For companies that want to improve their bottom lines, continuously reassessing and upgrading key business processes is crucial. When deciding which processes to improve to get the best ROI, the accounts payable department is a good place to start because its functions impact every department in addition to the bottom line.
In fact, automating even one small piece of the AP process can result in significant time and money savings for your entire organization. Depending on your company’s size, it may be most practical to start by automating one part of the AP process, leaving open the possibility of increasing the scope of your automation project as your business expands.
A Smooth Path to Implementing Accounts Payable
The experts at PayStream Advisors have confirmed through research that while companies in the lower middle-market don’t have to implement fully-featured AP automation software to improve accounts payable processes, you’re much more likely to achieve a successful implementation if common steps and characteristics are followed. Here are just three steps:
- Examine your current invoice management process
- Start with solutions that are quick to implement
- Get employees on board with training and support
Step 1. Examine your current invoice management process
Becoming intimately familiar with your current invoice processing structure is vital as you decide which AP processes to automate. You should consider how many locations and ERP systems your business has in place, the monthly invoice volume for each site, and the number of people who currently participate in your existing invoice workflows.
These metrics will help you get a clear image of the time you spend managing paper invoices as well as an estimation of what it costs to do so.
Remember, AP automation isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Could your organization benefit from outsourced mailroom services, where incoming invoices are scanned and digitized upon receipt? Or perhaps you already receive most invoices via email and could benefit from automated electronic invoice processing. Whatever you decide, be sure the solution you opt for is tailor-made for your unique business needs.
Step 2. Start with solutions that are quick to implement
When it comes to making changes to processes, the fewer interruptions to business you can manage, the better. Luckily, many mid-market AP solutions are built to integrate easily with the systems your business already has in place.
For example, cloud-based solutions can be easily and quickly implemented without advanced IT involvement. After integrating them with your current systems and uploading your data, cloud-based workflow management solutions can be operational within just a few hours. With cloud-based solutions, you also have the benefit of only paying for the features and storage space you use, rather than trying to work with software that’s too complex for your needs.
Step 3. Get your employees on board with automation
AP automation will only work for you if everyone involved in the accounts payable process gets on board. As you choose an automation solution, make sure to select a provider that offers comprehensive employee training before the solution is rolled out as well as ongoing support once it’s in place.
Set up business rules that ensure employees follow the process to the letter, and emphasize the importance of doing so during training. Also keep in mind that invoice processing likely looks different at different times—like at the end of the fiscal year or as you wrap up each quarter—so ensure your automation solution can flex to fit those scenarios and that employees understand when variations will occur.
Making sure everyone is comfortable with the newly automated process will ensure your transition away from paper invoice processing goes as smoothly as possible.
Start automating invoice processing today
AP automation in the lower middle market means better control over your business’ efficiency and expenses. Want to see just how much you could save by automating accounts payable? Get all the details in the full, free guide: Guide to Payables Automation