Accounts Payable Automation Visualized
Accounts payable automation is used by organizations all over the world to streamline workflows, save time and money, and improve efficiency in accounts payable teams. It can digitize documents, automate many processes, and collect and report more accurate data. But, what does the process look like for modern businesses?
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Features and Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation
Given the number of repetitive, manual tasks in accounts payable, automation using robotic process automation (RPA) is able to take some of these tasks, automate them, and create more productive accounts payable teams by freeing up more of their time to focus on higher-impact projects.
Automated Document Capture and Storage
Using digital documents has many benefits for organizations. Digital documents reduce spending on paper, ink, toner, and equipment; digitization is a more secure way of storing tons of documents; and it’s more efficient, allowing you to store a seemingly limitless amount of documents in an organized way.
Documentation is a key part of accounts payable, and even with digital documents you may still deal with occasional paper documents, but without digital document software, with capabilities like document capturing, you’re making the work harder than it needs to be.
Automation tools can use features like document capturing to automatically collect, file, and organize documents as they come into your organization through digital or physical means, with the ability for stakeholders to manually capture documents using devices like scanners and mobile apps.
Intelligent Data Collection and Reporting
With accounts payable automation, data and information are automatically collected, validated, and then inputted into a database for future use.
To make documents easier to find, the inputted documents are “tagged” with the appropriate metadata. This data should be determined by the internal organization process, but will typically involve the use of key search terms and phrases like industry, business, document type, and more.
In addition, you can also take advantage of system indexing. System indexing means that data relating to information about dates, document types, or other identifiers of the document are taken into account. It should also take into account revisions after the fact, so people accessing them can easily identify different document versions.
All of this comes to fruition when accessing this data to draw conclusions or make predictions for future business decisions using automatically curated reports.
Automated Workflow and Exceptions
With robotic process automation in accounts payable, exceptions are flagged and put into an automated workflow for approval and validation based on pre-built guidelines.
Invoices are automatically matched to purchase orders and receipts of goods. When there is a match, it is automatically sent through for processing.
When there is an exception, it is automatically identified by the system and sent for approval and validation by the appropriate stakeholder. This allows staff to spend time assessing exceptions, rather than all documents—saving time and labor costs.
Approval Routing and Verification Automatically
With automated approval routing, vendors are verified and invoices are sent to the person who needs them for approval all within an automated workflow.
Automated approval routing allows users and administrators to approve transactions before they are processed and approval hierarchies mean employees can designate approvers and set approval limits for expense reports, purchase requests, and purchase orders.
Automated Transaction Record Archiving
After a transaction is approved and completed, invoices are automatically stored securely for future reference.
Many organizations operate with customer-facing staff who have to retrieve information from several different sources. The result of this is a system in which they have an incomplete view of their customers’ invoices. Archiving in accounts payable automation means captured digital images of invoices are mirrored from the customer to the company. In essence, the organization sees exactly what the customer sees in invoices. These documents are stored in a central archive from which staff has easy access to retrieve and answer customer queries.
Transactions are then posted and the final payment is finalized and notated.
Accounts Payable Automation Best Practices
To make the most of your automation, there are a few general accounts payable automation best practices that organizations should follow in order to better optimize and create automation that is more effective, including:
- Integrate Your Systems: Automation is at its strongest when it’s able to unite multiple systems together, pulling data and processes from all over and making them easier to understand and see in one place. Do the work to fully integrate your automation tools with your CRM (customer relationship manager), ERP (enterprise resource planning tool), and your core financial systems.
- Back-Up Your Data: With more data being collected and automated, ensure that you have a contingency plan in place in case of emergencies. This means backing up data, having processes established to take over in the event of an outage, and training your people on what to do the moment something happens.
- Make Use of the Data: Automation can be set up to track, record, and publish more data than you ever have before, but it still needs to be made use of. Without action, data is just numbers. You need to build processes now to review the data and actively use it in your decision-making for the future. This can involve a total shift in your mindset, turning your business into a data-driven one rather than one that runs on instinct and guesswork.
- Carefully Plan Your Implementation: Building automation into your accounts payable processes is not always as simple as flipping a switch. It involves training your employees, adjusting workflows to specific needs, organizing data and automating its reporting, getting buy-in within your organization, and more.
Accounts payable automation has the ability to completely transform how your business handles accounts payable processes, freeing up time, simplifying complex tasks, reporting more accurate data, and more. Is your business ready to change the way you operate for the better?
Automation is an incredibly powerful tool for office managers and beyond. Dive deeper into the benefits and features that streamline and optimize your processes. Download our eBook, Understanding Workflow Automation, now to learn more.