Accounts Payable Best Practices in an Increasingly Automated World

  • 09 Jul 2018
  • Best Practice & Strategies
Accounts Payable Best Practices in an Increasingly Automated World Image

When speaking to members of AP teams, they frequently report feeling tired of being blamed for everything that goes wrong in the procure-to-pay process and often get the sense they are perceived as mere overhead. 

While those feelings are not unbased, there is good news for AP. You can change your future by raising the bar with a new mission statement that isn’t about just paying the invoice accurately and on time, but one that brings value to your organization in three major area’s: protecting the company’s cash – delivering timely and accurate data for the Financial Statements – all with a compliant, streamlined AP/P2P process that will have a major impact to the bottom-line. Businesses need to stop reacting to their debt and start managing their cash, and AP is their key to do just that.

For accounts payable, the increased availability and drive toward automation has unlocked benefits of saving time and money for many businesses, and started the realization of the inherent, untapped value of AP. Yet there are still those who hesitate when considering taking the step toward modernizing their AP process. Many organizations may be facing unknown possibilities or aren’t clear on the exact outcomes of implementing AP automation. That’s why it’s essential to completely understand the factors and expectations for implementing automation to ensure successful change management. Here are a few ways to solidify expectations and goals when embarking on a digital transformation of your AP department and delivering on changing AP’s mission statement to one of strategic value.

Pre-Automation Project Analysis

While time and cost savings are the more obvious benefits, the actual extent of the benefits of automation for your organization may run much deeper than you’d first expect. In order to understand the expected benefits, you’ll need to paint the picture of what your current operations look like and measure how far your dollar goes in that process. Start by analyzing your current process and systems, highlighting areas that are ripe for improvement and bottlenecks that need to be addressed. Use relevant industry benchmarks that map up against your own industry segmentation to set targets for where you can make your money stretch further.

Now that you’ve highlighted key areas you want to improve in your AP process, make sure you set a clear path of change that is deliberate and measured over a gradual timeline to prevent corporate disruption and chaos. Consider current “lean” processes that consist of clear steps that will maintain control on your process while still reducing costs and eliminating waste.

The Importance of AP Automation

In the increasingly digital corporation, AP automation is no longer a luxury; it’s a necessity. The recent innovations from automation vendors have turned what were once simple workflow solutions into strategic backbones supporting digital transformation of the entire financial process.

From an efficiency perspective, AP automation works well to remove the manual steps in the invoice process, eliminating human-errors and freeing up significant time for the AP team members. This time translates to better resource management, allowing the AP staff to spend their time on strategic, value-adding initiatives and additional responsibilities.

AP staff can also take this extra time to continue to expand their professional skills. Not only will their skillset include operating the new automation solution, but they can widen their analytics and reporting capabilities, data collection skills, and overall professional proficiencies. 

Navigating change management in the age of digital disruption is not a simple task, but one that is well worth the challenge for the end results and benefits. 

By Judy Bicking, P2P & O2C Consultant

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