SUBMITTED BY Jeff Haller

In our experience, more than 20 years of it, we have seen that most companies experience a natural evolution in their P2P processing.

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They move from paper and completely manual processes to digital capture of invoices, from there to not only capturing the data electronically but also importing it into some kind of workflow, from there to automated matching of invoices to purchase orders, and finally into fully functional shared services.

Yet, most AP automation solution partners don’t allow companies to add technology as they evolve, preferring to sell their software capabilities as a “one size fits all” package or a custom developed solution.

But one size doesn’t really fit all. AP Departments differ greatly in complexity level. Some of our clients have approvers distributed across multiple departments or locations who need the ability to review and approve remotely, while some have an approval matrix that is very simple. Some are experiencing internal change due to acquisitions or rapid sales growth, while some are in a cycle of relatively stable, incremental growth. Some have a high percentage of indirect purchases while some have corresponding purchase orders for most of the invoices they receive.

If all of these companies had to buy the same level of automation many of them would be paying for capabilities they don’t yet need, or perhaps will never be able to fully use to their advantage.

Or they might never even get started on AP evolution at all because it would be too large of a project to afford or even attempt.

Certainly we have seen some clients who make the leap from a manual process to implementing the whole enchilada, but others prefer to take it in what we call “bite-sized chunks,” letting the complexity of their requirements dictate the capabilities they purchase.

That means our clients can start anywhere in their evolution and purchase only what they need, adding components as those needs change to increase efficiency, accuracy, compliance, and visibility.

Electronic Data Capture

Usually automation begins with setting a client up with our Digital Mailroom for upfront data capture. We can push the data off to another work queue for processing, but for most of our clients the data is captured, validated through our highly skilled QA process, and massaged into a single digital data stream. From there, the data is utilized to automate matching, populate ERP systems while documents are properly encoded and archived automatically.

This capability is also the ideal solution for the “leftovers” that are nearly inevitable for clients working with a any kind of “Supplier Network”. Because it is rare for a company to reach 100 percent vendor compliance (we haven’t heard from one company yet that has done so) there are always some invoices that must be handled manually.

Most companies using Ariba, Coupa, Concur, or other Suppler Network-driven solutions report a minimum of 25 percent of their invoices fall into this category. If this is your situation your leftover invoices can be routed through our Digital Mailroom and folded seamlessly into your workflow without requiring time or effort from your AP staff.

Whether they’re using it to manage all their invoices or only those invoices that do not comply with the format required by their Supplier Network, for some clients this piece is the only capability they need from DataServ.

Automated Workflow

Unless you are using another solution for workflow, or have few invoices and only one or two authorized approvers, you will probably want to add Automated Workflow to allow for internal collaboration and visibility into your AP process.

For your company’s finance department, control and visibility is the Holy Grail. Without it they’re dependent on the accuracy of past experience (or tribal knowledge and guesswork) to know how much cash to allocate to these short-term liabilities. Your AP team is spending untold hours tracking invoices, approvers, exceptions and purchase orders. They’re missing out on early-pay discounts and stressing over how to avoid late fees. And they’re unable to know exactly who has what invoice and where it is in the approval process.

With Automated Workflow your Approval Matrix is built into the system, so invoices are assigned to job numbers or locations, routed to approvers, flagged for early-pay or due date deadlines, all according to user-defined criteria. Our dashboard gives all your users visibility into the status of every outstanding invoice and the ability to manage the process remotely.

If your company has multiple locations, especially international locations, this capability is key to consolidating tasks, enforcing compliance, and reducing risk of fraud. Being able to monitor all your invoices from any location and to collaborate with any team member to resolve issues with invoices saves time, money, and stress.

With this piece of the DataServ solution also comes our Vendor Portal. Rather than reaching out to your staff, your vendors can check the status of their invoices in real time. If you need to work with a vendor on an individual invoice you can even forward a document via a one-time link that expires after 30 days. This transparency with vendors not only protects your staff from the time and hassle of tracking down the status of an invoice in order to respond to vendor queries, it also increases the trust level in your vendor relationships.

AutoVouch™ 3-Way Match

If you generate Purchase Orders for more than half of your invoices you’ll probably want to add AutoVouch to your DataServ solution. This capability uses 3-way matching based on user-defined rules and tolerances to move the invoices that pass the test for accuracy through the payment process while targeting exceptions for quick resolution. This intuitive exception workflow uses multiple levels of verification to create a no-touch process. This allows you to lower your invoice processing costs and improve your staff productivity while streamlining your AP functionality.

It’s important to note that AutoVouch does not replace ERP matching, it is a function that is performed before the data is imported into your ERP. So you can use multiple ERPs, or change ERPs, without affecting the efficiency of your invoice automation.

If more than half of your invoices do not have a Purchase Order associated with them you may not see significant ROI from the AutoVouch component, but that is just one reason we have developed a solution that is modular; so that you can take the “bite-sized chunks” that will benefit you now and only purchase the others when, and if, your model changes enough to justify the expense.

Start With What You Need

Whether you are just moving from a manual process to automation, need to cover the gaps left by a Supplier Network, or you need to convert from your current system to DataServ’s solution one department or location at a time, you have the option to buy only the technology you need today while knowing that you can phase in other modules as appropriate.

We have a plan for every stage of your evolution, and wherever you are now we can help. From a single capability to a full-blown solution, we’ll work with you to tailor the ideal configuration for your situation.

Talk to one of our Account Executives about tailoring your ideal AP Automation solution.
Call 877.700.3282 or email info@DataServ.com.

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