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Coming out of quarantine: how to transform your accounts payable department with AP automation

A new normal meant many organizations were forced to change how they worked to remain productive during quarantine. Companies with cloud automation were far ahead of those dependent on outdated manual processes or partial automation because they could support remote work. Scrambling to get on board left little time for selection or speculation about AP automation.

Online invoicing became a necessity rather than a luxury to maintain relationships with suppliers and continue doing business. However, there are necessary steps to achieving seamless workflow automation. Discover how to make the transition to AP automation and prepare everyone for the touchless work environment of the future.

AP Automation for a Seamless Transition

The world works differently after COVID-19, and businesses must adapt to compete globally. Many companies were not automated pre-pandemic, and others functioned with a hybrid of manual and automated processes. Before the pandemic, the 2019 Payables Insight Report by Levvel Research revealed just 50 percent of companies automated their AP workflow processes. A total of 24 percent still scanned and emailed by hand, with 23 percent operating entirely manually.

Adopting AP automation helped companies make a seamless transition to cloud collaboration to support remote workers. With automation, paper is eliminated, and invoice capture and verification processes are automated. Invoice approvals are completed in seconds from any device and location rather than waiting for days on a desk for approval. Updates are made in real-time to provide accurate financial updates. As a result, management made essential decisions to ensure productivity during the pandemic and beyond based on legitimate financial data.

Per the Level Research 2021 Payable Insight Report, after quarantining the most prominent challenges in AP are manual data entry, invoice-to-payment matching, lost and duplicate invoices, and an inconsistent organizational AP process - all easily resolved with intelligent automation. About 80% of respondent organizations in last year’s Payables survey expressed interest in a third-party, cloud-based AP tool, and many implemented such software. 

Levvel Research speculates the pandemic may have boosted existing modernization trends. Across surveys in procurement, payables, and expense management, close to half the organizations indicated the pandemic made automation more appealing. Additionally, data indicate the invoice volume was largely unaffected by the pandemic with nearly 80 percent of organizations employing remote workers - cloud AP automation supports collaboration in real-time from any location or device.

The Paper Chase is Real

When office buildings are closed and people are sent home to work, fundamental problems arise for offices dependent on manual processes and the paper chase. Documents are locked behind closed doors, inaccessible to workers who need them to process accounts payable. Companies that failed to automate were unable to support remote workers. Attempting to rush the automation process leads to poor and clumsy results.

Plus, paper invoicing requires both human resources and storage space - at a continued cost to the organization. Manual processing is time-consuming and human error is inevitable. Invoices are approved in days or weeks, and invoices can get lost in the process. With AP automation, invoice approval takes seconds. As a result, the AP team has time for more thoughtful work - -such as negotiating discounts with suppliers for early payments.

Need to Stay in the Game

With half of the businesses under-automated before the pandemic, management soon realized the value of automation and cloud collaboration. From a pandemic to natural disasters to corporate travel, companies quickly recognized the importance of working in a secure and collaborative environment from any location or device. As businesses reopen after quarantine with renewed vigor and resources, management must be ready to face the competition.

With most executives undergoing digital transformation during the pandemic, payments technology remains a subject of focus in 2021 and beyond. Management now recognizes, based on experience, how AP automation helps companies stay on top of their game with remote work in the cloud, reduced use of human resources, and a finger on the pulse of finance at all times to make essential changes in real-time.

Add Value to the Organization

As companies struggle to regain their footing after COVID-19, AP automation adds value to the organization. With the doors opening for workers to come back to the office, automation means a reduced need to hire AP staff and train new people. Additionally, automation adds value to the current AP staff by reducing manual tasks, leaving time for more beneficial work, such as building strong supplier relationships and negotiating discounts for loyalty and early payment.

Selling the concept of AP automation to the C-suite post-pandemic is easier because the world discovered the disadvantages of depending on paper during a quarantine. Explain how AP automation saves time, money, and human resources while supporting the post-quarantine work world of today. In addition, many millennials prefer careers with flexible hours and remote work options. Investing in AP automation also helps companies attract new talent and stay competitive in the years to come. Plus, AP automation is customizable based on an organization’s current AP workflows.

Transforming the AP department with automation is crucial to remain and productive and profitable as possible. Companies around the globe are automating processes to support remote work and be prepared for whatever the future brings. Staying competitive depends on adopting technologies that support the way the world works today - and tomorrow.

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