Automating Accounts…Simply a Great Investment

account automation

The most compelling reason to automate your Accounts payable process is that it is simply a great investment.

The attractiveness as an investment is well documented. The Hackett Group, The Institute of Finance and Management, Nucleus Research, Aberdeen Group, The Institute of Financial Operations ( As well as many other independent industry experts) document broad and substantial cost savings.  Here’s a good example: The Aberdeen Group reported  Accounts payable Invoice Management at a cost of less than $2 to pay a bill, while the majority pay $6 – $25 or even more in some cases, this indicates that readily available savings of more than $4000 for every 1000 invoices are up for grabs in most organizations! In other words, Automation pays for itself and then some.

If you are a part of the Accounts payable in any way, you are probably aware that things could be done better or you are just too busy to even think about it. If you are aware, you have probably already tried to action some change, but were met with some resistance somewhere along the line. So, if the savings in money alone doesn’t get you the go ahead, creating your own business case for change in how you handle Accounts payable is the way to go about it and there is more than enough evidence to make your case compelling.

I’ll touch on some of the main points now:

Operational Flexibility –  Accounts payable must adapt to the organization’s needs. This could include handling of increased transaction volumes due to growth or acquisition. It may require displacement of functions into different physical locations. Accounts payable end up having to provide higher value services, including spend analysis and forecasting. If strategy or requirements change, manual, people-intensive and non-standardized processes can only adapt to these changes by investing in significant additional resources.

Speed – How long does your process take? I once worked in a place where everything had an approval route, whether it be ordering something from outside the company or even getting things already located on site. You’d fill out your form and then try to establish who needed to approve it and find out where they are. You’d set off on your journey to get the signatures, this was a big site too so sometime walking to the office of the approver would take a significant amount of time in itself. More than often the approver was not at their desk and if they were they’d inform you that they weren’t the correct person for this particular task and send you off on another journey to the correct person (who would sometimes send you right back with an explanation as to why they are not the correct person and the original person was all along). Once the signatures have been gathered then you had to take the form to the purchasing department or whoever holds the keys to where the tools or stationery (or whatever it was that you needed) were kept. The forms were then (hopefully) processed and filed away. So just getting an order created could take a couple of hours and things were even worse if we did an audit as things often ended up in the wrong place or were forgotten altogether. Damaged, illegible forms were also always a spanner in the works.

Accuracy – People make mistakes, even the best of them. Mistakes can be hard to spot and often even harder to fix if not caught in time. Minimizing human interaction naturally leads to fewer mistakes, things don’t get lost or misfiled either so you end up being able to swiftly access all data whenever it is needed.

Save Money on Transactions – The inherent speed of an automated Accounts payable system can not only cut down on penalty costs incurred through late payment, but can help you take advantage of early payment discounts offered by your suppliers.

Cut down on clutter – Imagine a world with fewer storage rooms and fewer of the dreaded filing cabinets that refuse to open and when they do, they attack you in some way. Broken nails, hurt fingers or wrists even concussions. You also cut down on the desk clutter; no more overflowing “In Trays” overwhelming the masses as they are wheeled in once collected from around the office. Real time electronic notifications will make the tasks less daunting and help promote a stress free work environment.

Environmentally Friendly – Pretty much self-explanatory this one, most of the afore-mentioned clutter used to be trees. You’ll also reduce the need for various other items like ink, paper clips, staples, rubber stamps and so on and so forth.

Instant access to information – You know how everyone keeps asking you for information like, you should have it all stored in your own brain? Things like “How many flugelbinders did we order in total the year before last?” And “How does that compare to how many we ordered last year? I have to place an order in 15 minutes and need to have an idea of how many we need this year.”  Well, when you are automated you can find that information with a few keystrokes as opposed to dying a little inside and trying to communicate that, spelunking through the file systems for that specific requirement. That would take considerably longer than 15 minutes whilst maintaining the illusion of calm, remaining professional and trying to assure them that it’s not an excuse for being bad at your job.

Reduce guesswork – The word ‘roughly’ will soon no longer be in your vocabulary. Words like ‘precisely’ and ‘exactly’ are all you know now. Managers and employees alike will stare in awe at your Rainman like prowess. Seriously though, you’ll have access to all kinds of facts and figures almost instantly with minimal effort, literally just lifting a finger.

Minimize fraud – Back to human error here, sometimes it’s intentional, rogue employees exploiting the holes in the system for personal gain by putting seemingly legit spend directly into their own pockets. It’s not just an internal threat either as you’d suspect, we have exposed fraudsters far and wide, some with the simplest of methods used to take your cash, like sending a company an invoice which the company simply pays without question!

The big picture – User-friendly displays allow owners and managers to access data for all stages of procurement and workflow so that they can visualize and assess their performance. Easy retrieval of files to compare productivity between departments allows for charting of performances as regularly and over whatever time period one desires.

Make decisions easier – With all that information at your fingertips you can easily know the things you need to know to make a decision.

We recommend three simple steps to set your organization down the path to successful Accounts payable automation:

  1. Build your Accounts payable automation business case: Use available internal and external data to make it easy to see  the benefits of automation for your organization specifically. Speak to colleagues across departments to find out about time and cost and frustrations. Look at data on similar organizations who have automated and what it meant to them.
  1. Invest time in the presentation of the case: Competing for executive attention and sponsorship over other projects is a huge obstacle. You need to present it in a form that is compelling to all the people involved in the decision making process so that they are likely to sign off on implementing a system.
  1. Demos and test drives: A live demo is a really great way to have a system presented to a group of people who don’t have much time to spare, with it being live, the demo is seamless as it is operated by someone who knows the system and it allows for specific questions to be answered there and then. Once you’ve found a good fit for your needs you can probably get the opportunity to take the system for a spin before committing to buy. For example you can book a live demo (at a time that suits you) from here and your free trial and other information here.

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