Tag Archives: accounts payable

Building the Business Case for Digital Transformation of AP [Part 2]: 5 Key Points That Can Impact Project Success

Part 1 of Paul Tucker’s blog series on how to build a business case for accounts payable (AP) automation prompted me to share some trends that I’ve noticed over the last 20 years. In that time, I’ve seen leaders in finance and procurement both succeed and fail in getting projects funded, resourced and scheduled. In some cases, projects went ahead but there was a 3-7 year wait.

In Part 2, I go on to explore five key points surrounding this topic that have only grown more important over the last few years.

1) “No Brainer” Projects Still Need Bottom-Line Appeal for the C-Suite

In the book Let’s Get Real or Let’s Not Play, Mahan Khalsa illustrates the benefit of breaking down the value of initiatives into time savings, dollar savings, and getting a sense of scale of importance from the top execs on a level of 1-5.

Projects are often decided based on emotion — the Shared Services Director may be passionate about this digital transformation initiative, however they still to need to take the time to list the savings that will come. For example, how many loaded FTE savings will come from absorbing growth or new acquisitions? Or from not having to hire or replace staff as they move on? What percentage of early pay discounts can be protected or realized for the first time if invoices are accelerated and approved in 1-2 days versus 10-20? Or, as more invoices are processed in a PO-like fashion and maverick spend is reduced, what is the value of better cost control and using the AP folks to research spend and buying patterns?

I’ve worked with CIOs who have commented that the AP automation project is a “no-brainer” in their mind — that’s when I know we need to team up to quantify when the savings will come. Because while many c-level folks are keen to launch a digital transformation project and they do want to free up their staff to do less mundane work that is beneficial to the P2P operation and employee morale, they need financial numbers to help them justify the project over other projects.

2) IT Resources — as Rare as Gold

It seems like over a decade since the norm was for companies to seek to build solutions themselves as the default. Today, most IT teams are stretched thin working on ERP upgrades, migrations, transport and warehouse management projects, or e-commerce initiatives, etc. One of the top reasons projects do not move forward is a lack of IT resources to work on the project. As Ardent Partners note in its 2018 research, common barriers to automation in purchase-to-pay (P2P) include lack of internal resources, lack of IT support and lack of a compelling business case.

A compelling business case will certainly help the leadership team influence the projects the CIO sanctions; after all, there may be 50-100 other projects the CIO is being asked to launch or support. And, even if the business is moving ahead with a “shadow IT” project, IT resources are needed to help with activities such as setting up security access for the vendor, replicating data, etc., pulling them away from other projects.

There is also a risk that if IT is not invited to be part of the project until later on, they may overestimate the effort that is really needed and could become defensive about getting another project dumped on them without an upfront conversation and time to strategize. Many IT Directors I talk to are overloaded on projects already and the thought of another one can be overwhelming and lead to push back/revolt. In some cases, I have seen that the expected effort can be cut in half by simply engaging with the IT folks early on, getting them up to speed, and providing simple, yet detailed project plans and resource requirements. With IT resources being as rare as gold nowadays, make sure the PMO and CIO understand when you want to use the resources and for how long — otherwise, they might assume you are trying to raid the bank!

3) Hitching a Ride on the “C Train”

They say that organizations going through pain or significant change are the ones that are more likely to invest and launch projects. In my experience, it seems that there’s often a trend, initiative or a directive that is a little like a train running through the organization. The trick is how can you get a seat on that train?

One of the most effective approaches I have seen procurement and finance folks use is to look at the projects that are going on and identify if their AP automation project might be seen as aligning with existing key business objectives. For example, many CIOs will regard P2P automation, order-to-cash (O2C) automation or simply cleaning up EDI exceptions as necessary steps of digital transformation. Alternatively, treasurers and CFOs may be seeking to extend their liquidity in order to make acquisitions or simply improve working capital and/or lower the weighted average cost of cash. I will often ask stakeholders how this initiative aligns with other key initiatives or approaches that their peers are working on or that the c-suite is keen on. Sometimes, those dots have not been connected and, yet, when they are, it’s amazing how fast your project can travel from the “idea stop to the approved stop.”

4) Efficiency & Savings Are Critical … But Execs May See Another Angle

I’ve worked on a number of AP automation projects where AP managers, directors, and finance leaders were focusing on one thing (e.g., efficiency savings, lowering invoice processing costs, duplicate prevention, etc.), yet the execs signing the project were endorsing the project for different reasons altogether. For example, we worked with a manufacturing company of doors and windows in the U.S. Its COO viewed the project as a means to scale and compete with a major competitor. While the COO was keen on efficiency savings, his goal for the project was different than that of the project team.

Sometimes, it has simply been that the CFO, after an ERP deployment or moving to your organization, may have lost the visibility of spend and cost controls they were was used to having and are willing to invest to get that control back. I’ve also seen c-suite offices move quickly when the average lead time to pay suppliers extends because they realize excellent customer experience extends through the supply chain. Organizations cannot afford to be put on credit hold or have raw materials restricted due to delays in approving supplier invoices.

5) Staying on Top of Market Trends

Last but not least, it’s my view that authorities in the market (e.g., Hackett Group, Gartner, Mckinsey, etc.) have a powerful influence on the c-suite and the direction of enterprise organizations as a whole. Currently, there is huge interest and focus in projects that will harness technology like Artificial Intelligence (AI), machine learning and Robotic Process Automation (RPA), especially if those projects can be shown to help the CFO: lower costs, prevent fraud, take advantage of early payment discounts, harness supply chain finance, or eliminate the costs of check payments. Therefore, it’s worth looking at market trends and describing your proposed P2P initiative in the right language.

One of the false assumptions in the market is that the sales rep providing AP automation can rustle up a business case that will ensure your project gets a rapid green light. Instead, I think good reps should help you identify areas that may need more research and to calculate the value that will come in terms of time, money and overall strategic value of a project. The real selling takes place when the rep has left — it is the P2P teams that need to discuss the project and effectively understand internal drives and initiatives, and carefully maneuver and sell the project to a consensus group.

At Esker, I feel our team can certainly help you generate ideas for the business case and also identify the common roadblocks and issues that often need to be onboard to ensure your project doesn’t get derailed.

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this series, where Paul Tucker will pick back up where he left off after Part 1, covering how to identify your Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) and calculate ROI.

Delicato Family Vineyards Chooses Esker’s Accounts Payable Solution to Facilitate Growing Invoice Volumes in an SAP® Environment

Sydney, Australia — October 15, 2018 — Esker, a worldwide leader in AI-driven process automation solutions and pioneer in cloud computing, today announced that Delicato Family Vineyards, one of the fastest growing wine companies in the United States over the past five years, has selected Esker to automate its accounts payable (AP) invoicing process. Esker’s Accounts Payable automation solution was chosen for its easy-to-use interface, robust capabilities and direct integration with SAP® systems.

Approximately 75 percent of the invoices Delicato manages are non-purchase order invoices, with a large majority of those arriving into a centralised email address. With Esker, those invoices will now be automatically entered into an electronic workflow — eliminating virtually all of the manual printing, scanning, coding and routing activities that had previously been a part of Delicato’s AP invoicing process.

Read the full press release here.

 

How Luxasia Went from Printing Spreadsheets and Scanning Receipts to One Automated Platform

A recent study by IOFM found that while 70% of AP departments are automating their invoice processing, only 30% say that those electronic invoices can be posted straight through with no operator intervention. Most AP departments are moving away from the days of piles of paper spilling over their desks and taking up office space, but there is still lots of manual data entry and time spent on low-value tasks that could be used elsewhere.

That’s the situation that Luxasia, a luxury specialist in retail and distribution, found itself in. A rapidly growing company, Luxasia employees were still doing much of their internal accounting processes by hand. To get an invoice approved, employees had to manually create purchase requisitions and print them out. Internal expense claims were also processed by hand, with Excel spreadsheets and scanned paper receipts printed and passed to an AP specialist, who would then process and manually enter data into the SAP® system.

Not only did this create high operational costs and heavy workloads, the overall invoice process was painfully slow, which lead to increased dissatisfaction among both customers and employees. Luxasia knew it could improve on this process, so it started looking for a solution that would help:

  • Reduce operational costs
  • Increase document visibility and accessibility
  • Integrate with SAP
  • Facilitate other job functions beyond the AP department

Luxasia decided to go with Esker’s purchase-to-pay (P2P) solution to automate its purchase requisitions and supplier invoices. Today, 561 Luxasia users process documents with Esker, and Luxasia automates its 36,000 annual supplier invoices at its new shared service center. Luxasia has also seen an 80% reduction in its paper use by automating expense claims and doing away with hard copy receipts.

“We are now able to track productivity and better manager our resources thanks to Esker’s dashboard and reporting capabilities,” said Jasmin Ong, Regional Finance Controller at Luxasia. “Esker has also helped us streamline our processes and ensure a consistent work standard.”

In addition to improving its AP workflow, Luxasia added additional processes to meet internal needs like GL account creation and payment advice. Through automating, the company gained enhanced visibility, cross-border support, a user-friendly interface, and improved communication leading to increased efficiency for its AP process.

For more information on Luxasia and the improvements it made, check out the full case study using the link below!

 

What Will the Future of Accounts Payable Look Like?

 

Accounts payable (AP): digital, profitable and strategic.

When we think about the future of accounts payable, those aren’t usually the first words that come to mind.

In recent IOFM surveys, AP was voted as the No. 1 most time-consuming finance function and the No. 1 most paper-intensive finance function. That’s really something when you consider other finance and accounting functions such as tax, reporting or audit. In addition, APQC has reported that labor makes up 60% of the total processing costs in AP.

Overall, AP processes cost too much, take too long, provide too little visibility and frustrate internal stakeholders too often.

The good news is, there is a way to correct that situation, and business are starting to act.

Esker recently partnered with IOFM to conduct a survey to better understand the future of AP processes:

  • What technologies will be important to AP?
  • How will AP operate?
  • How will AP’s role within the enterprise change?

From that survey, we produced a white paper which presents the results and provides a guide for AP professionals to prepare for the future.

Digital:

While AP was voted as the most time-consuming and laborious finance function, the tides are starting to turn as organizations begin to digitize. Seventy-percent of AP departments have at least started to automate their invoice processing with 25% of them having made significant progress in their path to complete automation.

When automating their AP departments, respondents identified key technologies that will make a significant impact in the next three years, including:

  • Image Capture (53%) — technology that converts paper documents to digital images
  • Intelligent Data Capture (40%) — technology that automatically classifies, extracts and validates data
  • Mobile (49%) — on-the-go technology that enables professionals to easily manage and approve purchase requisitions and supplier invoices 24/7, wherever they are, using a mobile device

Profitable:

Organizations have realized that AP has the ability to help improve profit margins, and digital transformation is what can give AP that ability. Through the digitization of AP processes, organizations improve profitability through:

  • Higher rate card rebates: 26% anticipate the total card rebates they earn will in three years will be up to 10% higher
  • More early-payment discounts: 30% anticipate that the early-payment discounts they receive will be up to 10% higher in three years
  • Longer standard payment terms: 34% believe their organisations standard payment terms will be longer in three years
  • Better spend management: 60% anticipate the importance of spend management to become more important in the next three years

Strategic:

And finally, AP is seen as becoming more strategically important to the enterprise:

  • 53% per respondents believe their AP department’s strategic importance will be higher in three years

For too long, poor visibility has made effectively managing working capital difficult, especially in a manual environment. But automated AP solutions, like Esker’s, put real-time decision making info into the CFO’s hands with personalized dashboards that give insight into Key Performance Indicators (KPIs). Senior stakeholders will be placing increased importance on KPIs in an attempt to improve efficiencies and profitability:

  • 63% anticipate that the use of AP’s data in the organization will increase in the next three years

AP is transforming and will continue to do so. The digitization of the process will allow it to become increasingly profitable and of strategic importance to the organization. Those who don’t put stock in preparing for the future of accounts payable put themselves at risk of falling behind both their peers and the competition.

Read the special report by IOFM and Esker and find out the steps needed to keep up with the changes.

accounts payable report

Bake your way to a rewarding AP process

I love baking – I find it relaxing, rewarding and of course, the best bit is the outcome! I mean, who doesn’t like cake?!

I’m no baking expert, it’s just something that I enjoy, and really, there’s not much to baking a basic cake once you get the ingredients and techniques right. For me, it’s the decorating that’s the tricky part.

Getting the balance of ingredients right is key through – the flour, butter, sugar, eggs, and flavoring need to be carefully balanced in order to achieve a good texture and flavor. This and the mixing and baking techniques are the keys to a successful and delicious cake.

It’s a bit like automating AP processing with Esker; once you get the ingredients and process right, it too can become successful, rewarding and indeed more relaxing for your AP team!

Think of the flour as being the basic process – the electronic invoices and archiving capabilities; the eggs – the controlled and electronic workflow that holds the whole thing together; the sugar – the sweet automatic reminders for effortless approval and automatic invoice matching; and the butter – the binding integration with ERP and other business systems.

And the extra sweet stuff on top?…payment approval from mobile devices and readily available audits, KPIs, and analytics.

Fancy a piece of the Esker cake?

Sweet.

Happy baking.

Written by Amy Rees – Esker Marketing Administrator

Accounts Payable Analytics: How Companies Measure & Report on KPIs

 

In the 2011 movie Moneyball, Brad Pitt plays Billy Beane, real-life General Manager of the Oakland Athletics, a small-market Major League Baseball (MLB) franchise.

The movie — based on the book of the same name — follows Beane’s revolutionary use of “sabermetrics” to assemble a team that could compete with richer ball clubs, despite operating with a significantly lower payroll.

Call it David’s plan to topple Goliath.

Rather than rely on the handful of archaic statistics used by baseball traditionalists for decades, Beane took a more nuanced and analytical approach to gauging player performance — finding value where no one before him had thought to look.

What does all this have to do with accounts payable (AP), you ask?

Based on recent survey results, it seems that the world of AP invoicing could learn some valuable lessons on analytics from the world of sports.

The Current State of Accounts Payable Analytics

Undoubtedly, a lot of cash-strapped companies already feel as though they’ve done everything in their power to minimize costs and maximize efficiency (e.g., reducing staff, adopting lean practices, implementing e-invoicing tools, etc.).

This may be true to some extent, but results from a study by the Institute of Finance & Management, Visibility Into the Accounts Payable Process, indicate there’s still value being left on the table. The survey, which received 129 respondents, found that most AP departments continue to use antiquated tools and techniques to track their key performance indicators (KPIs).

Some of the more eyebrow-raising results of the study include:

  • Out of the AP professionals who responded, a whopping 66% said they track KPIs using Excel spreadsheets, while more than one-quarter rely on whiteboards, checklists and email trails.
  • Over 41% of respondents have no plans to implement a dashboard tool at this time.
  • Nearly 18% of respondents cited resistance to changing established processes as one of the main barriers to deploying new software solutions, while 14% cited cultural unwillingness to test new software.

Outdated strategies. Lack of forward thinking. Resistance to change. Sound familiar?

Much like the pre-Billy Bean era of MLB, a lot of AP decision-makers are clinging to intuition and old-school ways of thinking. In other words, they simply don’t know what they don’t know — and it’s dulling their competitive edge.

Why AP Dashboards Are a Game-Changer

Just like the use of statistics in baseball, the use of KPIs in AP is an effective way to measure performance and take “gut feeling” out of important decision-making processes. But doing it right means using the right tools.

Increasingly, it’s becoming clear that AP dashboards might just be the ideal, complementary tool to make every action smarter and more strategic.

Dashboards allow users to view, organize and manage actionable metrics directly from an easy-to-use interface. Not only do they provide visibility into what’s happening, they also answer the ever-important question, “What’s going to happen?”

Here are just a few examples of the valuable insight each user has access to:

  • accounts-payable-analytics-dashboardCFO
    • Organization spend overview
    • AP cash flow
    • AP process metrics
    • DPO
  • AP Managers
    • Visibility over spend
    • Spend by category, volume and supplier
    • Accrual reporting
    • Payment KPIs
    • Process efficiency
  • Cost center owner/LOB manager
    • Requests pending approval
    • Budget control and forecasts
    • Spend analysis and trend

Let’s face it. Your AP department isn’t as exciting as a MLB team, and no one is ever going to make a movie about AP analytics. But if Billy Beane’s story teaches us anything, it’s that it pays challenge the status quo and re-examine established practices. After all, gaining a competitive edge has never been a spectator sport.

Want to learn more about measuring and reporting on accounts payable analytics? Download the eBook, 5 Accounts Payable KPIs Worth Tracking, and discover how to maximize results with real-time analytics and dashboards.

Esker: Growing the P2P Suite in 2018 and Beyond

Company Background

Esker was founded in 1985 with the vision of helping businesses deliver paper documents electronically. Today, more than 30 years later, they have stayed true to its roots and are now one of the larger document process automation vendors in the market. Over 85% of sales now come from its on-demand (SaaS) solutions for Purchase-to-Pay, Order-to-Cash, and document delivery. Headquartered in Lyon, France, Esker also has operations in North America, Latin America, Europe, and Asia Pacific.

Based on the strong growth of its cloud-based solutions (+21% YOY), Esker’s 2017 sales revenues increased by 15.3% over 2016. Another interesting stat from the earnings release is that the number of employees in R&D increased by 18% in 2017, and now represents an impressive 22% of the total workforce.

During our briefing, Esker spoke to us primarily about the newer solution for Purchasing but also covered the Accounts Payable solution as well. Below is a brief description of each solution.

Accounts Payable

Esker’s sweet spot has always been its AP automation solution for the mid- and large-market. The cloud-based AP solution is designed to eliminate paper, reduce manual processing of invoices, lower costs, and improve efficiency. As you would expect they can easily handle most invoice formats and delivery vehicles. The solution can automate the AP process from invoice receipt to 3-way matching, and through to, and including, approval and transfer for payment. They have also automated the exception handling process, which can automatically be routed around based on customisable workflows and business rules.

Esker offers adapters for a number of ERPs including SAP, Oracle eBusiness Suite, and Microsoft Dynamics NAV. Over 50% of Esker’s AP customers have SAP as their backend ERP, not surprising since Esker has long provided integration to SAP. Two years ago they introduced an adapter for Oracle and this has resulted in good growth in this market segment as well. It is important to point out that Esker’s workflow sits outside of an organisation’s ERP, something they say is one of the major reasons clients select Esker for their AP automation.

Purchasing

Based on requests from its existing customers, and sensing market demand, Esker launched its on-demand Purchasing solution four years ago, in order to be able to offer full P2P functionality. The majority of Esker’s customers utilising the purchasing solution already had Esker’s AP solution or were sold the full P2P suite in the last four years. Esker Purchasing allows enterprises to automate the full P2P cycle, from the purchase request all the way through the payment process. Esker automates purchasing workflow and integrates seamlessly to the Esker AP solution. They provide out-of-the-box, role-based dashboards tailored to the specific needs of the user, and allow for easy switching between the AP and Purchasing solutions. Esker provides functionality to easily manage internal catalogs and is in the process of launching ‘punch-out’ catalog capability that will be available later this spring. Eskers purchasing solution is currently best suited to handle an organisation’s indirect spend but, Dupuy-Holdich said their vision is to possibly handle direct spend as well sometime in the future.

Final Thoughts

After a successful 2017, it was great to get an update from Esker to hear how they achieved such positive results and learn what they are currently working on and plans for the future. They have recently provided integration to SAP S4/Hana, Dynamics NAV 2017, and early payment discounts. Future plans include support for SAP S4/HANA Cloud and NAV 2018, punch-out catalogs, and contract management. They are working to leverage artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning in all of its solutions. The ‘Esker AI Engine’ is currently being used to improve global field recognition, for an intelligent splitting of invoice batches, general ledger auto allocation, and improved supplier recognition on invoices and purchase orders. Esker R&D is looking to utilise AI to improve the functionality of its solutions wherever possible. Esker understands the importance of being able to offer a full P2P suite and is motivated to bring its purchasing solution on par with that of the AP solution. Esker has produced solid revenue growth over the last couple of years and has a plan in place to keep that momentum going in 2018. Ardent Partners is very interested to see where Esker goes from here and the traction they are able to achieve in the full P2P market.

 

Source: http://payablesplace.ardentpartners.com/2018/03/esker-growing-p2p-suite-2018/

 

Automated Delivery of Customer Invoices to AP Portals

Options for customer invoice delivery continue to modernize as companies experience the fruits of digital transformation. We have come a long way with invoice delivery methods — things are faster, easier and more cost-effective than ever before. In recent years, companies have been seeking efficiencies within accounts payable (AP) for the buyer, which led to the introduction of AP portals. Accounts payable portals continue to grow in popularity, so much that the U.S. Government, the largest buyer in North America, mandated that vendors must electronically submit invoices within one of their recognized portals by end of 2018. As more and more buyers transition to using AP networks to ease their own technology burdens, it shifts the problem squarely onto the supplier’s accounts receivable (AR) team.

Accommodating customers has been the key to many organization’s success, however, it can come at a cost and may not be an easy task. There are more than 250 complex AP networks used globally. New AP technology means that suppliers increasingly need to submit invoices directly into customers’ AP systems.  To manage this method, AR departments are often:

  • Manually entering each invoice using an online AP portal, one at a time — which is time consuming and resource draining
  • Hogging up already limited IT resources to build custom AP integrations with each system and provide ongoing support
  • Turning away business refusing to accommodate, impacting growth
  • Managing multiple invoice delivery channels, including delivery of statements and invoices via portal, postal mail, EDI, fax and email

Accounts payable networks and private corporate portals are not going away. There are real benefits to submitting invoices online, such as: visibility on payment status, cost savings by lowering or eliminating postal mailings and time savings of sending an email versus postal mail.

With the aid of Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven technology, suppliers now have the option to automatically deliver invoices to portals — no longer requiring manual data entry or taxing the resources of AR staff. The repetitive processes of data entry and invoicing naturally lend themselves to automation. Artificial intelligence can help companies timely and efficiently post invoices to AP portals, without input from humans. Automation of invoice delivery into AP portals eliminates the burden, giving both parties the efficiencies they want and need.

AP Automation Strengthens Manufacturer-Supplier Relationships

At its core, the relationship between manufacturers and supplier s in the semiconductor industry is based on how well the two sides can work together and, most importantly, making sure that invoices and payments are made on time. Issues with payments can ripple throughout the relationship. It has the potential to impact not only the financial sheets for the companies but also the trust and faith that make the partnership work. A semiconductor manufacturer needs to have faith that its suppliers will be on time with products; the supplier has to trust that if it sends out invoices, those bills will get paid in full and on time. A breach of trust and loss of faith can have a domino effect, leading to feelings of ill will, lost business or lawsuits.

For many companies, the accounts payable (AP) process has made that much more challenging by the manual nature of the processes. The inherently complex processes of invoicing and receipt of payment that are crucial to making businesses run smoothly and keeping relationships strong are made that much more difficult when those processes are inefficient and error-prone.

Many of the key touchpoints throughout the accounts payable process tend to be manual, which can lead to a range of challenges for organizations. They may run into difficulty retrieving invoice data on a timely basis and have little control or insight into that data. Errors can find their way into many of the points of the process, from incorrectly processing or misplacing invoices to inputting incorrect data or being late getting invoices sent. Even more, those errors can lead to too much time spent on fielding calls wanting to know the status of those invoices or payment, or on resolving disputes arising from those errors.

Such inefficiencies can harm a business. They can lead to late payment fees, low staff productivity, and a larger dissatisfaction in the relationship with vendors. Just as bad, the time spent on dispute resolution takes away from the time company representatives have to do the work of building and improving the relationships with its partners.

Automating the accounts payable processes can make a lot of these challenges go away and can go a long way in improving the relationship between manufacturers and their suppliers. For example, AP automation can enable such programs as dynamic discounting, where manufacturers are given greater flexibility in determining when to pay their suppliers and can receive discounts for products and services when they pay those suppliers earlier. The savings can be significant. We’ve seen customers save as much as $30,000 a month through early payment discounts, and those programs are possible because of the automation of their accounts payable processes.

Automating the AP system from start to finish creates the efficiencies that can lead to programs like early payment discounts, which in turn only strengthens the manufacturer-supplier relationship. AP automation touches every person in the system, from the accounts payable specialist and manager to the controller, treasurer, and CFO, reducing the amount of clerical work, making it easier to monitor team performance and budget compliance, managing payments and gaining visibility into spending.

Data needed for every step in the AP process can more accurately and quickly be collected, invoices can be sent out on a timelier basis and payments can be expedited to ensure that business between manufacturers and suppliers can continue to hum smoothly. Communication between vendors and their suppliers is improved through vendor access to self-service portals, and the archiving of data at every stage of the AP process can allow real-time reporting and analytics, giving buyers the information they need regarding their business relationships, including the vendors they’re buying from and how much they’re spending.

The greater efficiency means that manufacturer representatives can spend less time fielding calls about the status of invoices and payments, and any disputes that do arise can be more quickly resolved. This means more time spent nurturing and strengthening the crucial relationships with their suppliers, ensuring smooth partnerships moving forward.

Be Your Own Field Guide: How to Identify and Cure the Top 5 Pains in Your Accounts Payable Team

Being raised by parents who were nature enthusiasts, our house never had a shortage of books or magazines about the great outdoors. National GeographicOutdoor Life, Mother Earth News — you name it, we had it lying around.

One book that I’ll always remember was the Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide. Admittedly, I never paid much attention to it growing up — I was more of a reptile kid myself — but to my parents, it was their ornithological bible. They used it as a guide to distinguish similar looking species, attract more of their feathered favorites, and even dissuade “bad birds” from making their home in our backyard.

Wouldn’t it be great if those in accounts payable (AP) management roles had a similar guide?

As different as birding and managing an AP department is, both passions could benefit from a resource helping them to avoid the bad and maximize the good.

Top 5 Pains Ailing Your Accounts Payable Team

While AP management doesn’t need to be lectured on how to run a successful department, it’s never a bad idea to stay informed on solutions that can fix pain points in a traditional AP process. With that in mind, use the field notes below to guide you in navigating your AP landscape.

First up, the top 5 pains affecting today’s AP management teams:

  • Manual data entry. With the laundry list of side effects contributed to this top pain, it’s shocking that it remains so prevalent in companies. Each moment your educated AP staff has to spend manually entering data before an invoice can be approved represents lost value for your business. Avoid at all costs.
  • Getting approval. Ah yes, the waiting game that no one ever seems to win. In a manual environment, supplier invoices often get routed for approval only to sit in a state of limbo on someone’s desk or email inbox, slowing the payment cycle down to a crawl. And do you know who passes their competition by crawling? Nobody.
  • Erroneous invoices. Exceptions happen, but that doesn’t mean they should be accepted with no questions asked. Research by Ardent Partners revealed that 17.8% of supplier invoices cause exceptions in a “typical” company, while best-in-class companies average 9.8% exceptions — a stark contrast considering the major impact errors have on AP efficiency.
  • Late payments and missed discounts. These are the worst. Not only does it have the obvious potential of damaging important supplier relationships, forming a habit of late payments makes it impossible for your team to run at peak efficiency.
  • Lots of tracking and reporting. According to the Institute of Finance & Management, only 15% of AP departments currently track their metrics with technology like dashboards that display data. So then how do they do it then? Manually, which makes it harder for staffers to prioritize tasks, managers to measure team performance, and finance executives to get the cash flow visibility they need.

How AP Automation Cures All

Don’t get overwhelmed. After going through all those pains faced by AP teams, fixing them can seem daunting. Nope … not if you’ve got the proper guidance to spot a good solution when you see one. Something like the Birds of Wisconsin Field Guide, but for AP.

And you don’t even have to look far. We’ll be that guide and show you why automation is the single solution to cure your AP woes.

How can one solution put an end to so many problems? It enables businesses to streamline their entire workflow process — from the capture and extraction of invoice data to automatic dispatching for approval to customizable dashboards displaying key metrics. The benefits truly span the entire invoice settlement process and positively impact every user.

Instead of worrying about pains, you can start profiting from:

  • Reduced overall costs
  • Improved supplier satisfaction
  • Increased payment discounts
  • Enhanced reporting and analytics
  • Accelerated payment cycle times
  • Eliminated duplicate payments
  • Strengthened credit rating
  • Greater support for regulatory compliance

AP Field Guide: How to Treat the Top 5 Pains in Your AP Team