Hands off! Make your AP department a zero-touch operation after quarantine
- 02 aug 2021
- Best Practice & Strategies
Less than a decade ago, accounts payable processing was performed manually at most organizations. Invoice approvals could take days or even weeks to process, and human error was inevitable. Unfortunately, companies that failed to adopt technology scrambled during the pandemic to adopt zero-touch operations during quarantine.
Outdated processes held companies back during the pandemic because they are slow, require constant hands-on attention, and do not support remote work. AP automation reduces or eliminates the need for human intervention and touch. Work can be done remotely in real-time from any mobile device and location.
The first step to making the necessary transition to AP automation post-pandemic is to know the company’s processes and needs. Automation is customizable to support specific processes and procedures. Discover how to choose automation for a genuinely zero-touch experience that keeps companies productive and collaborative despite world conditions.
The Zero-Touch Difference
Zero-touch operations refer to automation since the inception of IT. In accounts payable, zero-touch is a streamlined approach to processing invoices. Paper invoices are converted into a digital format. Automation captures critical data required by the financial department and procurement, including coding and purchase order matching.
In addition, zero-touch involves the purchase-to-pay process. Ideally, the process should be automated every step of the way to support remote work post-pandemic and transform the AP department into a strategic partner. AP automation eliminates tedious and time-consuming administrative and manual tasks, enabling the team to focus on more thoughtful work, such as negotiating with suppliers for early payment discounts.
Benefits of Implementing AP Automation
Manual processes require paperwork, files, and storage space at a physical business location. The AP team must be present at the office to access invoices and data for payments. Manual processing requires a significant investment in human resources and office space. Plus, files are inaccessible to those working outside the office. During the pandemic, a lack of access became a crisis for companies that failed to automate processes such as accounts payable.
Cloud AP automation supports remote work by removing a multitude of hands-on tasks, such as invoice approvals. For example, an invoice is approved in the cloud within seconds and instantly updated - a process that could formerly take weeks, with invoices piling on an AP team member’s desk. In addition, recent innovations, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML), have helped technology progress even further in the past few years. As a result, the AP team has the time and resources to build supplier relationships and score discounts for early payments, rather than focusing on grueling manual tasks.
Keep KPIs in Mind
When adopting AP automation, keep key performance indicators (KPIs) in mind, such as the speed of invoice approvals and the cost per invoice for processing. Then, compare these KPIs with the cost of manual invoice processing to realize the ROI for implementing automation and how it helps companies remain globally competitive.
Plus, these calculations become benchmarks for further improvements and automation to stay ahead of the curve rather than falling behind, as many companies had after the pandemic. Measuring KPIs also helps the AP team make the best cause for automation to the C-suite to transform manual processes into a zero-touch environment after quarantine.
Automating Benefits Everyone
Beyond remaining productive and profitable in a constantly changing world, AP automation benefits everyone in the organization. Moreover, once automation is adopted, opportunities arise to streamline operations and become increasingly efficient.
Areas positively impacted by AP automation include e-procedure and invoice approvals, along with a lack of disruption in the supply chain. In addition, timely or early payments enable organizations to improve productivity and decrease costs.
Zero-touch operations are necessary to support the growing remote workforce and keep companies productive during global disruptions. Transforming manual accounts payable processes to digital is crucial for organizations to move forward post-pandemic.