Accounts payables (AP) is a process in the financial department that can be inconsistent and burdensome. However, today’s workforce has driven AP transformation – especially with remote working. Some businesses do not have much choice but to accept automation while others may have realized the need to automate accounts payables due to the numerous benefits that come with it.
Before hastily choosing automation, it’s important to make some careful considerations to avoid mistakes that come with the improper implementation of any business accounting technology. Here are a few guiding considerations:
- What is the cost-benefit analysis? Any new system comes with its expenses and as such, it is important to measure its return on investment (ROI). This can be calculated using the expected benefits. By conducting a cost-benefit analysis, it will help you know how long it will take for an investment to pay for itself and help in the investment approval for businesses with senior decision-makers.
- Understand and document the existing AP processes: Before settling on an automation solution, it is best to first fully understand the existing process. You must examine the format that invoices are received on, how they are numbered, where they are sent for approval and how they are recorded. Carrying out this documentation will help to identify the major pain points of the AP process that you would like to improve, such as manual data entry, missing invoices, discrepancies and more.
Understanding the existing process also helps in selecting the best solution that will not destabilize your entire workflow.
- Processing Historical Documents: Consider what to do with invoices that already exist in employee workstations or shared drives as they need to be moved to the new system’s repository. Having these documents stored in a central location in an indexed manner helps to ease their retrieval – especially during an audit.
- Types of the Available Solution: There are many available solutions, both cloud-based and premise-based. Some of them are ready-to-use, while others can be customized. Each of these solutions comes with varying modules and functionalities. This requires that you carry out thorough research from different AP automation solution providers. Some important features to look for include those that integrate with existing ERP or finance systems; are customizable, flexible and can scale as your business grows; include security features; use the latest technology such as artificial intelligence; and produce reports.
- Engage with a Vendor: After selecting several vendors whose solution sounds like a good fit, the next step is to request a discovery call or demo. At this time, the vendor should review your business AP processes and integration issues. This will help to find a vendor that can meet your specific requirements.
- Metrics: Have in place measures that will be used to check whether the AP automation meets the expected benefits. Some of the key performance indicators (KPIs) that should be tracked include time spent on each invoice, time taken to approve invoices, cost per invoice and number of payment errors.
- Change Management: It may be easy to install a new AP solution, but its success is dependent on proper change management. As happens every time new technology is implemented, users can be resistant when they are used to doing things a certain way. There are also fears of losing jobs or being replaced by technology. Hence, the users must be involved in the change process. If users resist, even investing in the best solution will not help. Users need to understand that automating the AP process will give them time to shift to higher-value work. They need to understand the advanced workflows and adjust to their roles under the new automated solution.
To find the best solution, you should prioritize the most crucial needs for your business. The major needs are accuracy, security, customization, integration with existing systems, data transparency and saving time.
Remember, automation does not automatically solve all your accounts payable problems. You need to first ensure that your AP process is optimized, as automation adds value to streamline processes.