For your business, the must-have for 2015 is AP Automation. On the ERP Software Blog, we’ve discussed Developing an ERP Strategy for Long Term Success, how to Gain Support for Automating Your AP Process in 5 Easy Steps and Preventing AP Automation Disaster with the Right Strategy and Planning.
In each of these blogs, I’ve highlighted how utilizing the right strategies for investigating, implementing and integrating AP Automation software can result in the best outcomes not only in managing your AP, but also in your overall ERP performance.
Now that you are ready to delve into selecting the right AP Automation software for your business, here are the top 5 “must-haves” for your wish list:
Stretch Armstrong Flexibility
Remember how flexible Stretch could be? Pretty amazing. If anything is certain in technology, it is how systems and devices are constantly in flux. Any new system you purchase – whether AP Automation or an ERP, you need to make sure your vendors are up to date with the latest and greatest – and are building systems that can accommodate new and emerging mobile technology.
According to a recent study by Gartner Research:
Vendors must monitor mobile developments that can augment financial management and incorporate mobility to be competitive, because this will be an area of differentiation during the next three to five years. To properly support mobility, end-user organizations must also monitor their vendors’ mobility roadmaps to plan on how to leverage these new capabilities.
Flexibility is not only the key to ensuring your AP system has some longevity built in, it’s also important to work with a technology partner who understands your business and can grow with you – and who won’t be obsolete before New Year’s Eve 2016. Maybe you don’t need to have the full workflow and reporting package now, but it should be in your overall plan in a year or so down the road.
Have these discussions with your vendor ahead of time so you can adequately prepare – and also confirm that your vendor can speak to how they plan to work with emerging technologies.
Smart Data Capture
Even the best AP Automation systems are only as good as the data input. Intelligent Data Capture is all about eliminating frustrating, tedious tasks. Instead of error-prone data entry, many AP Automation systems allow you to upload your invoices and all related documentation electronically – making you more efficient and reducing your number of exceptions and errors.
The system learns to recognize, classify, extract key index information, and automatically route document workflows for review and approval. Your organization can process large volumes of inbound delivery tickets, invoices, and sales orders from a wide variety of vendors and customers using your business rules.
You can also seamlessly populate and integrate with your accounting or ERP system as well. Intelligent document data capture can automatically recognize and assign vendor ID, default GL and other vendor/invoice information for a total automation solution that significantly reduces your procure-to-pay processing time.
Reporting and analytics
The power of automating your AP is the data you can get out of it. Gartner predicts that analytics “will reach 50 percent of potential users by 2014. By 2020, that figure will be 75 percent, and we will be in a world where systems of record, systems of differentiation and systems of innovation are enabling IT, business and individuals to analyze data in a much denser fashion than before. These trends will be accentuated further beyond 2014, with cloud, social, mobile and information/big data as new channels for bringing analytics to new audiences.”
For your AP system, this means tools that can help you more accurately predict financial outcomes and identify bottlenecks. When you can access all business data from one system from anywhere across the globe, you can better understand and analyze performance. Your AP department has access to open invoice reporting to get a better handle on outstanding invoices that are in-process, waiting on approvals or payment.
By increasing visibility into the AP Process through analytics and reporting, companies have a clearer picture of where they stand financially – examining invoicing issues and focusing on those accounts that need attention for improving overall cash management.
Access, access, access
Automating your AP process is definitely a step in the right direction for increasing visibility to your data. But make sure you are working with a system that provides that access to the right people, with the right security, at the right time. For your staff, it means working with a system that meets your organization’s need for data sharing. For smaller businesses, your solution can live on a dedicated server.
For larger enterprises, the cloud offers fully mobile solutions that can be accessed from anywhere at any time.
Integrating with your ERP provides your entire financial team with deeper access and insight into your AP every step of the way. And you don’t need to stop there. Many businesses have had success by letting suppliers into the integration chain by receiving electronic submittals, purchase orders and setting revised payment terms.
Many times you can negotiate early pay discounts. Letting suppliers know your preferred formats for receiving invoices can streamline your process even further and help strengthen your vendor relationships by shortening your payment cycle.
“Leaders are 72% more likely than Followers to have visibility into all stages of the electronic payments process.” Aberdeen Group
Last but certainly not at all least is excellent support. The entire process of automating your AP process means updating the old manual way of doing things, importing legacy data, training staff and implementing new work flows.
This takes time, encouragement and dedication to do right. It is important to work with a partner who can provide you with the support you need through each stage of the process.
With the proper management and reporting, your implementation can run more smoothly while your team learns a new way of working.
Sometimes turnkey solutions look good on paper or online, but in reality, any implementation – especially when it is your sensitive financial data – should be handled in some part by your vendor who can guide you through industry best practices and help you manage realistic timelines.
Start off 2015 right with the right flexibility, access, data capture, reporting and analytics to transform your AP workflow. There is no better time than the present to gain control over your financial management, increase efficiency and improve your business insight.