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[Cheat Sheet] 5 Ways AP Managers Can Save Time and Money with Accounts Payable Automation

The ability to automate costly and time-consuming workflows has changed the way businesses operate and manage their resources, and some savvy businesses have already jumped on this trend and implemented automated-software solutions to improve their accounts payable department.

Many AP managers, however, are failing to take advantage of the opportunities Accounts Payable automation provides to remove many of the points of friction in the buyer and the supplier interaction. But the benefits of AP automation are paramount, and implementing the solution can have an enormous impact on reducing AP costs.

Below we put together a list (or cheat sheet) that highlights five ways accounts payable managers can save time and money with AP automation.

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1. Stop Wasting Your Employees’ Time 

In 2017, manually entering data into a software program should be an extinct practice, but many businesses are still spending hours wasting time by tasking employees with inputting invoices into a spreadsheet or accounting system. It adds up...when calculating time over the course of a week, a month, let alone a year, it becomes a high labor cost for any company to bear in 2017.

By automating the workflow, AP automation software can be customized to upload invoices automatically and link transactions. All of that can be done in a matter of moments.  

With AP automation, a company eliminates the need to input data by hand, and workers can spend more time focused on strategic elements of managing the business finances, calculating profits, and reducing expenses.  

2. Customizing Automation to Fit Your Workflow 

Many accounts payable mangers have built their current AP strategy around the complexity and nuance of their business, and it’s hard for many managers to envision changing a system that doesn’t bend to that unique business personality. That said, they may hold off on automation feeling that incorporating AP automation would require an entire overhaul of the entire process. AP automation is a turnkey solution that matches current workflow and business needs, and it can be customized and scaled.

For example, an accounts payable manager may need an invoice to be routed for approval to multiple locations and matched with documents or files from separate departments. Thanks to advances in cloud technology, the automation will follow the steps created by the accounts payable manager, making it a straight-through process that will send your documents and invoices to individual vendors and internal departments. At the same time, it’s also now possible to connect AP to any bank from within the system (depending on the actual product selected), and accounts payable mangers can securely transmit to them seamlessly from within the system. ePayments can be made quickly and without delay, saving time and money.

3. Build a Flexible Database and AP History 

Vendors often have questions about payments, and an accounts payable manager may need to pull a document from three months ago. With AP automation, managers are automatically building a systematic organization of the payment history, which ideally should be visible to the supplier via a vendor web portal, but if not, can easily run a query to track progress.  In addition, managers can add updates and monitor fraudulent activity. This type of system allows managers to examine historical data quickly and strategize innovative ways to save money by taking advantage of payment incentives.

In addition to a searchable database of AP history at their fingertips, accounts payable managers no longer have to access the information from a traditional office. If the manager is out of town, then they can access documents from anywhere via the cloud-based system. 

4. Reduce Errors

Because the best AP automation tools use image enhancement, the software can easily and efficiently improve images to ensure they are entered accurately. Invoices are some of the most complex documents for scanning because of the numerous formats vendors use. For example, most systems allow for the user to scan the invoice to create an image, but through data extraction, AP automation can pull the data and upload the data points - not just the image - to the software. Then the image is indexed based on the information obtained from it, such as the PO number or invoice number. This is then filed away for later use.

In addition to data extraction, it’s possible for machine and handwritten data to be placed into the software. AP automation utilizes a higher level of character recognition to capture all data. This ensures that the entire process remains automated, even when hand written documents need to be added to the system. Overall, AP automation uses advances in technology to reduce errors, and when errors are reduced, accounts payable mangers can save time and money not correcting mistakes or worse, finding new vendors if relationships sour.

 5.  Reduced Calls and Improved Vendor Relationships

When accounts payable managers make payments, their invoice data is always captured and recorded in the database which reveals another benefit of AP automation. If or when a vendor has a question regarding a payment—or there is a dispute within cost or timeframe—it’s simple and efficient for the vendor to log in and see the remittance data associated with a payment or if that access is not available directly to the vendor, the accounts payable manager can access the payment information and export the history quickly and securely. For purchase orders, accounts payable managers can access information on supplies and inventory, to ensure consistency between all departments. In the end, AP automation will help provide a better experience between the business and the vendor, which will in turn encourage perfect payers by providing relevant solutions. 

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