The accounting world was as caught off-guard and unprepared as most other industries when COVID-19 came to town. One fact has clearly surfaced in the interval between pandemic lockdowns and phased reopenings, and it’s this: accounts payable (AP) can’t cut it manually anymore. AP automation’s time is now, but it’s not a one-size-fits-all proposition.
“Businesses that recognize the value of modernizing their AP processes must still determine how best to acquire and implement these solutions,” according to the June 2020 Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker® done in collaboration with Bottomline Technologies.
“Financial institutions (FIs) may want to establish themselves as one-stop shops for business clients’ financial solutions by expanding their product mixes to include software that supports quick invoice processing and digital payments,” the June Tracker states.
“Those that can fulfill these needs are likely to build tighter relationships with their business clients, but expectations can quickly change as new technologies emerge and needs shift, making it difficult to keep up,” the report notes. “FIs may be unable to rapidly develop in-house offerings in response to such demands, yet falling short could lead customers to leave.”
Customers leaving over fixable tech upgrades is unacceptable, and the latest Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker® is packed with use cases on how to reduce defections and thrive.
‘Accessibility, Security and Transformation’
Recent innovations in AP automation are finding their place in a post-pandemic financial services industry that’s being forced to reinvent for new and better ways to process payables.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has changed ‘digital transformation’ from a buzzword to an imperative, shining light on the myriad reasons that outdated approaches to financial operations are no longer sustainable,” Bill Wardwell II, senior vice president of strategy, product and business operations at Bottomline, told PYMNTS. “To emerge in a way that best positions their teams for the future of work, AP and finance professionals should prioritize accessibility, security and transformation of payments.”
Much of the new reality comes down to the accessibility issue, as Wardwell observed.
“Finance teams have traditionally worked from the office, where paper invoices could be received, entered and approved, and checks could be issued,” the Tracker states. “The shift to virtual work mandates cloud-based and mobile access to documents and data to perform business-critical functions, keep employees safe and gain greater visibility to cash flow than [these teams] may have had pre-pandemic.”
The Last Days of Paper?
Invoice processing is expensive on paper. “Businesses took 8.6 days and spent $11.57 on average to process a single invoice in 2019, for example, and moving from manual processing to digital methods could help businesses reduce both figures,” according to the latest Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker®.
AP-focused FinTechs are furiously creating the conduits and connections that make automation work with a constellation of new application programming interfaces (APIs). That’s the direction things are headed as paper slowly exits the scene.
“AP automation solutions are becoming more important than ever for businesses whose operations are hamstrung by paper-based processes,” the Tracker states. “[But] companies may find it tricky to determine which tools are the best-suited for their needs as they operate remotely and make their overall operations more efficient. FIs that partner with FinTechs can connect their clients with trustworthy, tailored AP offerings that ease these pains and foster deeper customer relationships.”