When a deadly virus sent everyone packing this past spring, work from home (WFH) mandates had more serious implications for some functions than others. Accounting departments, for example, suddenly had employees accessing highly sensitive data remotely via home Wi-Fi, without the data security extant in office-based accounting as we’ve long known it.
The CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments, done in collaboration with Comdata, explores and unpacks the dilemma facing chief financial officers as their accounting teams establish new work routines, often improvised. That’s industrious, even commendable, but it creates new unknowns that CFOs must add to growing COVID-era checklists.
It can’t go on like that for any of the stakeholders. And it won’t.
“Companies are now working to revamp and upgrade their accounts payable (AP) strategies to suit an environment in which financial teams must work remotely and in which cash flow strains are especially likely,” the new Guide states.
And operations still using manual accounts payable (AP) methods are really rethinking things.
“A recent survey found that 38 percent of companies reported implementing AP automations this year, a greater share than the 24 percent who said the same in 2019. Adopting digital AP tools can let businesses operate remotely with ease as teams break their dependence on on-site processes and shift to the cloud instead,” per the August Guide.
Doing More With Less
Along with WFH mandates are the layoffs that have thinned out many corporate accounting departments. It’s another place where AP automation is facilitating to minimize difficulties.
“Efficiency is a particularly important goal for companies that have had to lay off staff members and now are tackling previous amounts of work with fewer personnel,” per the Guide.
“Layoffs could be a significant issue impacting AP departments: A survey of 17,000 professional social networking app users conducted between March 13 and March 16 found that 44 percent of finance sector respondents expected layoffs at their companies. This environment encourages businesses to adopt AP tools that will help them meet their payment obligations without overburdening remaining staff.”
For these and related reasons, CFOs are starting to settle on solutions as the COVID cloud lifts and they can better visualize the system upgrades required for accounting’s new normal.
“Forty-three percent of businesses have continued to conduct some AP processes on-site during the public health crisis, but they are facing challenges in doing so. Twenty-nine percent of respondents who said they had to go on-site to handle AP responsibilities reported reduced productivity compared to before the pandemic,” the Guide states. “Other businesses appear to be taking the crisis as a sign to update processes, and 38 percent of companies said they were starting to automate their AP departments this year, up from 24 percent in 2019.”
Reassuring Signals And Positive Attitudes
Encouraging news of AP automation upgrades happening coast to coast are reason for optimism, as even companies that use the technology piecemeal are seeing benefits.
“Not all companies are as wary about the costs of new tools, and many have seen AP modernization as a way to ultimately improve their budgets and save staff members’ time. A recently released study of 500 businesses that had implemented AP automations found that 78 percent of respondents cited trimming invoice processing times as a key goal of their technology adoptions,” according to the CFO’s Guide To Digitizing B2B Payments.
In fact, “Ninety-one percent of surveyed businesses making $10 million to $100 million in annual revenues said they automated to boost the ‘efficiency and performance’ of their AP processes, as did 87 percent of the overall survey group. The report delivered particular insight into American businesses’ priorities as 66 percent of respondents were located in the U.S. and the rest were spread across 24 other countries.”