Accounts Payable

Embracing Accounts Payable Automation: The Paper Vaccine

Embracing Accounts Payable Automation

“Technological advancements have paved the way for businesses to adopt automated solutions in less than 30 days, with no massive ERP system upgrade projects required.”

Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice? Companies large and small that survive the pandemic won’t get fooled again, and are getting on-board with automation. “Payment automation can enable businesses to quickly and easily make no-touch payments with the click of a button, moving up to 90 percent of all payments into an electronic format,” said Julie Negrete-Anderson, founder and chief operating officer, OnPay Solutions. “AP payment automation will allow businesses to print paper checks from home or at the office, removing the need to spend several days in the office every month and creating an AP department that can operate fully remotely if necessary. Businesses will also have the ability to earn monthly rebates with virtual cards, turning AP spend into profit.”

The following is an excerpt from How 35 Execs Are Powering The Great Digital Shift Of 2020 (And Beyond), contributed by Julie Negrete-Anderson, founder and chief operating officer, OnPay Solutions.

Recent events have irrevocably changed the way finance departments operate, bringing to light glaring issues with the current processes. While other departments may have abandoned manual, paper-based strategies years ago, accounts payable (AP) and finance departments held their ground on practices that seem to have changed little since the 1970s. However, in the wake of COVID-19, that may no longer be an option.

For years, there has been a quiet shift in the B2B payments space. Paper checks — once dominant in all areas of commerce, now extinct for most consumers — have slowly lost ground, slipping to a meager, yet still surprising, 42 percent of all B2B payment types in 2019. Paper invoices, on the other hand, still dominate finance departments today. Paper-based invoice processing is particularly prevalent in the U.S., where they account for 75 percent of all invoices.

Finance departments already had a massive paper problem before COVID-19 closed offices around the globe.

Paper processes are expensive, costing businesses an estimated $45 billion to $150 billion per year. Taking a holistic approach to calculating the cost of paper, it’s easy to understand why the impact is so high. Beyond the material expenses, there’s also the time wasted on manually entering data, GL coding, routing invoices, stuffing envelopes and hand-signing high-dollar checks. There’s also the risk of fraud, security breaches, errors from missing information, inaccurate reporting and the inability to take advantage of early-pay discounts.

Paper has been the culprit all along. It’s just more apparent now.

Over the last few months, AP professionals have regularly been required to don their PPE and head into the office to open invoices, scan and route them, print checks and stuff envelopes. CFOs have had checks hand-delivered to their doorsteps or unusual rendezvous points for signing. Some companies have gone so far as to have mailed invoices to home addresses, where they can be scanned for approval. For many businesses, this has become the “new normal.”

The good news is that it doesn’t have to be. It’s easier to eliminate paper from AP than ever before.

Technological advancements have paved the way for businesses to adopt automated solutions in less than 30 days, with no massive ERP system upgrade projects required. The best solutions feature easy integration into existing legacy systems, ERPs and accounting systems – and, as a bonus, without a huge consulting bill.

Automated invoice processing saves an average of 19 hours per week, and the entire process can be handled from home or at the office. Moving to eInvoicing and invoice automation entails more than just eliminating physically mailed invoices. The right solution should also move emailed invoices into an automated workflow. It’s just that easy.

Payment automation can enable businesses to quickly and easily make no-touch payments with the click of a button, moving up to 90 percent of all payments into an electronic format. AP payment automation will allow businesses to print paper checks from home or at the office, removing the need to spend several days in the office every month and creating an AP department that can operate fully remotely if necessary. Businesses will also have the ability to earn monthly rebates with virtual cards, turning AP spend into profit.

The race for automation in all areas of business is now underway. Finance departments are sprinting to find new solutions that streamline processes, cut costs, enable remote functionality and ensure business continuity.

AP automation is the key to success for finance departments in both the pre-COVID-19 and post-COVID-19 worlds.

Read more executives' insights in How 35 Execs Are Powering The Great Digital Shift Of 2020 (And Beyond).

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NEW PYMNTS DATA: HOW WE SHOP – SEPTEMBER 2020 

The How We Shop Report, a PYMNTS collaboration with PayPal, aims to understand how consumers of all ages and incomes are shifting to shopping and paying online in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our research builds on a series of studies conducted since March, surveying more than 16,000 consumers on how their shopping habits and payments preferences are changing as the crisis continues. This report focuses on our latest survey of 2,163 respondents and examines how their increased appetite for online commerce and digital touchless methods, such as QR codes, contactless cards and digital wallets, is poised to shape the post-pandemic economy.

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