July 2018 — Automation has become a key watchword for today’s corporate finance professionals – and for good reason. It offers significant benefits – from helping to streamline processes and reducing unnecessary manual work to delivering huge cost savings and competitive advantage. But to gain the greatest value from automation, you should get your house in order first.
So, how can you best prepare to lay the foundation for AP automation? Here are three important, yet easy process development tasks to help improve your AP operations:
1. Streamline the Process
Have you ever really stopped to think why you are performing certain tasks in the first place? Before automating, review your AP process critically to determine if you are doing any unnecessary tasks. You know, those tasks that no one has ever questioned because “that’s the way that things have always been done.” Take time to think about them. If there aren’t benefits to implementing these tasks, then just stop doing them. It’s as simple as that. You’ll be saving your company both time and money.
Also, bear in mind how often you perform certain tasks. For example, are you paying invoices five times a week? If so, reduce that to once or even twice a week. Having your AP department handle a larger number of invoices at once will reduce their workload and free up time to focus on more strategic tasks – such as handling exceptions.
2. Divide Your Work
Consider how you divide the work between AP and invoice reviewers/approvers in the business units. It’s best to centralize as much of your AP-related work as possible. Processing invoices centrally in bulk increases efficiency and helps you identify repetitive tasks that are prime for automation. Using the experts in AP to centralize invoice coding and operations not only increases the quality of bookkeeping, but also reduces the frustrations of invoice reviewers and approvers whose core competencies lie elsewhere.
Also, make sure to match your invoices against their respective Purchase Orders (POs) and contracts to reduce the workload and expedite processing. There is no need to reapprove invoices that have a matching PO. The same goes for recurring contract-based invoices.
3. Gain Control and Compliance
Think about all of the policies that need to be in place for an effective process – for example, how many approvers are needed for invoices of a certain dollar amount? Internal controls not only ensure the integrity of your financial and accounting information and compliance with laws and regulations, but they also help you to prevent fraud or other kind of foul play. Besides, well thought-out internal controls increase your operational efficiency and streamline your processes as well as make them more transparent inside and outside your organization.
By following the three process development tasks above, you’ll not only have your house in order, but you’ll also have a more streamlined and efficient AP process. It’s a great way to start your AP automation journey.
Are you looking to streamline and automate your AP process?
Take a look at our new series of guidebooks – The Road to AP Automation. These guidebooks will help you start the process of automating your AP and get you on the right path. The first booklet "The AP Process" provides insight into AP process development to help you effectively prepare for automation.