Workflow automation can help you streamline your business processes in many different ways. Accounts payable automation is perhaps the easiest place to start. The process through which you’ll automate accounts payable can quickly transform the way you do business, but it’s important to take the time to implement everything properly.
Where to Start the Automation Process
Start with a thorough examination of your existing invoice processes. As pointed out over on the PayStream blog, taking a look at the way things are currently running will help you understand how everything fits together and give visibility into the areas where there’s room for improvement.
For example, you’ll be able to see which steps in your invoice processes are eating up the most time, or carefully analyze cash flow trends so you can manage your capital better in the future. To start digging into your current processes, here are the kinds of questions you should ask:
How do invoices arrive, and what format are they in?
First things first: what percentage of your invoices show up via snail mail, email, fax, and any other distribution engine? What is your process for the different invoice formats?
How many invoices do you process monthly?
What’s your average flow of invoices? Is the number of invoices consistent per month? Are you paying the invoices on a timely basis?
Who is involved in the invoice approval process?
Do you have an invoice processing specialist, a team of specialists, or do you use employees tasked elsewhere to also handle invoice approval? Do you have enough people to process your invoices on time? Are you using temps to help you process invoices, and how much is that costing your company? Where are the log jams in processing?
What is the approval process for purchase orders (PO) and non-PO invoices?
What percentages of your invoices are purchase order-based? Is your process the same for purchase order-based invoices and non-purchase order invoices? Do you require management to approve three-way matched invoices before processing?
What information needs to be available to management?
Does management need to know in real time who is processing which invoice, where there is a processing logjam, who is not processing invoices quickly enough, or who is the most reliable member of your processing team? What gaps in management’s knowledge could stand to be filled?
How are exceptions and problems handled?
How are exceptions like non-matching PO-based invoices or invoices from new vendors not yet in your system handled?
How do invoices get posted and paid?
How is the data from the invoices being entered into your accounting system for payment? If it is manually-entered data, what are the error rates? What’s the end stage process for wrapping up each individual invoice?
You know your processes, but you may not know precisely how everything currently fits together. Before you can automate accounts payable, a data-driven, analytical accounting of your processes sorts through the noise and puts the pieces in order so you can see the broader picture. You may very well find out that your processes are sound and workflow automation isn’t the right fit for your business, but you won’t know that for sure until you have everything in front of you and can go over it knowledgeably with a potential automation partner.
When you’re ready to talk about accounts payable automation, we’re ready to help you analyze your process. Contact us at (888) 294-1965 to get started today, or for more information, download our free AP automation guide.Download the guide