By now, most accounts payable professionals and CFOs know how revolutionary an AP automation process can be. But understanding a solution and implementing it are two very, very different actions.
So what is a motivated AP professional to do?
10 Tips for AP Automation Success
A solid strategy that considers potential challenges to AP automation will do more than push transformation forward. It can also ensure the project’s success. To maximize automation’s potential, it’s critical to consider more than simple workflow processes. People make all the difference.
Below are our top tips for planning a successful AP automation project.
1. Assign an AP automation project manager
It can be extremely useful to delegate AP automation tasks to a single point of contact, as an AP automation project can easily spin out of control. Not only does AP automation require planning, but many different stakeholders are involved, including the management team, the AP team, the IT department, and the third-party vendor. Delegating all main automation tasks to a single individual can help keep things organized.
2. Map out the entire workflow
Another essential task is to map out the entire AP process and the company’s overall objectives. It’s important not only to list manual processes and hope to align each step with technology. Drawing out the entire workflow, including bottlenecks and end-goals, can help the team pinpoint strategic areas to automate first. Furthermore, the in-depth mapping of the accounts payable process can help in presentations to get executive and accounting team buy-in.
3. Foster buy-in from the AP team
True AP automation is in jeopardy if the AP team isn’t on board with the new technology. One way to reduce resistance while building up a case for further accounts payable automation is to automate one system or process at a time. Not only does this reduce the learning curve for the team, but this method gradually frees up more time for later innovation and high-value tasks.
4. Keep suppliers in the loop
Too often, we get carried away with internal communications around the AP automation project that it’s easy to forget vendors and suppliers. However, third-party suppliers may need to update their invoicing process to match the new automation. Or, conversely, they may be happy that the AP process finally meshes with their automated AR. Either way, keeping everyone in the loop is a sure way to improve vendor relationships.
5. Leverage automation integrations
Many companies stop their AP investments by purchasing a license to an ERP. But an ERP isn’t end-to-end automation, even if a few tools can mimic automation software.
Most ERPs do support automation integrations. These third-party integrations can provide full automation for invoice processing, receipts, VAT capture, timesheets,
6. Update the company expense policy
Another item that’s easy to forget about is updating the expense policy. While a payable automation solution will likely flag potential policy violations, updating the policy on the employee handbook can further reduce errors.
7. Track the right KPIs
What gets tracked, gets fixed, and the same is true for any automated AP process. Without access to rich data, it’s hard to understand how to optimize AP automation down the road. Some common APIs include:
- Cost per invoice
- Payment accuracy rate
- Days payable outstanding (DPO)
- Early payment discount capture rate
8. Customize the automation
Another factor to AP automation success is customization. It’s possible to personalize what information is pulled from supplier invoice data. Depending on the AP automation solution, one may be able to customize what data is pulled and sent to an ERP by adding dynamic fields. This makes it easy to pull specific data sets and seamlessly push them to an ERP.
9. Design a backup plan
An AP automation project is a chance to reaccess AP processes and cut out the excess steps. However, it’s important to keep a backup plan in case of a power outage or unexpected event. Keep in mind, that investing in an ERP or automation integration that is cloud-based can help navigate difficult work situations and allow an AP team to work from anywhere.
10. Document everything
Don’t forget to document the AP automation process. Keeping clear documentation can accelerate staff training and help individual employees troubleshoot their process. Typically, this is a task that the delegated AP automation project manager should focus on. This individual’s email or contact information should also be given to the AP team for potential questions.
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