Many organizations may be unable to "go all in" with AP automation. Either it’s pricing that keeps them at a distance, outdated infrastructure, or just plain old unwillingness to change (if it ain’t broke, why fix it, after all).
Which is fine.
But, there are still ways to reap the benefits of an improved accounts payable workflow without going all in with automation. On a hamburger budget, you can enjoy the steak dinner of automation—even if it’s à la carte.
These are some of the accounting tools that’ll get you to a better way of doing things—a better payment workflow in AP.
Many organizations like HP, IBM, and Google—any Fortune 500 organization, really—use vendor portals for both invoice submission and payment status inquiry.
Thanks to the downstream nature of technology, what was once the domain for large organizations, is now accessible to organizations of all sizes.
Supplier portals free accounts payable clerks from performing the more distracting tasks such as answering payment inquiry calls by allowing them to focus on their primary duty—paying suppliers on time.
Best of all, supplier portals are the gateway to document management, which is the first step to going paperless.
Try as you might, you can never escape the paper check—as is the case when issuing one-offs or paying smaller suppliers’ invoices.
External check printing and mailing services have emerged as an electronic-friendly alternative to conventional paper checks. This tool is helpful for organizations that want to automate part of their payments process while still providing the touch of paper checks.
And when paired with APIs (as many of the higher-end external printing/mailing services offer) accountants need not leave their accounting platform—ever. Issuing and sending payment from a checking account is as simple as clicking a button.
Payables performs a delicate balancing act when processing employee’s T&Es. Accountants, here, must keep an ever-watchful eye for fraud and malintent, all the while processing reimbursements for their peers' business expenses. These competing priorities can prove a challenge even for the most experienced professional accountant.
Unsurprising, then, third-party T&E services have emerged within the past few years to address this pain—Expensify and Concur come to mind.
Organizations outsource the specifics of T&E, allowing payables to focus less on the “internal customer” and more on the “external” one; certainly making for a more palatable watercooler conversation.
Although not necessarily “just one tool,” the sharing of data across departments provides a whole toolbox of resources for accountants throughout an organization.
When non-siloed data (siloing is the term used to describe data that’s stuck in one application or organizational department) is shared, analytics and intelligence are used to make better decisions about business finances. For example, purchasing and procurement can use unobstructed data from payables to better negotiate rates from future suppliers. How? With the intelligence gleaned from knowing which suppliers already accept lowered invoice rates in exchange for faster payment. Purchasing and procurement can then work deals with this past payment behavior.
The only limitation in sharing data is a business analyst's imagination.
But the very best tool to improving any workflow in AP may very well be no tool at all.
By ditching paper—going paperless—AP gains time, a more secure process, and best of all, rebates.
Eliminating the need to transpose paper invoices into an accounting system saves countless hours and removes the risk of error in the transcription process. And since there’s no need for accountants to walk around the office, securing payment authorization is an almost immediate process.
What’s more, this efficient paperless workflow gives organizations the leverage needed to request invoice discounts in exchange for faster online payment. That’s why going paperless is the domain for rebates.
So how much will you have off the automation menu? An appetizer or the four-course meal of automation? Whatever you order, it’ll taste great!