Building future resilience into accounts payable processes

Building future resilience into accounts payable processes

Automation technology is helping AP departments to work more efficiently and productively 

Elly Yates-Roberts |

The Covid-19 pandemic proved the importance of technology adoption, especially within accounts payable (AP) departments.

According to Ardent Partners’ The State of ePayables 2021: Operating in the New Normal report, “the lack of core AP automation in 2020 ­contributed to businesses forcing AP staffers to trek into offices during the most dangerous moments of the Covid-19 pandemic.”  

Encouragingly, however, the pandemic sparked digital transformation efforts for many organisations as they finally implemented automation and invested in e-payables. Today’s best-in-class AP departments are the ones harnessing powerful automation technology to help employees work more efficiently and make them more resilient in the face of crisis. Ardent Partners examined some of the ways the top AP departments are leveraging automation technology in its report. 

Its first observation was that best-in-class AP groups actively leveraged e-invoicing to bypass the issues of in-person operations. Previously, many companies relied on in-person procedures and when the pandemic hit, they had to stop or change those operations. According to Ardent Partners, best-in-class AP departments are 166 per cent more likely than all others to have automation technology related to e-invoicing in place as their primary technology, resulting in a more streamlined approval workflow, fewer exceptions and enhanced cash management. 

Ardent Partners also found that ­top-performing AP organisations are 157 per cent more likely than others to automate all facets of procure-to-pay (P2P). Procurement and payment go together seamlessly, and there should be a relationship between the two to ensure that the purchase orders and other documents align with the ­associated invoices to complete the full P2P process. 

In addition, the report indicated that electronic payments are 192 per cent more likely to be used by the best-in-class organisations and are a ­foundation of their AP programmes. These companies are using electronic payments in addition to imaging, scanning and data capture. Integrating payment automation into e-payables rounds it out for a completely automated workflow that generates substantial return on investment while also improving the effectiveness and efficiency of the whole department. 

Finally, best-in-class enterprises are nearly twice as likely to leverage business networks. Today business networks are essential for keeping ­processes flowing smoothly and strengthening collaboration between procurement, finance and suppliers. They also create “an automated, real-time gateway from which invoices can be sent and paid for electronically,” says Ardent Partners. 

The technology revolution is here, and it is essential for organisations to give their AP department a boost by prioritising automation technology if they want to be resilient now and in the future.  

Alyssa Putzer is marketing communications specialist for Metafile Information Systems  

This article was originally published in the Winter 21/22 issue of Technology Record. To get future issues delivered directly to your inbox, sign up for a free subscription.

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