By Nick Rand, MineralTree.
We all get used to doing things a certain way. They are part of our own “status quo”. The same is true in financial organizations. It may be in how they manage certain processes, pay vendors, or evaluate new technologies. These habits can enable big efficiencies and predictable results, but they can also act as inhibitors of big change and progress.
Consider AP operations. Many companies continue to rely on outdated, expensive and time-consuming manual processes for accounts payable. Forward-looking companies, on the other hand, turn to AP Automation solutions to streamline processes, reduce costs, and improve supplier relationships, among many other benefits.
Implementing any new technology means change, and businesses may encounter resistance or slowdowns along the way. Those who get bogged down in these issues risk alienating staff, wasting time and money, and missing out on other savings. For example, by automating payments, companies could use virtual cards to pay their suppliers and receive discounts with each payment made. These revenues could add up to cover the cost of the solution, be used for another investment, or in some cases even turn the PA from a cost into a profit center.
There are different solution options for access point automation. The key is a smooth implementation that delivers faster ROI. Here are six steps to ensure the transition to endpoint automation goes smoothly.
1. Choose the right technology.
From the outset, it is important to choose the AP automation platform that will best meet the needs of the organization. To minimize staff resistance and increase adoption, both within finance and across the organization, look for a solution that’s intuitive and easy to use. Additionally, to meet the growing trend of working from home, opt for cloud-based technology so that AP staff, invoice approvers and payment authorizers can work from anywhere without disrupting workflow. AP or slow bill paying.
To maximize efficiency throughout the payment cycle, look for solutions that offer comprehensive bill-to-pay functionality. If you gain efficiency in the payment part of the process, but invoices are still lost, misplaced, or take longer to process, you can still end up with late payments, penalties, and unhappy suppliers.
Consider a solution that can meet the long-term needs of the organization. For example, avoid a payment structure based on per-user license fees, as this will end up costing you more each time you add users and approvers. Select a solution that makes it easy to add data files and entities to integrate new subsidiaries or acquisitions.
2. Choose a partner who can grow with the organization.
Consider an AP automation provider that can meet the changing needs of the organization, whether through more robust enterprise capabilities or being able to integrate with the next ERP system. Also look for a partner who is committed to the success of the organization and who provides solid training and ongoing support throughout the business journey. Those that offer best-in-class implementation practices will provide faster time to life and deliver the benefits of automation faster.
3. Fix your processes.
Before automating AP, make sure you don’t carry over broken or poor processes. Assess current procedures to see what is missing and how they could be improved. Follow accounting best practices such as segregation of duties and requiring multiple approvers for invoices over a specified amount to not only streamline processes but also help prevent fraud and improve control over AP spend .
4. Give the PA team a role from the start.
One of the biggest obstacles to smooth access point automation implementations is user resistance. Involve the entire Accounts Payable/Finance team early on, right through the selection process, so they can ask questions and get involved in improving processes. This will foster goodwill, a sense of empowerment, and ultimately user buy-in.
5. Promote user benefits.
People are more likely to embrace new technologies if there is something for them. Explain how automation will facilitate and improve the work of the AP team by creating an improved workflow and eliminating the tedious and time-consuming tasks of entering billing data, reducing checks, and tracking invoice approvers and payment authorizers. This will allow them to spend their time on more interesting and higher-level activities, such as preparing reports and developing better workflows.
6. Involve key stakeholders.
In addition to the AP team, it’s important to keep IT informed during the selection and implementation processes to ensure that all technical details are considered. Make sure that someone familiar with the ERP system is also involved to ensure a smooth integration. Of course, the CFO or other financial manager will need to approve the investment.
Create a better workflow in AP
A smooth implementation of endpoint automation means better workflow; happier and more productive finance staff; and faster savings and value. By involving the right team from the start and refining the processes involved, you will not only improve AP operations, but you will also support the growth of the business and help further its business goals.
Nick Rand is the Senior Director of Sales Engineering and Implementation at MineralTree, a provider of accounts payable and payment automation solutions. In his role, Nick has the opportunity to work closely with a variety of organizations as they modernize their AP processes. He saw with his own eyes the difference between those who quickly gain in value and those who struggle.