The Ultimate Guide for AP Automation
What is accounts payable (AP) automation, and why’s everyone talking about it? You're in the right place to find out! Here we'll go over the benefits it has for finance departments and for a workforce that is increasingly remote — and it’s all in this handy guide. Jump forward to what interests you via the table of contents or start from the beginning and get all the good stuff.
AP automation is complicated to explain. To make it simple, consider first what accounts payable is.
Accounts payable is the portion of a finance department that handles paying vendors and sellers for the received goods and services. If you looked for accounts payable on your balance sheet, it would be on the incoming side.
The definition of accounts payable is: invoices from suppliers you haven’t paid yet.
From a cash flow standpoint, this is great. You are getting a free loan from your supplier — they deliver goods or services to you, and you don’t have to pay for them in cash right away.
Next, we’ll tackle ‘automation’.
Automation can mean different things, to different people, to different industries. In the modern AP world, it means moving away from manual workflows and paper payment processes. Instead of paying your vendors via paper checks, automation enables you to process and approve payments electronically from wherever you are.
It's a game-changer you can't afford to miss out on.
Prefer to talk it out? Reach out today!
That's a sizeable portion of businesses that are still using antiquated payment processes. One possible reason? People, and businesses, are hesitant to fix what isn't broken.
Of course, that only lasts as long as that premise remains true.
What Do Accounts Payable Departments Do?
Simply put, accounts payable is the department that ensures your bills (i.e. invoices) are paid in-full and on-time.
Common day-to-day tasks can include hours of scanning and entering invoices into relevant systems and printing and signing checks for mailing.
The tasks above are often manual and bogged down with paper — making for convoluted processes. It is a broken process with plenty of room for advancement and improvement. For instance, paper-based AP processes cost businesses hundreds of billions of dollar per year.
Reducing the use of paper invoices and checks would have an enormous impact on AP departments.
What Do These Processes Look Like Today?
In general, U.S. businesses are still reliant on paper. Paper checks have continued to linger in American businesses because they're familiar and easy to use. To pay by check, you only need a name and a mailing address.
Forward-thinking companies are the exception to the rule — they've introduced accounts payable (AP) automation in order to transform paper into electronic payments and streamline their payment processes.
AP automation will create:
- Faster procure-to-pay cycles
- Reduced costs
- Increased security
- New revenue streams
These benefits are just the beginning, are just the most quantifiable. AP automation will also ensure you never miss another payment. No more late fees, no more unexpected shipping costs for back-up check printing.
And as a bonus? Your consistent and reliable electronic payments will endear vendors into offering you more favorable terms and discounts in the future.
However, less than half of U.S. businesses are taking advantage of accounts payables automation. If you're one that isn't, not only are you missing out on the benefits we just went over — you're also dealing with a variety of frustrating friction points and wasteful activities.
No doubt you’re already aware of some of them.
The parts of the payment system and processes that are needlessly tedious. The tasks that often leave your finance staff frustrated and unmotivated.
Accounts payable departments waste a lot of time and energy on tasks that would be better off automated. The digitization journey for AP is an essential undertaking for companies looking to stay competitive.
4 Friction Points in Accounts Payable
Have you heard the saying: “efficiency is doing things right, effectiveness is doing the right things”? Various versions of this saying abound in corporate settings, but we all know what it means. There are efficient ways to file paperwork or to type data into systems. But is it effective to spend time on those tasks?
The answer is 'no'. Automated accounting processes would remove these tasks from your team's to-do list, allowing them to focus on increasing their effectiveness by working on the right tasks that benefit from their time.
Without further ado, lets dive into what these friction points are:
I. Time Wasters
Time management is the foundation of creating an effective business. Accounts Payable departments are among the most burdened, as too much time is spent on manual tasks.
Recent studies have estimated that 25% of the average workweek is devoted to manual tasks. By automating easy aspects of business invoicing and payments, employees would be free to focus on more meaningful tasks.
25% of a standard 40 hour work week, roughly equates to 10 total weekly hours per employee spent on manual tasks. That math, those 10 hours per week, would add up to a significant amount of time. Automation allows you to allocate that time to better purposes.
This is good for the department and for your staff. High-value tasks have a mental pay-off that low-value ones do not. Empowering your team to do more worthwhile work will help prevent burnout and keep their morale up.
II. Money Eaters
Manual processes don't just waste valuable time — they also have a monetary cost.
For example, 25% of businesses have reported that they spend $10 or more to process an invoice, and Bank of America estimates that business checks cost an aggregate of $4 to $20.
The cost above is only in terms of money, it's essential not to discount the time employees spend writing, mailing, collecting and reconciling checks.
III. Workload Distribution
In today's world, doing more with less is an art form to strive to master. It's common for a team to be understaffed and overworked.
Eliminating double-work and antiquated processes is the key way to do that in accounts payable. Manual processes are more open to human-error and mistakes that will result in having to go back and repeat tasks.
Automating manual payment processes allows you to cut down on the time and work that goes into invoices and processing payments by over 30%. It's possible to keep B2B payments moving forward via AP payment automation. You can't afford to not take advantage of that.
IV. Paper Problems
A department weighed down with paper is one that can't operate optimally.
Stacks of paper invoices and checks are a daunting sight that often represents a vulnerability for fraud and misplaced documents.
Paper-based invoices are the most-cited source of AP friction — research shows they cost companies an average of $173,340 per year and 125 hours per week.
The Problem With Paper
Reducing paper saves money, time, and the environment.
Imagine coming into work to find a desk stacked feet high with paper or to a printer putting out piles of checks waiting to be signed and mailed.
Figuring out where to start would be nigh-impossible. It overwhelms staff and is prone to error. Instead of spending precious brain-power trying to make a dent in the never-ending influx of paper — proactively eliminate it from the equation through accounts payable automation.
If you've ever worked a job that required moving back and forth between multiple systems — you already know why this is a friction point.
An AP professional may have to pull or input information into these systems in a single day:
- Banking systems
- Internal systems
This practice creates an opportunity for mistakes that doesn't have to exist. All it takes is one typo in an excel sheet that is then entered into other systems to cause a domino effect of mistakes that will eat up time and money to fix.
On top of that, finance departments could save 40% or more on costs by eliminating time-consuming manual report building and tracking.
By the end of this dive into the pain points of AP departments, you're probably asking: what can you do to eliminate them? Proscribing 'automation' is a true answer, but one that is missing context.
Keep reading to find out what forward-thinking finance departments are doing to stay ahead of the curve!
Paying vendors isn't enough anymore if you want your finance department to be successful.
Today, you need to not only make payments, but to do it consistently and efficiently.
Step One: Eliminate Paper
The challenges in accounts payable (AP) departments are often organizational, rather than people. The biggest indicator that your issues are organizational in nature — is the overabundance of paper.
When invoices are minimal, it's possible to manage them as paper. When the amount grows to be too much, some businesses hire more staff.
This ensures that invoice processing occurs, but at a massive cost increase. The solution to handling an increased amount of work, without expanding your team and your personnel costs, is a better system.
An automated accounting system. An ideal AP system will:
- Remove paper
- Handle workflows
- Avoid late fees
- Prevent missed payments or lost invoices
The first step to a more efficient AP team is getting rid of paper. There are more benefits to an automated system.
Step Two: Streamline Processes
Imagine a duplicate payment gets through and is approved. It's not necessarily due to malicious intent from an employee or a vendor.
More often, in a manual system, an incident like this can be traced back to human error. Something is typed wrong or entered into the wrong field. These errors can cascade and cause all kinds of issues.
On one hand, there is the old-school manual way of processing invoices. The more steps involved, especially ones that require human manual entry, the higher the potential for a mistake.
On the other hand, is the more efficient and secure electronic process such as invoice automation. In this process, most steps don't require a human to manually enter or monitor anything.
The examples above demonstrate how much simpler it is to pay invoices via software.
Upholding a consistent workflow is difficult when it's manual. Automated payment systems make it easy to have and maintain a profitable process.
The right platform will also empower your ability to create a custom workflow that suits your department. Designate who approves what, and when. It's all under your control.
Step Three: Enhance Security
Payment fraud is a tremendous risk that every CFO has on their mind. It has only gone up on the priority list with the advent of today's High Tech, Low Touch Economy.
When it comes to protecting your business from payment fraud — it's imperative to consider both external and internal threats. Disregarding either out of hand is a mindset that can become dangerous.
5 Guidelines for Preventing Payment Fraud:
- Diligence matters
- Don't ignore suspicions
- Limit rushed decisions
- Take quick actions on problems
- Make everyone accountable
For a more detailed breakdown, check out our free and educational eBook! Click through below — downloading is easy and fast.
Step Four: Save Time, Save Money
The first three steps result in benefits that are best measured in time saved and costs removed.
Preventing process breakdowns and identifying elements that cause inefficiency are key to a thriving accounts payable department.
AP automation equals freedom and focus. It empowers accounts payable teams with the ability to approve and track payments remotely.
Keep reading to get the full breakdown on how automated accounts payable works!
"Automation is too expensive, and it takes too long to get running," is a common response we get from firms looking into advancing their AP department. In truth, automating accounts payable and enabling electronic payments with the right platform has a low entry point, high returns, and a quick turnaround.
Not sure if your accounts payable process is already automated? Check out our recent blog post on this topic to confirm one way or the other.
Spoiler Alert: most departments are already partially — but not fully — automated.
Is your invoice processing workflow full of manual tasks such as sorting, categorizing, and entering invoice data?
This is true for a wide swath of U.S. finance departments. Studies have found that in the U.S. paper invoices account for 75% of all invoices processed. If you have a convoluted payment process, odds are, somewhere in it is too much paper.
If your invoices are still paper-based, this is a prime area to introduce automation and electronic invoices.
Best thing about invoice automation in today's age? It enables remote approval! As the modern workforce becomes more mobile, it's essential to have a process that allows invoices to be processed from anywhere your staff may be.
The benefits don't end there, it also:
- Scans emailed and mailed invoices with 99% accuracy
- Reduces successful invoice fraud attacks by 85%
- Fosters a stress-free workflow via auto-paying bills
Paper-based processes have left many firms at a disadvantage for years. U.S. businesses are behind our European counterparts in this regard. Electronic payments are prevalent in our personal lives — and almost entirely lacking in our B2B payments.
Payment automation empowers AP departments to issue electronic payments remotely and more efficiently. Plus, it makes real-time tracking easy and gives you 24/7 access to payment information.
Externalities, such as Black Swan events, are inherently unpredictable and out of our control. But we can control how we react to them.
Having the ability to adapt quickly is essential in today's world, and AP automation is an essential tool for finance departments looking to prepare for the unknown.
Interested in learning more? Check out our free ebook through the link below!
Do you like your current ERP? Most firms do! ERPs are expansive and useful tools for businesses.
They make it easy to handle tasks that include business support, supply chain planning, supply chain execution and merchandising. It may even have a way to automate payments — usually as an extension you can purchase and add on to your current process.
That being said, your ERP isn't the best choice for automating payments and invoice. More accurately, it isn't the best choice on its own.
The right payment automation solution will integrate and work with your ERP — ensuring you get the transparency and transaction security from a proper payments platform without losing the ERP tools you like and are familiar with. ERP integration also enables remote AP solutions.
Here at OnPay Solutions, we can integrate with your ERP in a matter of weeks. We partner with well-known ERP's like the ones listed below:
- JD Edwards
- Microsoft Dynamics Great Plains
- Oracle's Peoplesoft
Discover the top reasons ERP integration is essential for forward-thinking companies.
AP automation comes with sweeping changes, and they differ for each role involved in the accounts payable process.
Accounts payable management covers the day-to-day operations of accounts payable — they're the subject matter experts on how the department ticks and succeeds.
At its core, AP automation is a type of digital transformation. It's a technological tool that allows AP managers to become even better at what they're already great at.
Transforming accounts payable processing with automation gives staff:
- Better visibility and insight into payments
- Access to the payments portal around-the-clock
- Reduced need to field status update requests from vendors
- No more duplicate payments or bounced payments
- New capabilities and tools that require less manual work
Completely automated accounts payable frees IT personnel from dedicating their time and resources to AP issues and security risks. AP automation not only gives you more control over your department — it increases security at the same time.
Automated accounts payables equals:
- Reduced cost
- Reduced risk of fraud
- 100% visibility into cash flow
Security is an increasingly prevalent issue, especially when paying vendors.
This is another area that AP automation can advance. It creates a positive relationship between you and your vendors, which in return, allows you to work together rather than against each other. This makes increasing security to protect your interests — and theirs — a much smoother process.
We use bank-level data security with 256-bit encryption. Through this, we can preserve data integrity without requiring programming on your end with no restrictions or changes to your existing software/system.
At a high-level, CFOs are responsible for managing accounts payable strategy and goals, while Controllers focus on the connections between AP and the rest of the company. For both, it is essential to ensure that AP helps rather than hinders their company's growth and well-being.
AP payment automation = 100% control by enabling:
- Complete visibility into ongoing and past payments
- New revenue streams by converting to virtual cards
- Separate approval and payment responsibilities by user/role
All of this is possible with a payment system that makes real-time business intelligence analysis easy. Accounts payable automation enables reporting and tracking from anywhere you have a laptop and internet.
Our B2B payments solution allows you to track payments by type, payee, or vendor. Gain complete visibility into your accounts payable department.
Electronic payments and platforms make life easier for everyone involved in accounts payable. There are a variety of digital payment options out there, and they all have their own pros and cons. Keep reading to get details on what's out there!
Several studies predict that B2B eCommerce is rapidly growing. It's essential for companies to have a payment method and process in place to meet the increased demand on the horizon.
Ease and cost-effectiveness are often behind which payment method a company ultimately chooses as their primary B2B payment option.
Here we'll briefly go over the different digital and no-touch payment options — for a more detailed look at them, check out our free eBook below!
ACH & Same-Day ACH
Over the years, automated clearing house (ACH) has managed to remain one of the top five most common B2B payment methods in North America. But with the rising movement to reduce costs — while simultaneously increasing security and streamlining cash-flow — forward-thinking companies are moving towards new technology and payment methods.
Regular ACH is a direct and electronic payment that isn't immediate. It can take anywhere between three and five days to process. It's essentially a check in digital form.
It has all the benefits and ease of paper checks without creating piles of paper to bog down your AP staff. Buyers like it because of how convenient it is and sellers like it because they get access to funds quicker when they don't have to wait on a paper check to arrive in the mail.
Even better, with same-day ACH sellers will receive their payment within one business day.
What is same-day ACH, you may ask? It's a newer and more immediate form of ACH. It will allow payment posting on the same business day if initiated before 2:45 pm. Studies how that same-day ACH is rising in volume with a 42% increase in Q1 2020 compared to Q1 2019.
The ability to make ACH payment recurring and automatic is their strongest selling point. It saves time, reduces paper, and ensures bills are paid on time. It also comes with a loss of control, less privacy, and the potential for automated payments that aren't monitored to overdraw or overpay a charge.
We can't talk about digital payment methods for AP without talking about the second most-preferred option for B2B in North America — wire transfers.
It also comes in second for incidence of fraud.
In a modern environment that includes increased remote working, this vulnerability to fraud has serious implications. Wire transfers are at a greater risk when performed from home because authentication and network security tends to be more lax.
Wire transfers also cost more because their use comes with greater bank chargers than methods like ACH. For this reason, wire transfers are predominantly used by larger firms that make and receive international transactions.
Purchase Cards/Company Cards
Purchasing cards (P-Cards) are a form of company card that enables goods and services to be procured without using antiquated purchasing methods such as paper checks.
They are issued to employees who are trusted to follow the guidelines you set for using the card. A variety of controls can be put on these cards, such as:
- Single-purchase dollar limits
- Monthly purchase limits
Restrictions to specific merchant category codes (MCC)
- Monthly reviews and approvals of purchases by someone other than the cardholder
The major drawback to using purchase cards is that they're one of the least secure options — exposing companies to credit card fraud and identity theft.
Purchase cards are often confused with virtual cards (V-Cards). Check out this blog post to find out when to use one over the other.
Recent studies suggest that 33% of companies plan to roll out real-time payments in the next three years.
Real-time payments (RTP) are one of the newer payment methods. It combines:
- Immediate fund availability
- Settlement finality
- Instant confirmation
- Integrated information flows
In terms of cost, real-time payments cost the same as other non-instant electronic payments and significantly less than traditional methods like paper checks.
However, it's important to be aware that RTP has risks. It is at a heightened risk for fraud and transactions can't be halted once finalized.
A real-time payment transaction is completed in less than five seconds, which removes any window to cancel a wrongly authorized payment.
Last, but certainly not least, is virtual cards. V-cards are a B2B payment method that is rising in popularity.
Today, approximately 30% of companies are incorporating virtual cards into their payments strategy. We expect this number to go up as more companies invest in no-touch payment methods.
A virtual card is a 16-digit unique card number that is created to be single use. In practice, it is a virtual credit card that is designated for paying your vendors.
Swapping out paper-burdened payment methods with one that uses virtual cards will streamline AP processes, give you the ability to earn cash rebates, increase security, and enhance internal controls.
Keep reading for a deeper dive on the benefits that come from using virtual cards and debunk the myths going around about them.
Create a New Revenue Stream via Rebates
The opportunity for new revenue is perhaps what entices companies to try virtual cards (v-cards) the most. The ability to earn monthly rebates is a game-changer. It's the difference between a department that operates at a loss and one that is earning money for your company.
Virtual cards can generate upwards of 1% cashback on AP spend. It's an immediate return on investment (ROI) on any transaction with a vendor that is done via v-card.
Still skeptical? Use our ROI calculator to find out how much you stand to save.
Don't miss out on the chance to be the finance hero your AP team is looking for! Virtual cards make it possible to earn extra revenue, extra cash, in the course of your regular duties.
For every dollar of virtual card payments, you have the potential to earn a cash rebate when you select the right program. The more virtual credit card transactions, the more you earn back.
Virtual Cards Streamline AP Processes
Leveraging virtual cards instead of outdated paper checks goes a long way towards streamlining your accounts payable process. The ability to remove manual processes makes the entire thing more efficient by default.
This allows accounts payable departments to focus less on processing payments and more on essential financial responsibilities. Relieve them of tasks such as:
- Writing checks
- Stuffing checks in envelopes
- Metering envelopes
It also eliminates the opportunity for human error by decreasing the amount of times a person is involved in a step of the payment process. Another aspect that protects against mistakes and fraud is that virtual cards are designed to be for one time use.
Increase Security Without Losing Control
Virtual cards are a B2B payment type that is rising in popularity both because of the ease of their use and how much more secure they are than antiquated methods. A v-card is a virtual credit card, complete with a unique 16-digit card number.
They are designed to be used for paying vendors and come with heightened security standards, transparency for your staff, and easy processing. Virtual cards are designed to be single-use between a payer and a payee — and as the payer, you get to predetermine the amount paid.
Another part of what protects you is that virtual cards are just that — virtual. There is no physical card that can be stolen or re-used.
The Key to Understanding Cashback
One factor that holds firms back from adopting virtual cards is the fear that they may be charged a fee by the card company when they issue a payment. In truth, the opposite is more typical.
Virtual card payments earn cashback and issue payments at no cost. As mentioned above, it's possible to earn up to 1% back on AP spend. This is why 30% of companies are incorporating virtual cards into their payments strategy and why over 30% of vendors prefer them over all other methods.
The best part of cashback on virtual cards is that it doesn't really require extra work. With the right program, you'll potentially earn cashback on any virtual card payment. Watch out for partners such as bank treasury programs that don't pay cashback monthly — they hold it on an annual basis or require that you hit a certain minimum before receiving your rebates.
Virtual Cards Benefit Companies That Use Them
Swapping out paper-burdened payment methods for one that leverages virtual cards will streamline your AP processes, open up new revenue streams, increase security, and enhance your internal controls.
Adopting virtual cards isn't the major change that most expect. If your accounting system can output a check file, the right payment platform provider can convert the file to the correct format for virtual card payments and transmit it via secure FTP. Finding a solution that lets you keep control of your AP department and payment process is crucial.
It has never been easier to say goodbye to paper processes in favor of electronic payments and a digital workflow customized specifically for you!
A paperless accounts payable process will:
- Generate revenue
- Reduce risk of fraud
- Enable electronic payments
- Increase security
Why wait to take advantage of these benefits? We can take care of all the onboarding and system set-up for you.
Virtual cards are a key feature of an automated accounts payable process. They open the avenue for cashback and are more secure than other payment methods.
Are you interested but not sure where to start the automation process? Keep reading!
Which is why it's helpful to break it down into stages. Any task broken down into smaller steps is easier to imagine and implement.
Imagine you're going to organize your closet. Just looking at it, at the clothes cluttered together, the mysterious boxes stashed away, will leave you unsure where to start. You might even lose motivation to even attempt the project.
But when you break it down into easy steps — such as pulling everything out first, then separating what's trash, what's being donated, and what you're keeping — it's less intimidating. We're going to do the same thing with AP automation.
Start With Automating Your Payments
The natural place to begin is with automating payments. It's the first step to removing paper from your accounts payable department. It's also a quick turnaround — with the right accounts payable software, automation could be setup and operating in less than 30 days.
Removing paper via accounts payable payment automation results in:
- Faster processes & reduced bottlenecks
- Electronic payments replacing paper-burdened payment workflows
- Secure digital trails for taxes and audits
- Cost reduction and new revenue via virtual card rebates
Starting with payments is essential because it gives you and your department an immediate positive impact. It increases your security and makes processes more efficient.
Checks remain the most targeted payment method for fraud. By shifting your risky paper-based payments to digitally disbursed payment methods like ACH and virtual card transactions, you significantly reduce your chances of being the subject of a successful fraud attempt.
There's never been a better time for businesses to transform their payment processes through automation.
Allow Invoice Automation to Take Over Scanning Invoices
“There’s a misperception that receiving an invoice as a PDF document attached to an email is an electronic invoice,” our CEO, Neal Anderson, said in a recent podcast. “That’s not the case. That PDF is probably still going to be printed out at some point.”
The new trend towards empowering departments to work remotely has driven companies to scan and email invoices out to their clients.
This not only provides a false sense of digitization — and lulls you into the mistaken idea that you have adapted to the low touch economy — it leaves you vulnerable to fraud.
Many companies believe they have already automated invoices because they no longer mail out or receive paper versions. However, they still manually scan invoice into their systems and input data by hand. So, even though most invoices are received via email, they're still required to open the email and print the digital invoice. Reintroducing paper to the invoice process.
Modern invoice software that enables invoice automation to take over scanning and processing not only frees up your AP staff, it's infinitely more secure. It will also save you time and money. There is a cost to antiquated invoice processes, and often, it's a convoluted workflow that leaves you open to errors.
Automating paying invoices & enabling remote AP will:
- Scan invoices with 99% accuracy
- Eliminate errors with e-Invoicing software that uses 3-way matching OCR engines
- Automatically input invoices into your workflow once received
- Reduce your risk of successful invoice fraud by 85%
- Allow access to status updates and approvals from anywhere with an internet connection
Enable Payments Via ERP Integration
There are many ways to automate your AP department and payment processes. The best way is to do it by working with your current ERP and processes — not getting rid of them.
ERP accounting systems are valuable finance tools. They enable taking care of tasks such as business support, merchandising, and supply chain planning and execution with ease. There are ERPs that have an option to automate your payments, but often as an extension you pay to add on.
Enabling payments via ERP integration is not only possible, it's the best way to do it. For automating your payments and invoices, it's crucial to work with a partner that understands the industry and has built a solution specifically to ensure your success.
Integrating with your ERP is easier than most think. The right payment platform has a low entry point, high returns and a quick turnaround. Our solution here at OnPay Solutions can integrate with your ERP and get up and running in a matter of weeks — not years. In accordance with our goal to make our solution easy-to-use and flexible, we partner with well-known ERP’s such as Acumatica.
Keep Your Current Processes
Automating your finance department doesn't mean throwing out the tub with the bathwater. It's possible, even preferable, to automate and maintain your current processes. Automation can take the tediousness out of your processes while allowing you to keep the effective parts in place.
It's never been easier to transform your payments process. Keep your current processes and digitize payments and invoices at no capital expense. Fully automated approval processes and customized workflows will revolutionize your department and ensure your team can survive and thrive even should another Black Swan event happen.
Keep Your Bank and/or Banks
Remote AP automation can be setup quickly and allow you to save time, money, and resources. Whether your ERP or accounting system supports multiple payment file types or can only generate a check file, our solution makes it so you can seamlessly migrate to making electronic payments of all types. You will be able to transmit to any bank or banks that you have a relationship with.
The ability to maintain your existing bank relationships is a good guidepost to ensure you're on the path of least resistance to accounts payable automation.
Our custom integration allows you to keep your bank(s) and accounting systems. We can also help you seamlessly migrate from an old bank to a new one.
Find a Provider That Handles Vendor Enrollment
Letting your provider handle vendor/supplier on-boarding on your behalf will enable your finance department to focus on more essential tasks. Our award-winning support team has experience making the process easy for both you and your vendors.
Prefer to hear it from a direct source? Check out our client success video below to hear from some of our clients!
Finish With the Essential: A Vendor/Client Portal
Adaptability is the name of the game. With varied industries evolving to allow staff to move between home settings and work settings, it's essential that you have the capability to make that switch with ease.
Establishing a system and a vendor/client portal is the key. It will:
- Improve relations between you and your suppliers
- Increase transparency and credibility
- Allow you to approve and process payments from anywhere
- Reduce time spent answering questions and supplying status updates
Our vendor portal was designed with suppliers and vendors in mind — its ease of use is a big selling point. It's also an optional portal for your vendors. They can use it to check in, but it will function and process payments, regardless. It's also available around the clock from anywhere you or your suppliers happen to be.
Our recent webinar with Esker takes a deeper look at the value vendor portals offer AP and AR departments.Vendor portals are an important part of any business continuity plan.
Many businesses didn't have an effective one ready when 2020s Black Swan event hit. They didn't have a plan in place and had to scramble to find ways to accommodate their workforce move to remote environments.
The band-aid solutions used include: off-site check printing, sending printers home with staff, and scanning and emailing invoice to vendors. These half-measures will work in a pinch, but are untenable in the long term.
Transform Paper Invoicing and Payments into e-Invoices and ePayments
Paper is inherently an issue for a business continuity plan. Physical invoices, checks, and the tools involved in those processes tether staff to the office. It can put your finance team in a position where they're taking printers and boxes full of paper home with them when something like 2020s Black Swan event occurs.
With studies predicting periodic stay-at-home orders and the workforce largely happy working remotely — businesses need to lose paper in favor of electronic payments and invoices.
Digitizing your invoices and payments is the first, and most essential, step towards having an effective business continuity plan in place.
Get your free eBook! Soar to New Heights With ePayments
Ready to advance your accounts payable (AP) department via ePayments? Access this eBook to get the guidance and tips you need to get started!Download
Activate Offsite and Decentralized Processes
The large majority of people who have shifted to work from home have stated they want to continue doing so for the rest of their career, at least part of the time. Making offsite and decentralized processes not only allow your finance staff to work from wherever they want, it also has benefits for your current and prospective vendors.
With roughly half of small and mid-sized businesses closed due to COVID-19, it's essential that you have a process that allows you easily manage a shifting supply chain. This can be done by establishing a system that enables both on-site and off-site dynamic.
This is done by:
- Providing adequate office space for social distancing
- Utilizing electronic solutions that operate remotely
- Converting to electronic payments and electronic invoices
- Allowing remote approval processes
Approve Invoices With the Click of a Button
Antiquated invoice processes are no longer a workable option. Digital payable platforms and invoice automation enable you to approve invoices on any device that has access to the internet.
Individuals and companies alike are looking to decrease their high touch processes in favor of low touch, or no-touch, processes that allow them to complete purchases from the comfort of their home. Don't be late in joining the new high tech, low touch economy!
Make Payments From Your Breakfast Table or Boardroom
The ability to complete processes from anywhere is crucial for more than just invoices. It's also important to have the capability to process payments from wherever you or your finance staff are. Payment automation not only makes this possible, it also takes over the more tedious and mundane aspects of your workflow.
Having the flexibility to allow staff to choose where they're making payments from will also make your business more competitive when you're scouting for new talent. According to a new poll, 44% of professionals would trade a pay cut to keep working from home.
Allow 24/7 Access to AP Statuses
What's one of the biggest time wasters in an Accounts Payable (AP) office?
If asked, most would say it's fielding calls and emails from vendors for status updates.
A portal that allows your staff to have 24/7 access to the accounts payable process and statuses will not only make their daily tasks easier. It will also cut down on vendors asking for updates since they will also have transparent access to the portal.
This is essential for any business continuity plan since it allows around the clock updates for your staff and vendors. It will also make everyday life easier, even when you're not actively using your back-up plan. Having it place in the event of a crisis is what's motivating businesses to make the change now, but it will pay dividends even before such an event occurs.
Flexible work options that allow remote working are one adaptation that is going to last past 2020. Companies and staff alike have gotten a taste for the benefits of a flexible and low touch economy.
No-touch accounts payable is more than just a step towards achieving that flexibility — it's the future we were always moving towards. That journey has been accelerated by necessity. It's a key stepping stone to the fourth industrial revolution.
Remote Work Is Here to Stay
The main reason businesses hesitated to implement remote work on a large scale before was the bevy of unknowns. How would collaboration work? Would productivity suffer? What tools would their staff need in their home office?
These worries prevented corporates from making the change on any wide scale, leaving flexible work options to the select few whose role required it. Thanks to COVID-19, both staff and businesses found answers to their questions. Collaboration is still possible with creative solutions and advanced technology like video calls and real-time programs that allow staff to work on the same project simultaneously. Productivity doesn't suffer — for most it improved.
Recent polls have found that 54% of professionals report working remotely had a positive effect on their productivity.
Office Settings Will Evolve
The average U.S. business spends upwards of $12,000 per employee per year for office space. This number could be reduced, if not outright eliminated, by having a portion of employees continue to work from home.
Already businesses are looking into options that move away from leasing large office buildings to house their entire staff. Instead, they can rent smaller spaces for meetings that require being in person and to accommodate those who prefer coming into an office, while simultaneously keeping costs down by having the majority work from home. Some business may stay entirely remote now that technology such as Zoom and Microsoft Teams has made remote collaboration less of a challenge.
The office settings that remain will look different compared to before 2020. They'll be designed to allow social distancing when required and to be low touch — not just in the function of the office but regarding what the staff does as part of their daily duties.
No-touch AP means that even the personnel that choose to come into the office can do so with minimal touch processes, a feature no one can afford to dismiss out of hand.
Touchless Invoice Approval and Payment Processes Will Reign Supreme
The future is here, and it's in the form of a high tech, low touch economy. The journey towards financial digital transformation isn't a long and leisurely anymore. Necessity has spurred it into a race against time and your competition.
Touchless invoice approvals and payment processes are an inevitable and crucial piece of our new low touch reality. With CFOs planning to shift a portion of their workforce to remote work permanently, it's essential to find a payment solution that makes that workable. No-touch payments and automated processes are efficient — and more importantly — provide the flexibility and security needed for a team split between home and the office.
There are many routes to AP automation for companies, many of which include obstacles, detours, and dead-ends. However, with a few guidelines it's possible to find the path of least resistance forward.
Benefits of No-Touch Accounts Payable
Empower your finance team to make no-touch payments — at any time, from anywhere.
Remote AP automation and no-touch accounts payable will:
- Lower costs by 80%
- Reduce the risk of fraud
- Maximize productivity
- Generate revenue
- Increase security by 85%
There's never been a better time to transform your accounts payable department and leave behind paper processes. Our solution enables you and your team to handle the entire payment process from your kitchen table or from your office building. It gives you access to remote invoice approvals and payment issuing via 24/7 access to our secure cloud portal.
Thanks for reading our AP automation solutions and best practices guide! Check out our resources to keep learning or reach out for a conversation to take your AP department to the future.