It’s amazing how much things can change in just a few months. Three months ago, the United States was in the midst of a bull market like it had never seen before. The Dow Jones Industrial Average was at the highest point ever recorded, and the US economy was experiencing the longest expansion in its 243-year-old history. How quickly things can change. In these past months the world has seen stock prices tumble, the economy come to a screeching halt and businesses (if not entire industries) close their doors in an effort to combat the crisis. All this ultimately resulting in a new reality and a new society that we find ourselves forced to do business in.
Surprisingly, a department that is lagging behind is accounts payable (AP). This is surprising because theoretically, AP is a department that could be 100% digital and have all processes be done remotely. Some AP departments do have a completely digital process and have been able to transition to a remote work environment relatively seamlessly. The reality, however, is that many AP teams are scrambling to implement disaster recovery plans and businesses are even still forcing AP team members into the office to manually process paper invoices and paper checks. And, unfortunately, this new reality for AP professionals leaves them in a situation where they must choose between risking the health of themselves and their families, or the ability to make a living while they can during these uncertain times.
If there is a silver lining in all this, it’s that AP leaders are waking up to their dependence on paper processes and are now prioritising a digital solution that will allow their teams the ability to work remotely and much more efficiently. Also, there are a number of benefits that inherently come as a result of automated processes that AP leaders might not have been aware of prior to this crisis.
Recently I was working with an AP leader at a national commercial roofing company to explore his automation options. He was explaining his situation and how desperately he needed to get his people the ability to work remotely. As he was describing his vision for his new AP processes, we began to discuss the specifics of exactly what he would be getting in an automated solution. He was pleasantly surprised when he discovered that not only were we going to be able to provide a solution that allowed his team to work remotely, but that his team, as well as his suppliers, would have complete visibility into the supplier invoice validation process. Ultimately, this would not only greatly reduce the approval time per invoice, but it would also provide his team the ability to identify and prioritise invoices that have an early payment discount. This ability to take advantage of early payment discounts could be a real game changer and alone justify the investment from an ROI perspective.
The takeaway from my conversation, don’t let this crisis all be for naught. Learn from this unfortunate situation and capitalise on the fact that a safer, paperless, and more efficient process is available. Cedric Bru from Taulia in a recent LinkedIn post said, “It makes no sense anymore to manage invoices in paper format,” and I agree. Explore, evaluate and implement an automated solution that will improve the safety of your team by allowing them to work remotely, gain visibility into the invoice validation process, improve supplier relationships by allowing them to get paid faster, and take advantage of early payment discounts. No one knows how long this current crisis will last, but if we focus on the positives and prioritise action in our control, we have an opportunity to come out of this crisis better than we entered. That is an opportunity too good to pass up.