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The robots are coming! (To make your Accounts Payable life easier)

March 29, 2018 Matt Vermeulen
Life without automation: paper invoices, scanners as advanced technology, a million redundancy headaches, wasted time shuffling through duplicates. It’s like being locked in paper shackles. The good news is that AP automation cuts out all those repetitive and simple tasks and eliminates the need for any paper. Seriously: no paper. The other good news is that automation can’t replace the complex and strategic tasks humans are good at. Your boss won’t be a robot anytime soon. So if your CFO goes all-in on automation, you’ll never have to waste your time on that massive backlog of boring tasks waiting for you every day. Instead, you’ll get to branch out and collaborate more strategically with other departments in your company. No more time-suck Whether you’re working for a global enterprise or a startup, your goal is to make sure that you only pay legitimate and accurate invoices. But the time-suck of manually processing documents slows everything down. Who doesn’t hate chasing down approvals or answering queries from suppliers about missing payments? What about searching for disappearing invoices? Or correcting mistyped numbers and wrong account codings? It’s a slog. E-invoicing gathers data from your suppliers automatically, enabling you to automate your Accounts Payable processes. AP automation processes and analyzes all of that tedious data drastically faster than any human: in fact, significantly automated processes can process almost 23,000 invoices per year per FTE (“Is your AP performance top tier?” IOFM, 2017). Automation can detect errors and suggest course corrections, reducing invoice processing time down to less than four days. And it can match invoices to multiple types of purchasing documents. As a result, you can increase the speed and accuracy of processing PO, non-PO and recurring invoices. You can increase your potential for dynamic discounting. And you can dramatically increase your suppliers’ invoicing efficiency. For most, straight through POs are just a dream, but with automation, they become the norm. Top performing AP departments utilizing automation are processing almost 60 percent straight through invoices. In other words, automation works like a magician: it takes the redundancy and complexity out of all that conflicting data and makes it simple and sortable. Your strategic sidekick “Ok, but wait, I thought you said I shouldn’t worry about my job,” you might say. You don’t! Automation is like a great sidekick, doing all the work on the back-end to make you a much more strategic partner to to the CFO. It takes data from invoices, purchase orders, corporate spend, supplier information, and anything filled out in a form and gives you instant access to the information you need to make strategic decisions. It has an immediate impact on your ability to forecast, budget, and plan. Plus, all of the data you’re gathering can help you connect with key stakeholders along the whole procure-to-pay spectrum. You’ll be able to support your peers in procurement with keeping suppliers happy. (Hint: suppliers like getting paid.). And with automation, you have real-time information to help with supplier inquiries, so you can build stronger relationships not only with your suppliers, but with the procurement function. Finally, almost by default, AP automation becomes the holder of a master vendor file. All of those invoices are collected digitally and entered into your system. Add supplier payment information and you have an intelligent insight into supplier management straight from the AP department. All of this information allows your AP department to be a key player in the greater organization strategy. By automating menial tasks, and gaining intelligent insight into spend data, AP can find a seat at the strategy table. Be an automation ambassador This sort of technological shift can feel both amazing and anxiety-inducing: you can see all of the possibilities, but you might also see how far your organization is from implementing it, and you’re afraid you’ll be left behind. But while the pace of innovation is rapid, there’s still time to shift with it. You can embrace these technologies and be an AP leader. How? Start evaluating automation provider offers: find out what’s available today, what works for you and your suppliers, and how closely it meets your requirements. Then embrace these technologies and tools to help make your job more exciting and strategic. The quicker you decide to automate, the easier it will be to streamline your whole accounts payable department. Make your life easier with Tradeshift. See how DHL embraced AP automation with the help of Tradeshift’s business commerce platform here.

About the Author

Matt Vermeulen

Matt Vermeulen writes about B2B commerce for Tradeshift. Whether he's writing about Accounts Payable best practices or debunking AI myths, Matt enjoys making complex topics easy to understand and fun to read.

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