For organizations seeking to lower costs, increase efficiency and expand transparency throughout the enterprise, business process automation promises the combined benefit of a reduction in operational costs, along with an increased ability for the organization to plan and execute strategically through more timely analysis and better decision making.
For many organizations, automating accounts payable represents low-hanging fruit in terms of a fast return on investment and a well-defined transactional process with components that can be automated and streamlined with relative ease.
The precedent for achieving great results by automating manual, error-prone processes like invoice and related document filing and matching, transaction data entry and approval routing through the use of intelligent capture software, integrated with ERP and ECM systems is well-established.
However, the success of the AP automation initiatives depend largely on careful planning and preparation. Consistent project management and enlisting the help of a competent vendor-partner will facilitate a quick return on investment.
The keys to success lie in how those solutions are implemented and how they align with the existing systems and processes that are in place.
Nine Keys to Success
With that in mind, here are nine keys to implementation success for AP Automation
1. The need to understand the process is paramount. Begin by documenting your current AP process. Metrics should include invoice-processing headcount, invoice volume, data-entry error rate, time required for each stage of the process, and the on-time payment rate. Understanding these metrics up-front will allow you to measure the ROI of your project, which will not only benefit AP, but provide a roadmap and benchmarks for other BPA projects.
2. Understand which systems are in place and the tasks they manage successfully. Are your requirements met with just an intelligent capture system, or is workflow required as well? Do you have existing ERP and enterprise content management systems (ECM) that should be integrated into the process? Today’s AP automation solutions range from end-to-end automation to separate capture, workflow systems and portals that enhance the existing environment. List the systems that will exchange information with the capture solution
3. Identify your organization’s invoice entry points. Who receives them and where? In which formats do they arrive? Distributed invoice receipt is difficult to control, and centralized processing is a best practice. If your receipt is distributed, create a centralization plan. What is the most efficient way to capture them as early as possible? Do you have scanning resources? A dedicated e-mail box for invoices? Are invoices received or scanned in batches? How frequently are non-invoice documents encountered in the batch?
4. You will need to define a process for the separation and classification of documents. Intelligent capture solutions can separate, index and file documents based on their contents. Defining the types of documents to be handled, the actionable data they possess and the mechanisms to validate the results are all a critical part of defining an automated process.
5. Identify the data fields for capture and validation. Focus on what is required to achieve your goals; additional “nice to have” fields will make the solution more expensive to maintain.
6. Identify where images will be stored and the policy for image retention.
7. Be prepared to provide a copy of your vendor master data and a representational set of a few hundred invoice images to the solution vendor. This will facilitate configuration and improve capture quality.
8. Create an implementation plan with the solution vendor. Minimize the disruption to AP staff and ensure that the implementation does not prevent them from meeting their daily responsibilities. Schedule appropriate training and plan for an adoption period with support resources (your staff or the solution provider’s) to help them and promptly address their questions and arising issues.
9. Periodically measure the performance of the automated process and compare it to the pre-automation metrics. This will allow you to set NEW goals for further process optimization and allow you to cost justify further investments in process automation within finance and throughout the organization.
For more information about AP Automation and Intelligent Capture, visit Artsyl Technologies online at http://www.artsyltech.com