What Is Accounts Payable Automation?
Accounts payable automation begins with a need. A need to move client paperwork through the system more efficiently, a need to validate and clear invoices more quickly; the list goes on. The bottom line is this: your need is to get your accounts payable team to work faster, more efficiently, and with less human error.
A/P automation is the process in which organizations take the highly manual, labor-intensive process of invoice management and leverage technology, big data, and 3rd party vendors to improve this core function of their business. It allows organizations to efficiently scan and transfer files and invoices into workflows that mitigate the risk of mistakes and ensure that each invoice is validated, processed, and safely stored.
By modernizing your workflow you can transform your team from one that spends significant hours on mundane manual tasks to one that is able to focus on the A/P processes that can’t be automated - working with vendors, analyzing the workflow for shortcomings, and driving a more effective process that keeps vendors, customers, and management happy.
The Components of Accounts Payable Automation
There are three main components to automating the accounts payable process. While an organization like Recordsforce does offer these services as standalone packages, the real value of A/P automation comes when you package them together into a single flow that streamlines the process and eliminates mistakes.
1. Document Scanning
A/P automation relies on cloud-based document storage and workflow solutions to be effective. To get your documents into the cloud, they need to be scanned first. Invoices as routed either to the A/P manager at the organization or to a third-party vendor that handles the A/P process. From there, the invoice should be immediately scanned and uploaded, thus eliminating the need for paper documents and ensuring that invoices are verified and paid on time. All of our electronic databases are searchable, allowing you to find information in your documents with ease. Our optical character recognition technology lets you navigate to specific words, phrases, or images in your files quickly. This drastically reduces time spent searching for and keying information into your document management software manually
You can automate your invoice approval or other traditionally paper based business processes and management through a workflow management system. For instance, paper-based invoice management is labor-intensive, error-prone, and lacks accountability. By managing your invoice processing electronically, you can eliminate human error, accelerate completion, and drive accountability to your accounts payable process.
Workflow solutions such as FileBound are helping businesses around the world streamline their business processes through automated routing, delivery, approval and tracking of files, tasks and steps in what were once paper intensive business processes. One of the biggest challenges with manual paper based workflow is lack of visibility into the bottlenecks in the process. You know you aren’t getting approvals back in time to take advantage of quick pay discounts, but you can’t see who it is in the organization that is sitting on outstanding approvals.
Both our on-site and remote document management systems allow you to prioritize documents based on certain criteria, and create tasks to be completed and authorized by specific users. You can automatically distribute work to users or groups and forward documents through steps without delay. With a workflow management solution like FileBound you can get quality control while increasing efficiency and substantially raising your organization’s scalability.
Additionally, advanced analytics that come with better workflow technology help organizations better forecast invoicing, locate inefficiencies, and optimize the management of their once paper based files.
3. Document Management
Today, Document Management Systems (DMS) also called Content Management Systems (CMS) or Electronic Content Management Systems (ECMS) are digital systems that enable you to effectively store and access digital files. Most systems support dozens of document types and integrate with a number of ERP system. Recordsforce offers Cloud-based solutions which require no capital investment and come with a 99.99% uptime guarantee. Cloud based, meaning the system is run on the Internet, allow customers to implement sophisticated systems tailored to your needs without IT department assistance or intervention. This often results in much faster deployment and much less expensive cost of ownership.
With Recordsforce, you have the option of scanning documents to the cloud yourself, or outsourcing the scanning to our SSAE-18 certified scanning facility. Either way your documents are visible to you online from nearly any device that can access the internet, including your cell phone, tablets, PCs and laptops.
Records that have been digitized and placed in a DMS are much more easily managed than their physical counterparts. There’s no effort in finding, viewing, printing or downloading needed files. Compared to searching rows of filing cabinets or making a trip to the basement to find that file, digital is much more convenient and faster.
With a DMS you can easily provide web access to critical forms to all employees, customers, and vendors while maintaining regulatory compliance through secure management and tracking of information access. With our solution you get unlimited users, a full security guarantee, and a free full-system backup.
AP Automation In The Age of Big Data
In today’s data-driven world, organizations that get ahead are the ones that are finding new ways to use data to get leaner and optimize every aspect of their company, including the accounts payable process. An A/P workflow software brings intelligence and business savvy into something that was once just a task to be completed. Dashboarding, charts, and analytics around the invoice process is a perfect example of finding new ways to leverage data.
Each invoice entry into the system or document scanned into electronic storage creates a set of data points with valuable information. After a couple thousand files there’s enough data to drive key analytics that can save your company thousands of dollars in efficiency gains. As you test, iterate, and modernize your process, the data points change and you gain deeper insight into how to create a more effective accounts payable workflow. With big data, you can get the following insights:
- Predictive Analytics: Predict when invoices in the system will by completed based on historical data.
- Workflow Benchmark: Follow a single invoice through the entire process to better manage timelines and vendor relationships.
- Productivity Analysis: Use custom dashboards to understand each user’s performance around the assignments they’re being given. Benchmark it against the average, and use it to identify opportunities for training and improvement.
The Benefits to Your Business of Going Paperless
Automated processes allow operational systems to operate smoother and more effectively. This spurs a reduction in the amount of time it takes to complete a task, saving time and resources. When your processes are functioning most effectively, you’ll start to see the following benefits:
- Better relationships with vendors
- Ensure vendors get paid on time
- Eliminate threat of service cancellation due to lost invoices
- Eliminating late payment notices
- More opportunity for early pay discounts
Free up space in your office
Real estate is expensive. Housing all your historical files in your office, whether in a closet, basement, or out in the open in a spare room isn’t the most effective use of the office space at your organization. By freeing up space you allow yourself to hire more talented employees and create a better office environment for the employees you already have.
Implementing An Accounts Payable Solution At Your Company
Now that you know how accounts payable automation works, you can start implementing a solution at your company. There are four main steps to executing an accounts payable solution at your company.
1. Understand Your Needs
The first step to implementing an accounts payable automation solution is to understand the underlying problem that you aim to solve through automation. Do you just need net new invoices to be processed or do you also want an existing database that makes it easier to access historical invoices? Are you looking for a company to partner with for a long-term solution, or is this going to be a one-time document scanning job?
Once you have these questions answered, you should assess the workflow you need automated and the up-front documents that will require scanning. This makes it significantly easier to explore the options available to you. For example, if you’re looking for a long-term business partner to handle all incoming invoices, you will need to make sure you are looking at companies that offer the full scope of the accounts payable automation workflow rather than straightforward scanning projects. No matter the use case, it is essential to start your implementation process with a firm grasp of exactly what your company needs.
2. Find the Right Company
After you understand the services you will require, you can begin to narrow down the overwhelming number of invoice scanning and processing companies out there. You will need to find a firm that can implement the exact solution you need. If you’re hoping to simply scan and store documents on-site, you’ll need a company that does this; if you’re looking for a HIPAA compliant storage facility you will not only need a company that is capable of this, but one that you can trust. Be sure to read reviews of companies and look at case studies or testimonials to get a sense of their customer satisfaction. If you find a success story similar to your needs, then that’s a company to consider.
Outside of the specific services requirements, you will want to find a company that you can create a great rapport with as well. Whether you are looking for a short- or long-term solution, you will want to work with friendly, knowledgeable people who care about your business. Sit down with the company before agreeing to anything, and walk through your accounts payable challenges with them. If the company is excited to help your solve your problems, they may be a great partner to help your company eliminate paper and increase efficiency.
3. Send in Your Documents
Once you’ve chosen a company, they will let you know your options for getting documents to them. From gathering up all current invoices and sending them over to be scanned, to scanning them in yourself, to routing all future invoices directly to the scanning company, you will have to know which documents to gather, whether you will need to change invoice application, and identify the correct way to streamline this process moving forward. This step is essential. You can find the right company and understand your accounts payable inefficiencies, but if you can’t create a streamlined process for ensuring that all future invoices are sent to the company, you will not be able to successfully implement your accounts payable automation solution.
4. Reap the Rewards of Going Paperless
After you have set up an accounts payable automation process, sit back, relax, and enjoy accessing your files electronically! Not only are you saving your company time and money by outsourcing your invoice processing, but you are also eliminating the bulky paper that takes up valuable space in your office and slows down your accounts payable workflow. Decreasing costs and increasing efficiency can help your company be environmentally conscious as well, increasing employee morale and helping your reputation.
Do-It-Yourself A/P Boarding Questions
Q: How do I get my invoices to the invoice processor of my choice?
A: If you outsource to Recordsforce, we will establish a unique PO box, email inbox and possibly even fax number to receive your inbound invoices on your behalf.
Q: How long does it take for invoices to get into my system?
A: Everything received by noon is typically delivered that day.
Q: What if you get stuff that I want, but it isn’t an invoice?
A: We can deliver non-conforming documents to you physically or digitally and provide options for you to manage what you receive and what gets recycled/deleted.
Q: How long do you keep my invoices?
A: We store you physical invoices for up to six months at no additional cost you. We then give you options to shred it, store it or return it.
Q: How do I know if my documents are being processed on time?
A: Recordsforce provides a Customer Portal that allows you to watch your work in process. You’ll know exactly when it’s done and how much work has been completed.
Q: How do I get my invoices to the invoice processor of my choice?
A: You open the mail, scan the invoices using a copier or MFP and import them through our invoice processing system that pulls all of the data off the invoice and into the system. You perform minimal QC and load the export the documents into the workflow, ERP or accounting system?
Q: What is OCR?
A: OCR is short for Optical Character Recognition. This is the foundation for machine reading of documents. Other technologies must be combined with OCR, like business rules, Intelligent Data Capture, templates or machine learning that allow the OCR results to be converted to useable data.
Q: Can I see the invoice data before it gets entered into the AP system?
A: Absolutely. The system provides a QC step that you control.
Q: How do I gain access to the files I send to Recordsforce?
A: You can request documents via email. Recordsforce can secure deliver a digital copy of your requested document in as little as twenty minutes and typically within an hour.
Q: How long will my project take?
A: Project vary by complexity and size, but most projects with fewer than 500 boxes are completed in less than 3 weeks.
Optimizing Your Workflow with Other Document Management Solutions
Not all solutions come as a complete package created by an in-house team. Outsourcing is an extremely effective way of gaining the knowledge and toolsets of experts in a particular area without the extra cost of hiring or training a team to achieve the same effect.
Filebound offers two core solutions to help increase flow activity within your systems. The On-Demand service allows companies access to a streamlines workflow process with no major investment; cloud-based workflow and storage solution with an intuitive user interface. The second offering, FileBound On-Site is a fully-featured document management solution deployed on your in-house IT infrastructure with a seamless solution that finds, controls, optimizes and protects information from many sources in many formats.
Ancora automation solution brings a key element of electronic storage capabilities with their Optical Character Recognition capabilities. OCR gives the ability to identify and locate targeted keywords and phrasing within scanned documents. ancora's capturing technology automatically reads various data fields using custom machine learning algorithms. This means that you don't have to change documents to conform to the system; ancora learns and adapts to your systems already in place.
RF Workflow Automation
If you handle thousands of documents and invoices required for scanning and upload each day, a smaller scale solution won’t always cut it. Paper-based business process management is labor intensive, error prone and holds no true accountability. Recordsforce’s automation workflow handles large scale end-to-end projects on a daily basis for customers across the country.
Our professional staff works diligently to provide a complete workflow automation package to help your team transition from the current paper-based methods to a fully digitized process. Increase operational efficiency from front to back and drive compliance with accountability into the everyday processes of your company.
Outsourced Backfile Scanning
Having a hard time keeping up with an ever-increasing load of filing cabinets worth of invoices, notebooks, and other paper documents that are too valuable to get rid of but taking up too much space in your office? Try our outsourced backfile scanning solution.
A core benefit of electronically scanned files is the simplicity of disaster recovery. If you already manage your files electronically with a cloud-based system, document recovery is as easy as logging in from another location; however, if you still have some files and records that have not been scanned in, you could be in trouble when disaster hits.
Time is crucial once documents have gotten wet, but document recovery is a time-consuming process that requires the right equipment, the right process, and trained staff that knows how to handle the situation. Your employees probably aren’t experts in mold remediation; save them from potentially toxic effects and let the Recordsforce specialists take care of disaster document recovery.