publishing:
Published
in infosearch BPO
Authors:
Olga Melnichenko
Revenue cycle manager

Welcome to the comprehensive guide on automating accounts payable—a vital resource designed to streamline operations, enhance accuracy, and optimize the allocation of valuable time and resources. In the pages that follow, you will gain valuable insights and strategies to revolutionize your accounts payable processes.

Accounts Payable (AP) is a vital component of financial operations that directly impacts your business's bottom line. From invoice tracking and managing bills to ensure timely payments for goods and services, an efficient AP process is essential. However, implementing an effective AP system can take time and effort, especially for businesses dealing with a high volume of transactions.

That's why we have prepared a comprehensive guide to help you navigate the intricacies of AP management. This guide will walk you through the step-by-step process of implementing AP in your finance management, enabling you to streamline operations, improve accuracy, and save valuable time and resources.

Understanding Accounts Payable

The AP process typically includes the following steps:

  1. Receiving invoices from vendors
  2. Reviewing invoices for accuracy
  3. Approving invoices for payment
  4. Coding invoices for proper classification
  5. Entering invoices into the accounting system
  6. Preparing checks for payment
  7. Mailing or electronically delivering checks to vendors

The Traditional Accounts Payable Process

Traditional AP is manual and paper-based, meaning invoices must be physically received, reviewed, approved, coded, and entered into the accounting system. Checks must then be printed and mailed to vendors. 

The Need for Accounts Payable Process Automation 

The need for automation in Automated Accounts Payable Processing is growing due to the following factors:

  • The increasing volume of transactions
  • The need for accuracy and efficiency
  • The desire to improve cash flow
  • The need to comply with regulations

Challenges with Traditional Accounts Payable Process

The traditional accounts payable (AP) process poses several challenges that can hinder efficiency and productivity:

Prone to Errors

Manual AP processes are susceptible to human errors, such as data entry mistakes, miscalculations, or misinterpretation of information. These errors can result in financial discrepancies, reconciliation issues, and potential financial problems for the organization.

Time-consuming

The manual nature of traditional AP processes requires significant time and effort. Tasks such as invoice processing, data entry, and payment schedule can be labor-intensive and take away valuable time from employees that could be better utilized for strategic activities.

Inefficient

Manual AP processes often involve redundant and inefficient steps, leading to wasted effort and decreased productivity. Inefficient processes can delay invoice processing, approvals, and payments, impacting the overall operational efficiency of the AP department.

Difficult to Track

The lack of visibility can lead to difficulties in managing cash flow effectively, identifying outstanding payments, and ensuring compliance with regulatory requirements. Automated systems make tracking and monitoring invoices, payments, and statements easy. 

Businesses can adopt accounts payable automation solutions to overcome these challenges. Automation reduces the risk of errors, streamlines workflows, increases efficiency and provides better tracking and reporting capabilities. By leveraging automation technology, organizations can improve accuracy, save time, enhance productivity, and maintain better control over their AP processes, ultimately leading to improved financial efficiency and compliance.

The Rising Demand for Automation

The demand for automation in AP is rising due to the following factors:

The increasing volume of transactions

Companies are doing more business with more vendors than ever, increasing the volume of transactions.

The need for accuracy and efficiency 

Businesses are pressured to be more accurate and efficient, driving the demand for automation.

The desire to improve cash flow

Businesses want to improve their cash flow, and automation can help by reducing the time it takes to process invoices and make payments.

The need to comply with regulations

Businesses are subject to various regulations, and automation can help them comply with these regulations by ensuring that invoices are processed accurately and on time.

The Concept of Accounts Payable Automation

What is Accounts Payable Automation?

Accounts Payable Automation (APA) uses software to automate accounts payable processes. APA software can help businesses to improve accuracy, efficiency, cash flow, and compliance.

Understanding the Basics of Automation

Cloud-based APA Software

This software is hosted on the cloud, accessing and operating through a web browser or dedicated application. Cloud-based APA software offers the advantage of accessibility from anywhere with an internet connection. It eliminates the need for businesses to manage their servers and infrastructure, as the software provider handles maintenance, updates, and data security.

On-premises APA Software

In contrast, on-premises APA software is installed and operated on the business's servers and infrastructure. This software is hosted internally, giving organizations complete control over their data and system. It is ideal for businesses that have specific security or compliance requirements and prefer to manage the software and its infrastructure internally.

Both cloud-based, and on-premises APA software have their advantages. Cloud-based solutions offer flexibility, scalability, and the convenience of remote access. On-premises solutions provide control, customization options, and the ability to keep sensitive data within the organization's network. The choice between the two depends on data security, compliance needs, budget, and the organization's IT strategy.

Accounts Payable Automation software typically includes the following features:

Invoice Scanning and Processing

APA software utilizes OCR (Optical Character Recognition) technology to scan invoices and extract relevant data, eliminating the need for manual data entry. This feature speeds up the invoice processing time and reduces errors.

Approval Workflow

By routing invoices to the appropriate stakeholders for review and approval, APA streamlines the process, ensures timely approvals, and provides visibility into the status of invoices.

Coding

Automatically code invoices based on predefined rules and criteria – assign the appropriate general ledger accounts or cost centers, ensure accurate classification, and facilitate seamless integration with the organization's accounting system.

Payment Processing

Generate checks or initiate electronic payments based on approved invoices, eliminate the manual effort in payment generation, and ensure timely and accurate payments.

Vendor Management

Maintain a centralized database of vendor information, including contact details, payment terms, and payment history, and facilitate efficient vendor management by providing easy access to relevant vendor data.

Reporting

Generate reports such as invoice volumes, payment statuses, and aging reports. These reports help monitor and analyze AP performance, identify bottlenecks, and make data-driven decisions.

The Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation

APA can provide several benefits for businesses, including:

Improved Accuracy

By automating accounts payable processing tasks such as data entry, invoice matching, and calculations, APA reduces the likelihood of mistakes and ensures greater precision in financial transactions.

Increased Efficiency

APA eliminates time-consuming manual work, reduces the need for repetitive tasks, and enables AP teams to focus on more value-added activities.

Improved Cash Flow

APA reduces the time it takes to process invoices and make payments, expediting cash flow cycles and allowing businesses to optimize their working capital and improve their financial position.

Increased Compliance

APA ensures that invoices are processed accurately and by regulatory requirements, reducing the risk of penalties and other issues associated with manual errors.

Reduced Costs

APA reduces labor costs and error rates. Additionally, APA can help identify opportunities for cost reduction, such as identifying early payment discounts or avoiding late payment fees.

Key Features of Accounts Payable Automation

Automatic Invoice Capture

Eliminates the need for manual data entry. It uses Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology to extract information from scanned or digital invoices. This feature saves time and reduces errors by automatically populating relevant data into the AP system.

Three-Way Matching

Compares the invoice, purchase order, and receiving documents. Discrepancies or errors can be identified by automatically matching these three elements, ensuring accuracy in the payment process. This feature helps prevent overpayments, duplicate payments, and fraudulent activities.

Electronic Payments

This feature eliminates paper checks, streamlines the payment process, improves efficiency, and reduces printing, mailing, and manual reconciliation costs. Electronic payments also enhance security and provide vendors with a faster and more convenient payment method.

Audit Trails

Provide a transparent record of invoice processing, approvals, payments, and any changes to invoices or vendor information. Audit trails are crucial for internal controls, compliance, and financial audits, as they ensure accountability, traceability, and visibility into the AP process.

Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation

Streamlines Workflow

By automating accounts payable manual tasks, such as data entry, invoice processing, and payment schedules, APA reduces the need for manual intervention, minimizes errors, and improves overall process efficiency.

Increased Accuracy and Efficiency

APA’s accuracy in invoice processing and payment reconciliation frees up teams' time, allowing them to focus on more strategic activities that contribute to business growth.

Enhanced Security

Features such as encrypted data transmission, access controls, and audit trails protect sensitive financial information, mitigate the risk of fraud, and ensure compliance with data protection regulations.

Optimized Cash Flow Management

APA accelerates invoice processing and payment cycles, leading to optimized cash flow management, better financial planning, the availability of working capital, and opportunities for early payment discounts.

Improved Vendor Relationships

Timely and accurate payments and streamlined communication contribute to favorable terms, discounts, and better supplier relationships.

How To Automate Accounts Payable: Choosing the Right Solution

Evaluate your Business Needs

Before selecting an APA solution, it is essential to assess your business requirements. Consider factors such as the volume of invoices, complexity of workflows, integration capabilities with existing systems, and specific features needed to meet your AP goals.

Select an Automation Software

When choosing APA software, consider factors such as ease of use, scalability, customization options, compatibility with your IT infrastructure, and vendor portal support. Additionally, evaluate the software's features like invoice capture, workflow management, reporting capabilities, and integration with other business systems.

Study Key Players in the Market

The market for APA solutions is diverse, with several key players offering different software options. Some notable players in the market include AvidXchange, Coupa, SAP Ariba, Tipalti, and Basware. Research and compare these vendors' offerings, reputation, customer reviews, and pricing models to make an informed decision.

Implementing Accounts Payable Automation

Preparing Your Organization for the Transition

This step involves educating and training employees about the new system, communicating the benefits of automation, and addressing any concerns or resistance to change. It may also involve restructuring processes and roles to align with the automated accounts payable workflow.

Steps in Implementing Automation

These include assessing current AP processes, defining automation goals, selecting a suitable software solution, configuring the system to match your business requirements, integrating with existing systems, testing the automation workflow, and conducting thorough user training before going live.

Overcoming Possible Challenges

Resistance from employees accustomed to manual processes, system integration issues, data migration complexities, and change management hurdles are just some of the challenges of implementing APA. Address these challenges through effective communication, user training, involving key stakeholders, and partnering with the software vendor for support and guidance throughout the implementation process.

Future of Accounts Payable with Automation

The emergence of AI and Machine Learning in Accounts Payable

AI and machine learning enable intelligent automation by learning from patterns and making accurate predictions, leading to further efficiency gains and improved accuracy in the AP process. Technologies automating accounts payable processing simplify complex tasks, such as data extraction, invoice matching, and anomaly detection. 

Predictive Analytics and Decision-making

By analyzing historical data, trends, and patterns, predictive analytics can provide insights into cash flow forecasting, supplier performance, and invoice processing timelines. It enables businesses to make informed decisions, optimize working capital, and strengthen financial planning.

Conclusion: The Future is Now - Embracing Automation in Accounts Payable

In conclusion, the future of accounts payable is here, and it lies in embracing automation. Businesses now have the opportunity to transform their AP processes and reap numerous benefits. Automation in accounts payable streamlines workflows improves accuracy and efficiency, enhances security, optimizes cash flow management, and strengthens vendor relationships.

Next Step: Get Expert APA Implementation with Pharmbills

Evaluate your business needs, select the right automation software, and prepare for the transition. If you need expert assistance in implementing and optimizing accounts payable automation, consider engaging Pharmbill's trained professionals. They have the expertise and experience to guide you through the process, ensuring successful and seamless integration of accounts payable workflow automation.

Leverage the power of automation in accounts payable with Pharmbill's trained professionals by your side. Contact us today to learn how we can help you unlock the full potential of accounts payable automation and drive your business forward.

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Mariia Treibitch
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Reuven Kogan
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Sia Malyshenko
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Peter Druchkov
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