The role of Accounts Payable is often overlooked during any strategic review of business systems, being seen as simply a back-office finance or clerical function that is something of a necessary burden. That view is perhaps a consequence of the AP function having remained unchanged for decades.
That lack of change means that many slow and labour intensive processes remain in place. Thousands of invoices come in from suppliers in many varying formats and often with important details missing. The AP team has to manually check the contents and enter those invoice details into the finance system, maybe even rekeying into multiple systems.
The whole process is slow as invoices circulate around the business looking for the missing information and approval and, being mostly manual, is prone to error. In turn, payments are often delayed and frequently wrong, with suppliers continually calling in for news of payment.
The delays mean there is little chance of taking early settlement discounts and the overall delays make it very hard to forecast cash requirements or effectively manage working capital.
In an organisation experiencing growth and with many entities, dozens of locations and many departments, all of these issues grow significantly.
Traditionally an organisation would deploy a large team of mostly admin types in a back office function that would process invoices. Rows of desks in finance and piles of invoices sat in in-trays was the norm.
Now, there are many methods and supporting technologies that can replace those slow, error-prone manual steps with an automated and largely ‘straight- through’ process.
Paper invoices, while decreasing in number, are never totally going away. If this problem remains large enough, Document Management systems can be deployed to quickly scan paper invoices and, using OCR technology, can read the invoice details and enter them directly into your chosen system.
More likely, many more invoices will arrive in pdf format attached to an email. We can deploy systems that will read the invoice details straight from the pdf, without a need to open it first, and again send that data onto the relevant business system.
Many more suppliers are now able to submit their invoices in large batches in electronic format that be directly integrated into your system. Those that can’t do this are likely to be keen to take advantage of self-service direct invoice entry via the Supplier Network.
Some organisations are outsourcing much of their AP function, and we can support that process with an invoice bureau service where all invoices are sent off-site and processed independently for a cost-per-invoice fee.
In our experience, no one method can do the job alone. It is likely an organisation will adopt an AP Automation strategy that includes a number of invoice processing methods. Whatever the route chosen, you will see a reduction in costs, time to process, and errors.
However, the really big return goes beyond just improved efficiency. It made AP a more powerful part of the company’s strategic spend control and supply chain initiatives. It gives the finance team earlier, more complete visibility of cash commitments and possibly even opens up new ways to leverage working capital that actually turn AP into a source of revenue.
Document & Data Capture turns paper and PDF invoices into system-ready electronic records using scanning technology and a range of deployment options.
Suppliers can self-serve using direct invoice entry via the Supplier Network
Invoice Processing can be outsourced via a Bureau service