April 12, 2016 by Mitch Taube Categories: Office Automation

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.

This begins with a thorough examination of your existing invoice processes. By going over the who, what, when, where, why and how, you’ll figure out how everything fits together and where there might be room for improvement. Find out what the problem areas may be, and you start your automation process from surer footing that will lead to better results.

Accounts payable automation mostly boils down to invoice automation; as such, it’s important to have the relevant information available before you begin. Here are some questions you should ask, and the kind of information for which you should be looking:

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!

If you would like more information, read our guide: The Process of Automating Accounts Payable with Workflow.