September 10, 2013 by Tom Zeliff Categories: Solutions

Implementing workflow automation in your accounts payable department is an easy three-step process and one that a document management company well versed in invoice processing automation can do for you in a matter of weeks:

Step 1: Document and Fine-Tune Your Existing Process

You need to document how invoices arrive and move through your organization. For instance:

  • In what format and how do invoices arrive? (e.g. paper mail, email, fax, EDI)
  • Who is involved in the invoice approval process?
  • How many invoices are processed monthly?
  • What is the approval process for both PO and non-PO invoices?
  • What information needs to be available to management?
  • How are exceptions and problems handled?
  • How do invoices get posted?

It is also necessary for you to detail your organization’s rules for approving invoices. It streamlines the process for a document management partner to set up the necessary workflows so you can begin gaining efficiency and financial benefits of accounts payable automation as soon as possible.

Step 2: Be SMART

Establishing clear goals will help clarify your objectives in automating your processes and evaluating your ROI. Each goal should be:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Attainable
  • Relevant
  • Timely

For example, you may want to improve invoice processing time, reduce data-entry errors, take advantage of early-pay discounts, avoid late fees etc.

Step 3: Implement Workflow Automation Software

Once your automation goals are established and accounts payable processes mapped, they will be replicated and automated with workflow automation software that will:

  • Route scanned invoices to appropriate staff based on your business rules for processing
  • Email alerts and notifications when action has (or hasn’t) been taken
  • Determine if all information is present for processing and if not notify appropriate staff
  • Track processing steps and employee productivity
  • Provide management visibility into the processes
  • Electronically share data with your ERP or accounting system

How to Leverage Workflow for Further Productivity Gains

Once workflow automation is in place you may find ways to further improve the process for even greater efficiency. You may want to remove certain approval and review steps if you see they are unnecessary or add additional steps to further tweak the workflows. You may also want to deploy mobile capabilities so approvals can take place on mobile devices while employees are on the go.

You can also leverage your workflow software for use in other departments including human resources (on-boarding), sales (order fulfillment) accounts receivable, legal (contracts), and shipping/receiving.

Workflow Automation Next Steps

From our experience, the best way to painlessly implement invoice processing automation is to find a document management company with the following experience:

  • Experience working with CFOs, comptrollers and other finance executives in automating accounts payable and invoice processing
  • Ability to integrate invoice processing automation software with your ERP or accounting software
  • Both the options of scanning your invoices off-site with PO box scanning services or implementing an in-house invoice document management system

Finding a partner with these capabilities will help you cut costs, improve efficiency, resolve payment issues quickly and re-purpose staff for higher value activities.

For more information, read Part 1 of our CFO Executive Briefing on invoice processing automation