Payables Paid The Automated Way

Businesses need a way (and sometimes a little push) to get rid of paper based business processes. Firms like Esker, which just debuted an automated AP platform that links to Microsoft Dynamics, offer up a few ways to do that.

A business can be said to be only as strong as its internal processes. Slow order processing leads to slow cash conversion cycles and missed competitive opportunities, because the funds that might have been on hand simply aren’t. And one of the most critical aspects of order flow is efficient accounts payable management.

Among the most pressing issues executives have about accounts payable, according to Esker SA Senior Product Manager Catherine Dupuy-Holdich: Cash. “Cash management is a big concern,” she said, “and this is common across industries and companies of all sizes. Executives need and want visibility into costs. Automated AP offers a way for them to operate with a better ability to plan.”

To that end, Esker has made inroads in integrating its AP automation across a number of platforms, most recently with Microsoft Dynamics NAV financial applications, the enterprise resource planning arm of the technology giant. The reasoning? To extend Esker’s reach through software, the cloud and applications and also help firms bypass paper invoice processing, which can be time-consuming and costly.

“Microsoft is in itself an ecosystem,” noted Dupuy-Holdich, “and one that can cross different countries and different customers.” In addition, the executive said, there’s a push toward small and midsized businesses that may benefit from implementing more robust ERP.

Regardless of enterprise size, risks in invoice management and accounts payable are commonplace if manual processes are involved. One example comes in the form of “double entry,” wherein an invoice is presented twice and inadvertently paid twice. It is, of course, possible that where there is human error, there can be human intervention — and perhaps someone steps in and catches the error before it impacts a firm’s cash position.

But, as Dupuy-Holdich said, if an invoice is presented twice, there’s a big chance the firm could pay twice. In industries where there can be many smaller suppliers, such as in, say, pharmaceuticals, there’s an increasing need (and adoption) for platforms that modernize invoicing. With manual or other AP processing delays, the company has stated that there can be financial penalties to a firm, or it could miss out on vendor discounts.

Via AP automation, with a system such as Esker’s, as soon as invoices are presented, the system checks for duplicates and can do so based on a number of criteria, ranging from the invoice number, the vendor and/or the amount of payment being asked for processing.

Should duplicate information arise, Dupuy-Holdich said, the system will stop the automated payment process and present the invoice via Web form for the user to examine, with an attendant warning, complete with a link that threads back to the invoice in question. It can also present them side by side for closer inspection.

The benefits of automation, as Esker estimates them, are several. Where speed is key, according to the company, its automated accounts payable solution can cut invoice processing speeds by as much as 65 percent, with 99 percent data accuracy rates.

And in the realm of business, where Big Data is seemingly everywhere, so too is it becoming a mainstay in ERP. The key advantages here, according to Dupuy-Holdich, include speed of information but also information that is presented in a readily digestible form — in Esker’s case via dashboard — which aids decision-making and also helps ensure Sarbanes-Oxley compliance. And, as Dupuy-Holdich said, as businesses become more complex and increasingly operate and compete on a global scale, tracking information and payments through cross-border activity becomes streamlined with solutions that can pinpoint, for example, shared expenses.