Fighting the War on Paper in Accounts Payable

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Despite the increasing digitization of business today most businesses continue to fight a war on paper. Paper is everywhere — in filing cabinets, on desks, being shoved through copiers — and most importantly, paper is pervasive in nearly every fundamental business process.

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Essential functions like Accounts Payable, Human Resources and Contract Processing — which all organizations have and must manage – continue to suffer from the burden of paper forms, printed documents and manual workflow. Even organizations with specialized content management systems will often confess that when it comes to everyday routine business functions, document automation has often taken a back seat.

Combat the Burden of Paper

A recent study, “Paper Wars 2014,” performed by AIIM indicates that the tide is beginning to change in the fight against paper and that companies are starting to shift their focus to document automation in core functions like AP and HR.

Of the companies participating in the survey, 46% said that the biggest single productivity improvement for most of their business processes is to remove the paper. An impressive 68% of respondents stated that business-at-the-speed-of-paper will be “unacceptable in just a few years’ time.”

Improved searchability and sharability of documents, faster response, improved process productivity and reduced physical storage space were all identified as key drivers of document automation.

The AP Automation Opportunity

Where can you begin? Nowhere is the burden of paper more pervasive than in the Accounts Payable process. Yet according to AIIM’s 2014 report, “Automating AP/AR Financial Processes,” 50% percent of organizations have not deployed any automated accounts payable systems. And while you’d think that paper-pushing invoice processing was a thing of the past for all but the smallest businesses, the research found that one-third of organizations that receive more than 25,000 invoices per month are still using paper-based processes.

The result is an often costly and people-intensive process that leaves companies vulnerable to competitors and financial executives with a growing unease over the inherent inefficiencies. By relieving the burden of manual data entry, stare-and-compare matching, and other routine and repetitive activities, AP document automation helps your staff function in more productive and value-added activities.

Savings, Speed and Supplier Loyalty

Clearly, there is plenty of opportunity out there to fight the inherent inefficiencies and deficiencies of paper-based processes in Accounts Payable. While the justifications for an all-digital document workflow are quickly found in improved productivity and lower costs, today’s AP organizations are also benefiting from document automation as a way to improve the speed of response and payment, more aggressively leverage early pay discounts, and boost supplier experience and loyalty.

Ways to Win the Fight

Until recently adopting document automation and enterprise content management systems required an enterprise-sized budget, specialized expertise and a long-term implementation plan. But a next generation of solutions designed specifically for Accounts Payable is starting to change all that. These tailored solutions come with more tightly integrated features and functions that don’t require great investment or effort to adopt.

Look for solutions that make it easy to digitally capture, process and route your invoices and other supporting documentation so that you can reduce your procure-to-pay processing time and increase productivity. Utilize automated two and three way matching capabilities and integration with other ERP systems to reduce manual tasks. Use automation to speed the process and capture more early payment discounts while allowing your AP staff to perform in ways that add value to the organization.