Resource headcounts & the Omicron surge – how Accounts Payable automation helps

  • 02 Feb 2022
  • AP Automation
Resource headcounts & the Omicron surge – how Accounts Payable automation helps Image

With the highest number of new cases of Omicron reaching 1.35 million in a day in the United States, this latest surge has shown the need for businesses to be able to respond quickly and effectively. The number of people off work, either ill themselves or self-isolating has resulted in dramatic falls in resource headcounts.

This has had a major impact on the ‘back to office’ plans for many businesses, with 44% of companies having to push back their reopening dates. So with systems stretched and only a skeleton staff in the office, how can businesses carry on as usual? How can productivity be maintained?

The Accounts Payable (AP) team still needs to ensure invoices are processed and suppliers are paid regardless of who is off sick. We explore how an automated AP can help the wheels keep turning – and important differentiators between basic automation and truly modern AP technology. Take a look at the top five benefits.

1.   Flexibility

Cloud automation enables the team to access accounts payable securely at any time, from anywhere - even from home. This means team members can share documents and collaborate with ease, just as though they were sitting right next to their colleague in the office. As a result, businesses can respond to any situation in a quick and agile way. Better still, the improved efficiency reduces costs.

With advanced automation, the benefits extend even further. True end-to-end automation starts by cutting paper from the capture process where invoices are able to be digitized and have data captured from even the most complex invoices – at both the header and line level. From there, the data is seamlessly brought into the workflow process and matched against existing data in the ERP, which means that invoice can be processed and posted for payment without any human intervention. If the AP staff is shorthanded, this can be a huge relief for those still working. Furthermore, AP automation that covers the payment processes can open up cash-saving opportunities, like early-payment discounts, for even more contribution to the company’s bottom line.      

2.   Guaranteed business continuity

Even if the majority of the workforce is working from home, AP automation allows business to continue uninterrupted. By keeping operations going, this reduces any potential losses and also improves productivity. It’s an undeniable fact that automated processes are quicker and more efficient than the outdated manual alternatives. In addition, as employees have access to real-time financial data, they can make decisions without delay, which often boosts the bottom line with immediate effect.     

There are historical gaps in communication that happen within the AP organization, with some extending into procurement and other areas of the business. AP doesn’t want to be chasing approvers, especially during current pandemic conditions where it’s unclear who’s working and from where. Better communication can help close the gap between disparate departments, encourage company-wide compliance and ultimately help keep suppliers (and customers) happy.

3.   Visibility

AP automation offers increased visibility and control over invoice management. By providing a single easy-to-use platform, it’s possible to track an invoice at any stage in the process. This reduces the need for queries and improves efficiency. As invoices can be reviewed and approved from anywhere, bottlenecks are significantly reduced. Approvers have instant access to outstanding invoices awaiting action and can handle them in a matter of seconds, giving back valuable time to the business users. Gone are the time-consuming manual tasks with a paper-based system.

The team has access to real-time up-to-date data reports – the depth of which depends on the type of solution. More modern, cloud-based solutions can give finance leaders deep trend reports, helping them manage working capital and making time-sensitive business decisions all at the click of a mouse. What’s more, with a secure automated AP in place, duplicate and fraudulent invoices are flagged up immediately helping drastically reduce risk within the payables process.

4.   Helps recruit top talent

In a recent survey, 76% of respondents confirmed that their companies had shifted to a hybrid working model. This suggests that even after the pandemic a high number of companies will continue to have some degree of remote working. Many employees enjoy the benefits of flexible working so businesses with an automated AP system will find recruitment easier if they can offer an ‘anytime, anyplace’ culture. In addition, many of the roles in an automated AP environment tend to be more strategic rather than purely operational, making it easier to attract high-caliber applicants.

5.   Expect the unexpected

Even as restrictions start to lift and people begin going back to the office, the situation will remain uncertain. Could there be another wave, another variant? If the last two years have demonstrated anything, it’s the importance of being ready for the unexpected. In a constantly changing situation, management teams need to have the systems in place to enable them to respond with speed and flexibility. That way, they can keep their businesses running – and keep their cash position in check – no matter where their workforce is based. 

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