You keep hearing that you need a supplier network, right? We have clients come to us looking for AP automation after realizing that the supplier network they were using ended up causing more problems than they had anticipated. Disruptions in invoice processing, upset suppliers, overworked staff… when all they wanted was to take advantage of efficiencies in AP automation. We have firsthand experience with fixing problems caused by supplier networks and thought we should pass along some important information to you.


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In a previous blog post, we defined supplier networks and discussed why they have become popular. Obviously, buyers appreciate having options from which they can select suppliers according to their preferences (products, prices, location, etc.) because it helps them reduce costs and increase profits. But we know that if capitalizing on the efficiencies of AP automation is the ultimate goal of many businesses, they will inevitably be disappointed by supplier networks.

Supplier Network Complaints

Why do businesses often find supplier networks frustrating? Over time, we’ve heard a lot of complaints about supplier networks from our clients, but the ones we hear the most are:

  • If vendors don’t participate in the supplier network, their invoices have to be manually processed.
  • Manual processing of those out-of-network invoices is labor-intensive, placing a burden on their already busy employees.
  • Their vendors don’t want to pay a third party to submit an invoice, which damages vendor relationships.
  • Supplier networks required significant internal training time, which is time their staff could be spending on more valuable tasks.

In short, if your goal is to increase AP automation, which has been proven to save your business time and money, the truth is that a supplier network may not be the solution you are looking for.

The Alternative to a Supplier Network

The main time suck for any AP department is manual invoice processing. With the right AP automation partner, you can scan all your invoices through a full-service digital mailroom combined with optical character recognition (OCR). Why do we recommend partnering with an AP automation vendor versus handling OCR in-house? Third-party providers (like DataServ) can process invoices in any format (PDF, jpg, png) via any source (EDI, email, hard copies), and provide them back to you in a single stream with 99% accuracy. With third-party providers, you don’t have to worry about the installation, maintenance, and licensing costs of OCR software. Additionally, third-party providers employ experts to ensure all invoice data is accurate, and have the correct tools in place to identify missing, misread, or at-risk data.

The other issue that AP automation partners can solve is the cost to your vendors to switch to the supplier network. Your vendors don’t want to change their billing practices, and certainly don’t want to pay fees to work with a new supplier network. Third-party AP automation providers make it easy for your vendors to adapt to your changing billing practices. If they prefer to send invoices via mail, your AP automation partner just forwards your emails to our email address for you. If it's mail, you just change the invoice mailing address to a PO box set up by your AP automation partner. Your AP automation journey will be much smoother when you optimize with a third-party AP automation solution provider.

Take it from us: after over 25 years in the AP automation space, businesses should leave it to the experts in automation to find the efficiencies they need to optimize savings and free up their staff to do higher-value work. We take the burden of manual invoice processing off your employees and work hard to support your vendor and supplier relationships.

To learn more about DataServ’s APIA solutions, contact us today.


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