A global shift is taking place transforming accounts payable (AP) away from its traditional transaction-driven mentality. Instead of being seen as a back office transactional engine churning through invoices and fielding supplier calls, AP is coming to the forefront as a strategic contributor in the business.
Most of us have seen this coming. After all, AP has a huge impact on something vital: the cash available to the business.
The Shared Services & Outsourcing Network (SSON) explored this shift in mindset in a recent white paper analyzing the Australian and New Zealand market. They examined leading trends and the key role technology plays in supporting AP’s ability to optimize cash flow.
AP’s new strategic mindset relies on leveraging new skills within AP teams, closer collaboration with procurement, communication throughout the business and most importantly, the use of technology to provide automation.
But, how exactly is the right end-to-end AP automation solution opening new opportunities for AP?
Delivering insight through analytics
Cognitive capture and best practice workflows in an AP automation solution can free AP teams from transactional work and allow them to focus on more strategic tasks. But they must have insights, not just reports, to improve decision making. That’s where analytics capabilities can provide value: connecting the dots to provide real-time, accurate and immediately useful information to help effectively manage working capital.
Starting with the Right Data
For automation to truly be effective in increasing AP’s efficiency data must be complete and correct. The right AP automation solution will optimize data extraction from invoices no matter how complex or how invoices enter the organization. According to the SSON research, only 24% of respondents have a fully automated invoice processing solution that includes optical character recognition (OCR) in place. But those AP teams understand that capturing the most comprehensive information and validating it up front reduces invoice processing costs and ensures the data required for analytics and insights is available in the future.
Filling automation gaps
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has quickly become a solution to fill in manual gaps between process steps and systems. Combined with an AP automation solution, RPA is an affordable option to automate recurring processes, eliminate data entry errors and cut processing time.
Easing supplier, customer and partner interactions
In their white paper, SSON reports that only 3% of supplier queries are dealt with through an online portal. With such a low number, the responding organizations are missing out on tremendous value. Today, customers (suppliers, partners and internal customers, too) expect to interact with businesses through a convenient digital experience. Integrated self-service supplier portals offer transparency and convenience that dramatically improve vendor relationships.
AP’s new mindset: Cash flow first
It’s no surprise that SSON reported invoice automation and workflow as one of the top three priorities for procure-to-pay over the next 12 months. As we see in this white paper, and with customers who have embarked on this transformational journey, the outcome is increased transparency, automation and speed. This helps shift AP’s focus to value added activities such as managing cash flow and improving operational efficiency.