Finding Nirvana in Accounts Payable Automation and Outsourcing

by Sue Barnhill on June 7, 2013

Meditating Business WomanSuffering is something with which many accounts payable professionals — groaning under the burden of error-prone, manual processes — are all too familiar. Nirvana, in the form of accounts payable outsourcing and AP automation, awaits.

The definition of insanity is doing something the same way, over and over, expecting different results. Many AP departments are stuck in decades-old, inefficient methods; a majority of companies still receive and process more than 90 percent of their invoices and payments via paper, according to a 2013 PayStream Advisors survey. Most AP departments continue to receive the bulk of their invoices through conventional snail mail, in email attachments, and sometimes even by fax. They pay the majority of their vendors by paper check. A number of companies are moving toward automated processes, through the help of a BPO Company, but only a small percentage consider themselves fully automated.

It’s clear that, if true automation nirvana is to be obtained, longstanding hurdles first must be removed.

Key obstacles to more efficient, automated AP processes include a lack of company resources resulting from inadequate support at the top. AP budgets for many companies have remained flat year-over-year. Without a top executive advocating for change, budget requests may hit a wall of C-suite resistance. To bring down such barriers, AP professionals need to educate their company’s leaders, through consulting services, about the benefits – both operational and strategic – of automation, and consider leveraging the time and talent of outside solutions. In some cases, savings generated through automation and outsourcing can be realized in the first year of operation.

Another obstacle is the reluctance of suppliers to adopt electronic payments. Topline AP automation providers dedicate recruitment teams to show suppliers how an automated system can help them get paid sooner and deal with discrepancies more easily. Outsourcing the recruitment process allows experts to handle supplier signups and permits AP departments to concentrate on the tasks they do best.

When considering an AP automation solution, it is important to envision and create a strategy that fits immediate needs but also remains flexible to meet future goals. Keeping the end in mind, prioritize the steps you’ll need to take and understand how each fits into your organization’s evolving structure. Setting SMART goals and effectively communicating to all the important stakeholders during the process can lead to:

• Efficient, effective and accurate invoice processing
• Elimination of manual entry
• Increased productivity
• Improved ROI

The right combination of a software solution and outsourcing can provide significant cost savings, more accurate data in the system and an accelerated payment cycle. Automation pioneers that implemented similar solutions report smoother workflow and a less stressful work environment where staff time is spent on activities that provide value to the company instead of on tedious, repetitive tasks. Click here for AP automation case studies and more information.

AP automation and outsourcing

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