In the first post of this series, we identified common bottlenecks and challenges facing companies that utilize a manual AP process. As we saw, an automated system can help relieve these challenges and streamline the AP process in a way that benefits your business.
But how and where do you start? And what sort of advantages can automated AP processes bring to the table?
In this post, we’ll highlight what you can do to integrate efficient, easy-to-use automation and how easily these processes will strengthen your business model.
1. Create more efficient processes
First things first: it’s time to ditch the time-worn ways of manual processes. Faxes, paper, handwritten checks—these all require time and resources to process, which can lead to backups and bottlenecks. Instead, look to switch to more efficient online processes.
Modern spend management solutions can offer a number of benefits. Companies that choose to move their AP functions online and automate AP cycles often see significant decreases in processing costs and turnaround times. In fact, enterprises that digitize can expect:
- 81% lower processing costs
- 73% faster processing cycle times
In fact, Emburse Certify found that 98% of customers agreed that automating previously manual tasks allowed them to support a remote workforce.
While this all may sound tempting, it’s important to take the time to choose the right software that fits your company’s needs. Some important solutions to look for include online requisition and invoice processing capabilities, advanced analytic dashboards to gain better insights into AP, and more efficient workflows that drastically speed up your AP cycles.
Finding a program that not only suits your business but can also be tailored on an as-needed basis to accommodate new developments is critical for long-term sustainability. The right solution will allow you to easily create custom workflows that fit your team’s specific compliance requirements.
Some programs may also make it easier to save money on business-related purchases. Advanced features—such as shopping with pre-approved vendors, negotiating pre-approved discounts, and earning early payment discounts—make work a whole lot easier.
If you already have an accounting or cost management solution in place but aren’t happy with it, maybe it’s time for an upgrade. No matter what system you’re already using, you deserve a comprehensive suite of solutions, including travel and expense management, streamlined reimbursements, detection and auditing, and real-time analytics and insights.
2. Eliminate time-consuming manual tasks
The power of a fully (or mostly) automated solution lies in its ability to eliminate unnecessary and time-consuming portions of the AP process. Manual workflows, like processing paper invoices and building spreadsheets, greatly increase the likelihood of human error, which can slow down the AP cycle. Even worse, these types of errors can expose your organization to all kinds of risks.
By automating as much of your AP function as possible, you not only optimize workflows, but you also often save countless hours every month. This helps your AP team reduce errors and inaccuracies and reimburse vendors that much faster. Automation also allows your employees to rededicate time to more important, strategic matters.
An impressive 86% of Emburse Certify customer accountants said that moving to a modern, online expense management solution helped them increase productivity by automating mundane manual tasks.
Instead of wasting resources on cumbersome manual workflows, they’re now able to focus on more rewarding projects and higher-priority tasks of greater significance to their company. In fact, modern accounts payable teams spend less time on data entry and reconciliation, saving anywhere from 25–40 hours per month.
Automated AP processes also allow for greater employee empowerment and access, which guarantees easier, more secure shopping experiences. Manual processes restrict traveling employees who may struggle to keep up with timely submissions and approvals. An automated solution solves this problem, allowing both in-person and remote employees to meet deadlines in a timely manner.
Online, cloud-based AP systems with tailored shopping experiences make it easier to shop with (and quickly pay) pre-approved vendors, while also allowing for better item tracking and greater discount opportunities.
This eliminates the potential for employee overspending, facilitates the overall shopping experience, and makes the AP function easier for everyone involved.
3. Adapt to changing work landscapes
The gradual transition from in-person to online and remote work environments is perhaps the most relevant reason for shifting to a modern AP solution. By 2025, about 36.2 million Americans will be working remotely. If companies don’t adapt to this inevitable workforce shift, they’ll be left behind.
As a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately 71% of Americans were working remotely at the end of 2020. And 54% of workers saying they’d prefer remote work even after the pandemic ends. Employers need to be properly equipped to handle a remote workforce.
Thanks to automated, cloud-based AP solutions with synced desktop and mobile apps, allowing employees to work from home (or anywhere they want) is actually very feasible.
A study conducted by Emburse Certify found that 98% of customers agreed that automating previously manual tasks allowed them to support a remote workforce. This benefits not only the employees working from home, but also business travelers.
Part of the reason so many workers want to keep working remotely is because it allows for greater flexibility. Workers who don’t have to report to an office eliminate commutes and have more power over their work schedules. Plus, when location is no longer a limiting factor, employers can open up job opportunities to anyone around the world, widening the pool of talented applicants.
Three AP success case studies
ALKU is a consulting services firm that focuses on ERP, healthcare IT, life sciences, government programs, and information security. When relying on an outdated and time-consuming AP process, ALKU struggled with an inefficient paper-based flow that resulted in lost invoices, missing information, and delayed payment approvals.
But when they implemented Emburse Certify, everything changed. Certify allowed them to achieve 100% visibility into invoice statuses and spend data (among other perks) across a hybrid workforce. ALKU now easily processes 4,000 invoices a month.
The University of Pennsylvania Health System, a world-renowned academic medical center, had a similar problem with manual data entry. Inefficient workflows resulted in lost invoices and payment delays, with no visibility into invoice statuses. With Emburse Chrome River, they were able to streamline their processes and cut the time spent on these workflows by half.
Finally, with 15 sites across Manhattan, nonprofit Education Alliance handled roughly 1,000 invoices a month. Using paper-based processes, they were overwhelmed and unable to keep up with the workload. This impacted not only their company’s growth, but also their mission to help New Yorkers. But with expense and AP solution Emburse Nexonia, they can now catch 90% of errors prior to processing, maintain an air-tight audit trail, and make better use of their staff’s time in order to better help communities in need.
Our choice of Chrome River EXPENSE was made in part due to the very user-friendly interface, easy configurability, and the clear commitment to impactful customer service – all aspects in which Chrome River was the clear winner. While Chrome River is not as large as some of the other vendors we considered, we found that to be a benefit and our due diligence showed that it could support us as well as any large players in the space, along with a personalized level of customer care.
We are excited to be able to enforce much more stringent compliance to our expense guidelines and significantly enhance our expense reporting and analytics. By automating these processes, we will be able to free up AP time formerly spent on manual administrative tasks, and enhance the role by being much more strategic.