Many companies today wonder about automating their invoices processes.
Everything in their environment seems to be pushing them in that direction, starting with legal obligations. For example, in France, all companies must submit their invoices to public-sector clients in electronic format via the Chorus Pro portal, as of January 1, 2020. In addition, an ever-growing number of regulations increasingly require companies to produce documents for which they can guarantee the integrity of content and information. Enabling archives with probative value is one of the greatest benefits of digital invoices.
Leading this evolution, chartered accountants and auditors are particularly well positioned to observe the benefits of AP Automation, including: drastic reductions in errors, late payments and disputes (and thus the time spent dealing with them), as well as far greater reliability and security for processing, reinforced transparency and traceability regarding exchanges, productivity gains, improved work conditions for employees, faster and easier access to documents, a more modern image for the company internally and externally, and more.
1. Lower costs, faster processing
However, for both accounting professionals and companies, the main attraction is still the highly beneficial cost of automated invoices compared to paper invoices. The cost to process an invoice manually is estimated at 9 € to 20 €. On top of that, you also need to consider storage, archives and, as needed, document look-up, representing an average of 3.25 € when taking into account indirect costs (such as time spent and storage space) and indirect costs (such as loss and delays). By digitalising invoices, these costs can be lowered by 70%. Even better, with digitalisation, companies can also automate many tasks and further increase their return on investment. In the end, it is possible to improve the processing cycle by a factor of 20!
To maximise these benefits, the question that comes up is that of choosing which ap automation software to use. Four main criteria must be considered. The first is functional: the solution must cover all the company’s needs from capturing incoming documents regardless of their format (paper, PDF, EDI...) up through secure archiving, after passing through all the phases of the accounting process.
2. Choosing the right AP Automation software
The second criterion concerns the technology: a modern, open, Cloud-oriented solution enables the company to take advantage of new technologies, such as Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning, as well as to interface easily with their regular ERP, management and accounting systems. The third criterion is practical: the solution must be easy to manage, intuitive, enjoyable and benefit from accessible and professional support so that the solution is perceived by users as a real advantage for their everyday work. The last criterion, and not the least, is price: the provider’s pricing must be clear and all-inclusive, and not hold any bad surprises. The Cloud is often the most attractive approach, as its subscription model enables companies to only pay for what they really use, without taking the risk of a long-term contractual commitment.
3. Users, the key to success
Given these considerations, what are the factors for a successful AP automation project? How can you approach the project to quickly and confidently obtain the expected benefits? One of the priorities is to really understand how the people using the solution perform their jobs (purchasing, accounting, management control...) and what they expect. AP Automation is much more than a simple transposition of people’s work methods into software. It actually helps them overcome traditional limits, such as: redundant tasks, time-consuming and error-prone data (re)entry, risks and shortcomings in processes, and more. Designing the solution with users is a way to give yourself the best chances of being able to provide them with a tool that works for them and which they will adopt willingly. After choosing adapted and sufficiently flexible software, aspects such as configuration, deployment and learning are also much easier, resulting in concrete results being obtained nearly immediately.
In conclusion, if there is one word that summarises the benefits of ap automation for companies, it would be “control”. The invoice management process, with direct impact on expenses, is vital for companies. With ap automation, that process is fully under control both with respect to associated risks (fraud, disputes and non-conformities) and intrinsic costs (productivity). By implementing the right solution, AP automation can become the cornerstone for disciplined and transparent management.
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