More and more C-Suite financial leaders are focusing their attention on Accounts Payable. CFO’s are searching for ways to automate the process and bring more value to the activities and people involved.
But AP automation can seem mysterious and complex without a clear roadmap to guide your direction. One way to go is to use a phased approach that starts with the basics and then expands to more advanced techniques.
While there are a great many capabilities and technologies available, the truth is that not everyone needs a fully-encompassing AP automation solution right out of the gate. And it is not realistic to expect to take a completely manual process and automate it overnight.
You can keep your cost of entry low and your chances of success high by starting with some fundamentals that bring benefits right away, and then move on from there.
To get started, consider these three phases of AP automation.
Phase One – Scan & Store
This phase is characterized by the ability to scan paper documents and store them in digital form. This at the heart of relieving the burden of paper in the AP process. Commonly available scanning hardware captures document images and rudimentary software allows users to manually enter basic information about each document.
From there invoices are routed via e-mail for attention and approval. Many companies find this to be an easy transition because automation is achieved with common desktop scanners and email.
Phase Two – Using Intelligent Data Capture
This phase brings technologies into play that can “read” data from document images and allow you to leverage that information in new ways. Templates drive the process where specific zones are automatically gleaned of information that would otherwise need to be keyed in manually. Other advances include the use of barcodes and simple business rules that bring further automation to the workflow.
Phase Three – Process Invoices Electronically
This phase involves initiating the AP process electronically. In addition to receiving paper invoices and scanning them into the system, companies begin to compel suppliers to submit invoices electronically and eliminate paper-processing altogether.
This saves time, money and leads to fewer errors. The vision is one where all documents are captured, digitized and stored with the least amount of manual labor.
A considerate approach based upon these three phases is the best AP Automation strategy moving forward.
By starting in phase one, and growing and expanding toward phases two and three, you capitalize on immediate savings and efficiencies while avoiding the pitfalls of an undertaking that may be so complex and overwhelming that you’ll miss the mark.
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