization, they also mean an increase in purchases and more vendors to work with, which only puts more weight on your accounts payable department's shoulders.

If your company still processes invoices manually, this increase in responsibility can be a stress factor that stunts your AP department and potentially slows down the process of achieving milestones your company would otherwise be perfectly poised to reach.

Don't let manual processes hold you back from reaching your goals for expansion. Through automation, your AP employees will be more productive with their time, empowering your staff in times of growth, instead of overextending them. You'll also be able to hold the line on headcount, decreasing the need to hire new staff as the number of tasks increases. In these ways and more, AP automation eliminates bottlenecks and restrictions on internal manual processes so you can accelerate growth and achieve your company's full potential.

Benefit 10: Gaining the Competitive Advantage

If gaining a competitive advantage over 60 percent of your competitors sounds appealing, automating your AP processes may need to be your next step. The financial benefits of automation and a quick ROI will give you enough of an edge to set you ahead of the game in many cases. But when you take time savings and error reduction into account, your competitive advantage may become increasingly immeasurable.

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The market is in dire need of an upgrade, and you could be a trailblazer in your industry, providing efficient and accurate service where others still rely on outdated, faulty methods.

How to Automate Accounts Payable With Artsyl's DocAlpha Technology

If you're ready to get your AP processes streamlined with automated invoicing software, Artsyl is here to help. With our docAlpha data extraction technology and InvoiceAction smart process management, you'll be well on your way to achieving your highest potential. But perhaps the future of your accounts payable processes is not entirely in your hands. That's why we strive to help AP teams make positive changes happen by providing useful resources and tips.

Tips on Pitching to Key Decision-Makers

While all 10 of the listed benefits of AP automating are useful to be aware of, there is a good chance that, when it comes to pitching the idea of automating accounts payable, you need to focus on ROI to get other decision-makers on board.

You'll need to overcome common barriers, like the beliefs that current processes work adequately enough and that solutions won't offer a high enough ROI. You can accomplish this using our Pitching ROI Report, which can help AP teams define manual accounting costs and communicate all the benefits of automation we have listed.

Contact Artsyl for a Free Demo

Partnering with Artsyl will help you deliver accurate data, manage invoices efficiently and save your company valuable time and money from the very first AP process. You now know the benefits of automating, so it's time to test it out for your organization.

Ready to learn more about how to make a business case for AP automation for your team? Contact Artsyl to learn more about the competitive advantages of our docAlpha platform and the InvoiceAction smart application, and you'll see just how poised you are for substantial growth.

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