SUBMITTED BY Kathi Haller, CPA

It’s not unusual to think of AP automation just as a solution for an AP department. And it certainly is that. But at its best, automation will also deliver benefits that reach far beyond that one department. Here are five examples:

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Approvers

It’s likely that no one in your company has a job title called “Approver.” Their job is not to approve invoices all day; their job is to do a lot of other things … some of which require that they make purchases and approve subsequent invoices. So approvals are actually an interruption to the zillion other things they are really paid to do.

No one wants these approvers to spend a lot of time on invoices. In fact, one of the reasons we often hear for missed due dates and late fees is that the invoice got buried in an avalanche of work sitting on an approver’s desk and did not get approved in a timely manner.

A good automation solution means you no longer must keep track of paper invoices or matching invoices with the appropriate PO. Approvers no longer spend time responding to queries from AP or rerouting invoices that were sent to them in error. They now have every piece of documentation related to the invoice at their fingertips regardless of where they’re located -- even out in the ‘field’ using only a mobile device. They can review past invoices while approving outstanding invoices. Questions about exceptions can be handled through dashboards and invoices can be reassigned if they were routed to the wrong approver.

When the approval process is more efficient not only do you make your approver’s job easier, but you save the company money.

Auditors

What are your organization’s requirements for preparing for, and surviving, an internal audit? Is it necessary to produce reams of paper documentation? Do you have to bring your auditors into one location, involving travel and endless hours at desks and around conference tables? Do you have complete confidence that your audit process is 100 percent compliant and the reports produced are complete and accurate?

A good automation solution ensures that all documents your auditors need are in one digital location and are easily accessed, shared, and reviewed even by remote staff. No need for them to travel to be on-site or to accumulate information to a single location for review. That not only means less hassle and reduced costs, it also makes compliance and accuracy goals much easier to reach.

You and your auditors will also benefit from the opportunity to spend time on analysis rather than data collection. Because SaaS automation has the ability to improve reporting and file compilation, it streamlines the audit process by making information more accessible. It also makes that information more meaningful which allows your auditors to focus on giving you feedback and suggestions for preventive or cost saving measures you can take in the future instead of chasing down documents and data.

One reason that the information provided to auditors is more reliable is that controls are inherent when using automated workflow. At DataServ your Approval Matrix is encoded into the system, so routing is never dependent on tribal knowledge or individual department preferences. Even in companies with autonomous divisions or international locations, the dynamic reporting into line level details and ability to access and compile batch records electronically allows your audit team to drill down into the data and cross-reference documents from all departments and locations.

Treasury

A good automation solution will add at least 30 days of visibility into company spend. It will consolidate all financial data into one repository of information, allowing you to see expenses coming up for payment, budget for future demands on cash, and make historical data more accessible to the financial team as well. Obviously that benefits your Treasury department.

Another way the Treasury department can predict outstanding obligations and manage cash is through using purchase orders for as many purchases as is practical. Often, it is a challenge to create POs for indirect spend purchases. What most people don’t realize is that the PO process can be automated as well. We call it our PO Req solution, and it cleans up the messy, inefficient way that most companies go about requesting, routing, and approving purchase orders.

When PO Req is combined with our AutoVouch™ 3-way matching process, you can not only have a truly touchless system for P2P processing, but you’ll have better control, better visibility, better compliance, and better ability to predict spend than you probably thought was possible. With both the P2P and PO processes fully automated, your Treasury department can provide more accurate projections and budgets with less frustration and likelihood of error.

Purchasing

It’s no secret that, in some organizations, Purchasing and AP can be a little adversarial. Not only is AP the natural recipient of any problems, discrepancies, or inaccuracies that are created during the purchasing process, documentation can get lost in the void between the two departments causing even more disruption and finger pointing.

With a shared dashboard that both departments can access, AP Automation provides a common point of reference between AP and Purchasing. Errors and miscommunications that typically occur between the two departments are more easily avoided because problems with documentation are handled in the system, centralizing all data, and making communication transparent.

The fewer discrepancies and the more easily they are reconciled, the better.

IT

AP automation will impact your IT department whether you choose an in-house solution or a SaaS solution. But to examine how that impact is most likely to be a positive one, we need to focus only on SaaS solutions. Choosing an in-house solution that your organization owns and must maintain puts an undue burden on IT since so much lands in their court and they never seem to have enough resources to get it all done. And placing that burden on your IT department is likely to compromise everything from your initial launch to the long-term sustainability of your system.

We believe that your IT department should be focused on the big company-wide solutions like your ERP rather than devoting resources to a system that can be successfully accessed through remote software.

These 5 stakeholders should be kept in mind as AP develops an automation solution. While it will be used primarily by the AP department, it will also be used by a lot of other people for select tasks and for short periods of time. A system that puts your vital financial data within easy reach of anyone whose job requires that access, one that is simple and easy to learn and use, one that automates the majority of the decisions your team makes on a regular basis, and one that does not tie up resources unnecessarily will provide many benefits for your organization across many roles and many departments.

If you've got questions about how an AP automation solution can benefit your organization, contact us.

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