In the wake of the unprecedented economic disruption businesses have been grappling with across the globe, there’s one thing that organizations now know for certain — there’s simply no returning to “business as usual”. However, that might just be the silver lining for businesses and AP departments moving forward. With workplace flexibility and business continuity becoming a top priority, automation has shifted from being “nice to have” to an operational necessity, prompting companies to overhaul their manual, paper-heavy AP processes.
In Episode 3 of Esker On Air, host Scott Leahy chats with Director of Sales and Business Development Dan Reeve about what the “new normal” will look like for AP as global economies continue to reopen and businesses resume operations. They also talk strategy for automating AP processes to advance operational efficiency and gain an even sharper competitive edge.
It can be hard to think about the future in a time of such uncertainty, but preparing for the “the new AP department” is imperative for the continued success of your business. So, what’s next for AP teams as businesses forge ahead?
The new AP department
The processes most AP teams are familiar with are inundated with manual touchpoints, making them inflexible and tied to a physical location. The future AP department must overcome the challenge of workplace dependence. The best way to do that? Automate AP processes.
Here’s why digitizing processes is a necessity moving forward:
- The growing performance gap between AP teams that are empowered to work remotely and those that are tied to a physical location. For automated AP teams, the switch from on-location to remote work was fairly seamless. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for paper-based AP departments.
- Business continuity and talent retention. For manual AP teams, operations likely came to a halt when stay-at-home orders went into effect. And for those who were left jobless without the ability to work remotely, they might seek out new jobs at companies that better prioritize business continuity.
- Heightened productivity. The ability to work from anywhere usually comes from cutting out highly manual, low-value tasks like tracking down paper invoices, repetitive data entry, manual routing, copying and follow up on invoices. This in turn makes staff more productive and gives them more visibility into the whole process.
A more strategic approach to AP
The AP department of the past was a transactional one: receive invoice, route invoice, pay invoice. But the AP department of the future is less reactive and more strategic. The new AP department:
- Drives working capital and spend management by taking advantage of early payment discounts and having the ability to look forward at what cash requirements are for the next period.
- Has greater visibility into vital KPIs, which provides necessary data for better, more informed decision making.
- Processes invoices faster and more efficiently, meaning AP staff will have more time to monitor budgets, plan ahead, and measure and communicate the impact of AP.
Strategies for AP leaders
Transforming AP from a tactical, back-office task to a function that is digital, drives profits and informs strategy all sounds like great news for businesses; however, it can also seem a little overwhelming. Here are some things AP leaders can do to avoid falling behind:
- Don’t stop automating. Keep leveraging emerging technologies to move toward 100% electronic and touchless invoice processing. Don’t be afraid to take on an automation project right now — remote automation projects are completely possible!
- Work closer than ever with suppliers. Focus on supplier information management and speeding up supplier onboarding. Optimizing supplier relationships can deliver higher card rebates, more early payment discounts and lower borrowing costs.
- Recognize and capitalize on the value of AP data. Look for ways to unlock and deliver data to stakeholders whenever and however they need it.