Why Automate Accounts Payable?

Why Automate Accounts Payable?

by The Exela Team



Businesses are constantly looking for ways to improve operations, automate manual processes, and increase efficiency across all departments and functions. However, when it comes to financial processes, eliminating all chances of errors while maintaining a streamlined and agile workflow is especially critical.

Proper management of finances can have a big impact on the bottom line. And given that Accounts Payable (AP) processes deal with a wide variety of challenges, from managing budget restrictions, ensuring policy compliance, updating accounting systems, all while under strict timelines, there are plenty of opportunities to improve through automation.

The fact is, despite the availability of automated solutions, many AP departments still handle purchase order matching, supplier invoice processing, approvals, coding, routing payments, and other steps in the AP process manually. The longer these tasks take, the longer the cycle time, resulting in unhappy suppliers and lost time and money that could have been better invested elsewhere in the company. 

These tedious and repetitive tasks can be simplified and streamlined with automated accounts payable systems. Solutions like Exela’s Procure-to-Pay (P2P) are designed to automate AP processes, helping businesses overcome manual issues and increase effective communication as well as benefit employee productivity. Here is why you need AP automation:

Save Time and Money

It’s an inconvenient and often frustrating truth that everything costs money - including spending money. Traditional, physical AP models call for everything from invoice categorization and data extraction to PO matching and approval processes to be done manually by accounting professionals - leading to an average price tag of up to $10 per invoice and an average processing time of up to 12-17 days among the lowest-performing organizations, according to a recent study by Everest Group. Automating your AP processes with solutions like Exela’s P2P makes every step of that process faster, smoother, and more cost effective, leading to an average cost savings of 40%.

Take Advantage of Early Pay Discounts

On top of the already high costs of a slow manual process, if bottlenecks cause your workflow to get too backed up, your organization can’t react fast enough to take advantage of early pay discounts. While these discounts may only amount to a small percentage of the total payment - typically 1 or 2 percent - on large and recurring payments, that can really add up quickly. And since taking advantage of them is just a matter of timing and proper management, to miss an early pay discount is tantamount to leaving money on the table.

Even worse, missed or late payments may result in an interruption in your supply chain or suspension of electrical or other services. Not only does this hurt your bottom line, it also impacts your organization's reputation with vendors and suppliers.

By automating tedious manual tasks, solutions like Exela’s P2P platform give your expert employees more time to focus on higher-value projects, like optimizing payment schedules, identifying and negotiating vendor discounts, and proactively building better supplier relationships, all of which will pay dividends in the long run.

Improve Accuracy 

Manually entering invoice information always leaves room for costly human errors. Even the most diligent workers slip up on occasion, and one wrong digit or a misplaced decimal point can result in massive over- or under-payment, duplication of payments, or mismatched POs and invoices. What’s worse, not only are errors more likely to occur with manual AP processes, but they’re also more expensive and time consuming to fix. 

AP automation systems like Exela’s P2P solution solve the problem of non-EDI invoices by quickly capturing, matching, and transferring all invoice data into defined workflows, creating a standardized and easy-to-follow process. This means transparent and streamlined payments, consistency in your AP process, and greater transparency for your finance team and accountants.

Adapt to Remote Working Arrangements

In the wake of widespread lockdowns put in place to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, many businesses have transitioned to a more flexible workplace, with more employees working from home than ever before. While initially implemented as a temporary safety measure, as employers see little negative impact on productivity and workers enjoy the flexibility and absence of a commute, working from home is likely to remain a popular option even after the pandemic ends. In order to keep up with this rapid trend shift, many organizations have opted to digitize processes that were once handled in person, investing in solutions that will help their employees work from anywhere.

By digitizing and automating manual AP processes, solutions like Exela’s P2P empower your mobile and remote workforce to maintain efficiency by reducing reliance on physical mail and paper documents, while requiring no change in workflow for your suppliers. Digital invoices are directly ingested, and paper invoices are processed through state of the art scanners powered by Intelligent Character Recognition (ICR) software, which transforms them into fully digital assets, allowing you and your team to handle incoming invoices and purchase orders entirely electronically, from anywhere in the world.

Improve Auditing, Compliance, and Security

Physical paper documents can be difficult to track, and even more difficult to find if they go missing. Automated AP solutions come with tools that improve visibility by automatically tracking invoices as they go through the system. Every change and event for any given invoices is tracked and stored in a centralized database, creating clear audit trails that are easy to access and analyze. With all the necessary information in one searchable database, complying with internal or external audits is much less time consuming.

By implementing a standardized process for the intake of invoices and allowing real-time access to reporting data, AP automation systems also help identify and prevent errors before they become costly. This not only protects your business from payment errors, but from fraud as well. Exela’s P2P solution can immediately flag invoices from unrecognized suppliers or access recent transaction data to identify major discrepancies between prices from one invoice to another. With a standardized approval process in place in addition to the measures above, AP automation makes it easier to ensure that everything is above board. 

Manual AP processing can be riddled with errors and inefficiencies that slow down your cycle times and cost your business money. Find more out how Exela’s Procure-to-Pay platform can help your bottom line.