When done right, AP automation can help organizations save money, increase productivity, reduce errors, and prevent costly accounts payable fraud. However, your success depends on you planning carefully, implementing the right tool, automating the right processes, and effectively managing change. If that sounds daunting, don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
To help you make the most of AP automation benefits, we’re sharing our top 10 best practices for AP automation success.
Inside: 10 Best Practices for AP Automation Success
Top 10 Tips to Maximize the Success of AP Automation: AP Automation Best Practices
1. Track the Right KPIs
Make sure to set and track the right set of KPIs based on your specific desired outcomes. In the AP world, common KPIs include:
- Capture rate of early-payment discounts
- Cost per invoice
- Payment accuracy rate
- Days Payable Outstanding (DPO)
Additionally, specify time frames and numbers. If you pursue KPIs that are too general, like “increased process speed,” it will be impossible to say how close you got to achieving it.
2. Map Out the Entire Accounts Payable Process
When implementing AP automation, it’s not just about adding technology, it’s about transforming the process. You need to map out your entire AP process and examine parts that could use attention. Talk to AP staff who work with the process every day.
- What’s working?
- What are the pain points?
- Ideas for improvement
Getting the perspective of those closest to the process is incredibly helpful, and it’s a powerful way to let your staff know they’re valued. This in-depth view of the process can also help you prioritize which areas to automate first.
Take It Further
Want to take your process improvements to the next level?
Financial institutions are using ABBYY Timeline and other process mining tools to get detailed, real-time insights on their process’ current state. They also optimize the process redesign phase with personalized suggestions for improvement based on your goals.
3. Know Your Goals in Detail
Document what you aim to achieve with your AP automation project in as much detail as possible. Establishing these firm goals in writing will help you through multiple stages in your automation journey, including:
- Measuring success throughout the project
- Conveying the desired end results to stakeholders in your pitch phase
- Finding the best AP automation solution and vendor for your unique situation
- Navigating change management efforts, particularly helping employees understand “the why”
Understanding your goals in minute detail is a major part of creating a digital transformation roadmap, too.
4. Get the Right People on Board
A successful AP automation implementation relies on involving the right blend of people. To get your project off the ground, you’ll need to get early buy-in from the entire accounting department. Initially, getting your CFO, IT decision makers, and other upper-level executives will be priority #1. But getting buy-in from everyone else on the finance team is just as vital, as they’ll be interacting with the new processes and technology daily. You can get our full guide to getting buy-in for your AP automation project here, but here are a few highlights:
- Create an exhaustive list of your key stakeholders. This list might vary from company to company, but the key figures usually are the CFO, controller, IT department, management, and AP staff.
- Determine each stakeholder’s currencies, or the benefits of AP automation that will appeal most to them. Understanding these motivators will help you build personalized, effective pitches.
- Anticipate the questions likely to be “heavy hitters,” and do extensive research on them. When these questions arise, you can wow your audience with stellar answers. Or better yet, you can work them into your pitch.
Appointing an AP automation project manager early on is another vital consideration for AP automation best practices. Seeing the project through should be their top priority. AP automation projects involve many moving parts, so without an assigned overseer, miscommunications and disorganization can quickly take over. Make your life easier by identifying a single point of contact to delegate AP automation tasks and updates to.
5. Keep Vendors and Suppliers Updated
Don’t leave your vendors and suppliers out of the loop. Keeping them informed about your AP automation plan’s timeline and the “why” behind the change is essential to preserving a positive relationship and reputation. Like your employees, your vendors and suppliers will be interacting with this new technology regularly. Many solutions, including OnBase, provide a vendor access portal allowing vendors and suppliers to check invoice statuses, update their information, and more. This feature can make for a much-improved user experience, as vendors can get the information they need quickly, and on their own.
6. Prioritize ERP Integration
To get the most ROI out of your implementation, you must have seamless integration with your ERP system. Once integrated, AP automation maximizes your ERP in many ways, including reducing operational costs, increasing visibility and accuracy, saving time, and more.
Fortunately, most ERP systems support integration with automation and can provide automation for:
- Invoice processing
- Expense reporting
- VAT capture
Make it a priority to meet with your IT team early on. They’ll be able to help you set your integration requirements based on the system you’re already using. They can also help you identify other systems currently in-use that may need integrations. This will save you time by narrowing down your search for an AP automation solution. Having a seamless integration with your ERP system is a powerful way to get the most ROI out of your implementation. Learn more about the ROI AP automation can deliver from our customer, Wis-Pak, in the video below.
AP Automation: How Wis-Pak Digitally Transformed its AP Processing
7. Look Out for Early-Payment Discounts
Most vendors provide early-payment discounts, but few take advantage of them. IOFM reports that most businesses receive under 21% of these offers while 12% don’t receive any discounts at all. In addition to discount benefits, AP automation can help you avoid late payment penalties, which add up.
8. Set Smart Invoice Entry Habits
AP automation can drastically reduce DPO. However, this perk’s impact is dependent on when your employees enter an invoice into the system. Establish the standard of entering new invoices into the system the same day they arrive. As this practice becomes habit, you’ll be able to both track transactions easier and get the most out of your DPO benefits.
9. Automate in Phases
You probably have many automation opportunities to pursue. Avoid the unnecessary headache of automating them and setting them all loose at once. It’ll be more work on your end and it can overwhelm employees, especially those who are still a little apprehensive. For optimal results, a phased approach is best. Automating one process at a time gives you time to troubleshoot in between phases. It will also help you avoid causing problems related to a rushed roll out.
This is also an effective way to get the AP team fully on board with the new solution and processes. If there’s any resistance left in staff members by implementation, seeing a newly transformed process in action may be enough to squash it. Watching this example of automation in action can also help ease the learning curve, improve user adoption, and get the team excited to see what the technology can do to improve other tasks.
10. Put Your Data to Work
AP automation gives you visibility into a treasure trove of valuable data. With the click of a button, you can access real-time data and compile it in a dashboard to help gather business insights. This way, you can make better decisions, monitor cash flow, and see what is and isn’t working.
Begin AP Automation the Right Way
AP automation is a vital differentiator in today’s marketplace, and it can position your organization for success now and in the future. With the proper preparation, priorities, and strategic application of AP automation best practices, you can start enjoying the benefits of this technology.
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