Accounts Payable automation or AP automation is the digital management of accounts payable processes using technology.

There is a growing and sophisticated range of AP technologies available that can fully digitise accounts payable, providing a streamlined and automated process from purchase order to approval and payment.

Our most recent study on Accounts Payable Automation Trends shows that 64% of AP teams still manually key invoices into their ERP. 36% AP teams have no automation, 36% are partially automated and 28% were mostly automated. No teams surveyed were fully automated.

As far as invoice processing times go, 61% spend more than 10 hours a week and 71% spend more than 5 days a month.

Moving from manual processing to automation doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact in our recent LinkedIn Poll, over 60% of teams who have made the switch to automation say it was a breeze. 

With digital transformation still remaining high on most finance teams’ agenda, the trend for automating accounts payable steadily continues. 

If you’re looking for some reassurance on implementing an automated AP solution, here are some best practice tips. 

Communication and buy in

Any project stands a better chance of success if those affected are bought into it from the very beginning, and part of the process throughout. Involve the whole accounts payable team, any departmental approvers and all other users. You should be clear on what benefits an automated solution will bring to their everyday roles in the invoice process, and will need to communicate the value to them, and get their buy-in for change. 

Communicate with any external vendors and suppliers to let them know your invoice process is changing and why it will be better for them. Collect any information you need from them (such as contact names, email addresses, bank details etc,) early on, and answer any questions they may have to ensure they can work seamlessly with your new automated process.

Standardise your processes

A new automated workflow brings the opportunity to standardise your processes. 64% of respondents in our recent LinkedIn Poll rated this as the top advice for automating accounts payable. 

An automated solution will digitally manage your entire AP workflow so it’s important to define this and ensure all stakeholders are aware of it so they can fully adhere to it. 

When defining your new AP workflow, consider any improvements you need to make from your existing process. Are there any pain points currently or any specific problems are you trying to overcome? Build these into your new workflow to ensure you have all your team’s needs and any automation goals covered. 

Again, providing full training on the new process will help you achieve strong early adoption amongst external and internal users.

Assign an AP Project Manager

Assign a dedicated AP project manager to take responsibility for the project.  Over a quarter of respondents (27%) on our recent poll rated this as the top advice. 

A central project manager can coordinate everything – from internal and external stakeholder management, communication with the software provider and liaison with your IT team (if required), to the project costs and implementation schedule. 

Having a dedicated owner of the project means things will stay on track as it will be their number one priority and focus. They are responsible for communicating with the stakeholders every step of the way so finance managers know exactly what stage the project is at. They will also voice any changes to the schedule or any barriers to overcome.

A good project manager should also build support and training into the project plan to ensure all users get to grips with the new software and process. 

Integrate with your accounting software

Automation doesn’t necessarily mean you have to change any of your other AP platforms.

Most accounts payable software solutions offer integration to a range of ERP and accounting software and this can be built in your use case. 

Direct integration offers the additional benefit of data being seamlessly transferred between platforms. Not only can you expect a real time transfer of data, but you also remove the need for manual keying into each platform so the data is 100% accurate and error free.

By integrating an automated AP solution with your existing accounting software, you can fully digitise your invoice process and be completely paperfree.

Summary

Automating AP is game-changing if it’s done well. 

Following best practices and advice from those teams who have taken the step themselves can help you have a good experience so you can reap the benefits of automation immediately.

AP technology providers will be able to guide you through the whole process too, after all they want you to achieve a good return on investment.

Find out more

If you have AP automation on your 2023 roadmap then don’t miss your chance to speak with our finance technology expert at the Accounts Payable and P2P Leadership Conference, on 4th November in London. 
Learn more and get tickets.

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