Get Beyond the Barriers to Business Process Automation

No AP Department Left Behind: Automation delivers clear value that should clear budget and priority hurdles with ease

July 16, 2018

A recent report from the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC) suggests that most organizations (75%) are demanding business process transformation in accounting and finance. For those that have no yet embarked on an automation initiative, most cited budget concerns as their primary barrier, followed by lack of technical resources to manage the project, as well as lack of executive sponsorship.

To overcome internal inertia over process automation, finance and accounts payable managers have to frame their value proposition in a way that secures budget and executive sponsorship, so that they can find the right product and the right partner to deliver on their technology vision.

Digital transformation, machine learning and AI are all hot topics among tech consultants and within corporate boardrooms. For finance leaders and AP department managers, hitching AP automation to the wagon of enterprise automation should be an easy sell.

According to a recent survey from the American Productivity and Quality Center (APQC), most organizations (75%) are demanding business process transformation in accounting and finance, and a new role for finance leaders.

Manual AP Processes are a Competitive Risk

Respondents to the APQC Survey indicated that nearly 3 in 4 organizations have an active financial process transformation project underway - meaning that those who do NOT have an initiative underway will be left behind in terms of process efficiency, control and competitiveness. That lack of agility and efficiency can translate into hidden costs and process flaws that can hamper a company’s ability to be both competitive and profitable.

The ROI is Clear; But Budgets Don’t Always Follow

When exploring the top reasons that firms have NOT yet automated their accounts payable processes, most cited budget concerns as their primary barrier, followed by lack of technical resources to manage the project, as well as lack of executive sponsorship. Interestingly, among those surveyed by Paystream, only 7% suggested that they did not think that AP automation would yield a sufficient return on investment.

Making the Business Case for Process Automation

Lack of sponsorship and a lack of resources (either technical or financial) are obstacles that any department faces when seeking to improve operations and secure an investment in greater process efficiency. The key is making the right business case to the right stakeholders.

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For AP professionals, the good news is that the business case for AP automation is well established - and the potential results play right into the interests and objectives of financial executives who are increasingly being asked to play a more strategic role within their organizations.

Metrics to support AP automation initiatives, based on real world results across multiple industries are well established and easy to come by. Working with an AP automation solution provider, AP staff members should be able to make a strong business case for process improvement that speaks to the specific interests of the CFO and the executive team, including:

  • Real time process visibility and better business intelligence. AP automation initiatives should include the ability to extract data from paper and digital invoices and related files and automatically create transaction entries into ERP and other business systems. The ability to quickly capture and process this data can result in better visibility to key performance indicators and greater control over cash flow.

  • Better business scalability. Often, mergers, acquisitions and organic business growth can stress manual operations within a company. That stress can result in increased costs, more errors, compliance risks and poor customer service. AP automation ensures that a company’s growth strategies won’t be restrained by internal processes.

  • Early pay discounts. Sometimes how cost reductions are achieved can be equally or more compelling than how much is saved. While efficiency gains can usually substantiate a quick ROI for AP automation initiatives, the prospect of lowering costs through early payment discounts (especially if there is better cash flow visibility and control) can catch the attention of a savvy CFO.

  • Reduced errors and compliance risk. AP automation can help to address one of the biggest fears keeping financial executives up at night - audits and compliance risk. AP automation initiatives that integrate smart process platforms into the mix can intelligently extract data from scanned paper and electronic invoices, then automatically enter transactions into ERP and business systems without the need for manual data entry. Those systems validate data throughout the process, automatically checking to ensure that line items and totals match, that no duplicate invoices are processed and that all data is cross-referenced with existing vendor information. The process creates its own audit trail, ensuring better compliance and auditability.

Overcoming Obstacles and Breaking Barriers

Industry organizations, accounts payable professional groups and AP automation vendors all possess a wealth of information, statistics and experience to help establish a clear business case for AP automation that can help to secure the necessary funding and internal resources. AP automation reflects the kind of vision that most corporate executives have today for more efficient and agile internal processes. The key is to demonstrate that automating AP has a greater impact than incremental cost savings and instead has strategic value to the firm.

To explore how to make the case for your organization, contact your Artsyl Technologies representative. They can help to map out your business processes, define opportunities for improvement and define specific metrics to make the case for change. www.artsyltech.com

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