We live in a world of technology and automation. Why? Because we’ve learned that nearly anything involving repetition can be done more efficiently, cost effectively, and even securely when technology is used to automate the process. Using technology to replicate processes that used to require people to touch multiple pieces of paper multiple times not only means less paper, it means more transparency of information and higher utilization of valuable human resources.
But life is a series of exceptions, and that’s true of your AP process as well, so automation can also mean less accuracy and less flexibility. And that is something that anyone who is accountable for the outcome of any system has a reason to be concerned about. That may be why, according to research from IOFM as reported in the white paper, The Single Solution to Invoice Processing Headaches, only 23 percent of businesses describe their accounts payable department as having a “high” level of automation. Because high tech is great, unless it means high anxiety, right?
That white paper focused on the benefits of Single Stream P2P processing as it applies to automating the way you process invoices. But as much as we believe in those benefits we know there is a lot more to AP than just the invoicing. And if your company is like our client’s companies, every system involved is subject to the impact of multiple variables.
How do you quantify those variables before you undertake the automation of your AP Department? I’m going to simplify the initial exercise just for the purpose of this short post. But this is something you can probably do in 20 minutes with your staff or even off the top of your head.
List all the types of documents that would represent an agreement to receive and pay for something. Do you use purchase orders, proposals, statements of work? What else?
List all the types of documents that would represent the terms of that agreement. Are your terms always recorded as part of the PO, bid, proposal, SOW? Or do you have separate vendor agreements that govern the terms with that vendor?
List all the types of documents that would verify receipt of the products or services you’ve agreement to receive and pay for. You probably have bills of lading, packing slips, or other proof of delivery documents.
List all the types of documents you receive that tell you how much you owe the vendor for the products or services you’ve received and have agreed to pay for under certain terms. Do your vendors send invoices electronically or regular mail? How consistent is the information and format of the invoices you receive? Just from those lists you can probably do a quick rough calculation of how many exceptions arise in your AR Department on an average day. Which may come as no surprise, but may very well be why you’ve been reluctant to automate.
We understand, it’s daunting to look at even from that 30,000 foot level, and it’s hard to believe that any service can take the place of your team’s tribal knowledge and hands on approach to accuracy.
And yet, you know that if you could work with a vendor who could handle those exceptions you could save your company money, elevate your staff members from repetitive tasks to knowledge-based projects, increase employee involvement and satisfaction, increase the level of reporting transparency, improve your budgeting and cost-projection accuracy, and decrease your risk exposure.
It’s exactly because we understand the scope of the exceptions you deal with every day that we use the combination of electronic processing, OCR input, and good ole human oversight and judgment to create Single Stream AP Automation. Because your job isn’t easy. But working together we can make it easier.