Unless you’re using a true accounts payable workflow automation solution, you’re not getting the benefits you need.
This article originally appeared on the Corcentric blog.
When we talk with prospective customers or with AP trade show attendees, they’ll often tell us they’ve already automated their accounts payable processes. After a few more questions, it’s clear that some of these same people are interpreting electronic processes as automated processes. They assume that using a document or content management system is the same as implementing automation. Or they’re using a workflow solution that’s not specifically tailored for accounts payable, but feel that, when it comes to automated solutions, “workflow is workflow.” Both are wrong.
The dictionary defines the word automation as “the technique, method, or system of operating or controlling a process by highly automatic means, reducing human intervention to a minimum.” When you’ve successfully implemented a good accounts payable automation workflow solution, the only invoices your staff should interact with are those that are considered exceptions. All of the remaining invoices, which should be the vast majority, will flow straight through from receipt to payment with no manual involvement.
So what about departments that interpret sending invoices as PDFs through the approval process as automation by using a content/document management system? Why are they wrong? One of the benefits of automating is removing paper from the process. Removing paper means less chance for lost or misplaced invoices and less chance of errors from manually keying. But, if your department receives a paper invoice and then scans that into the system, the paper invoice still exists. Plus, if it’s sent through to a next level approver, that person often will print out the invoice as a hard copy…so one piece of paper suddenly becomes two…and you still have the possibility of human error. Yes, these systems share and store documents, but that’s not a workflow solution and, although theoretically, paper could be eliminated; that’s just not often the case.
Those who are using general workflow solutions are a step beyond those above; however, they are losing out on the functionality that a true automated AP workflow solution offers. The right solution automates the entire purchase-to-pay (P2P) process from invoice receipt to payment; it’s flexible and scalable and can quickly adapt to process changes. Companies that have implemented a true AP automated workflow solution are able to handle up to 70% more invoice volume without adding staff; they’ve been able to substantially increase the number of invoices paid on time. Besides slashing the cost of processing invoices, AP departments with true automated workflow can reduce the time is takes to process invoices from weeks to as little as 4 to 5 days.
So before you assume that your department has an automated invoice approval workflow, ask yourself the following, Can your solution:
- Capture all required line items on an invoice?
- Match the invoice against the purchase order and receipt of goods?
- Track the full history of the invoice and workflow?
- Provide easy visibility via reporting dashboards?
- Handle special exceptions?
- Provide notifications/reminders/escalations?
If the answer to any of these is “no,” it may be time to re-evaluate.
To discover what a true AP automated workflow solution can do for your processes, download our helpful guide, AP Workflow Cheat Sheet.