Businesses are not anticipating a smooth return to normalcy, with 43.5 percent of treasurers saying in a global poll that they expect the economic recovery to follow a “W”-shape, rather than the much-hoped-for “V”-shape. Organizations that are adjusting their processes to meet the conditions imposed by the pandemic therefore may need to make these changes for the long-term, without expecting to be able to quickly resume old methods.
This has serious implications for businesses that had relied on manual, paper-based accounts payable (AP) practices before doing so became both challenging and potentially unsafe. Financial departments that have held off on updating their AP processes may now feel a stronger call to adopt technologies that will support smooth, remote AP operations well into the future.
The August Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker® examines how financial teams have been revising all aspects of their AP departments, including how they receive invoices and make vendor payments.
Around The AP Automation World
The COVID-19 pandemic made the prospect of requiring staff to go on-site and physically sign off on payments a public health risk. However, corporate buyers still want to have strong oversight and control over their high-value payments. The need for secure authorization and employee safety has led some companies to now adopt electronic signature solutions that enable staff to sign payments approvals remotely.
AP departments are also working to better catch mistakes that could prompt them to overpay during a time when budgets are already strained. Human errors can slip in when financial staff manually enter invoices into payment systems or vendors may make mistakes when writing those bills, resulting in issues like incorrect charges and duplicate invoices. Some AP teams, therefore, are implementing digital solutions that can help detect such problems before payments are sent.
The push to greater digitization of payments processes is sometimes conducted on a government-wide scale. Estonia recently hit the one-year anniversary of when its public agencies stopped accepting paper invoices. This public sector policy appears to have also prompted greater private sector use of digital invoices as well, according to recent accounts.
Find more about these and all the latest AP automation headlines in the Tracker.
The AP Practices Emerging From The Pandemic
Companies have adopted new AP strategies as the pandemic disrupts long-held approaches, but the changes being made are not quick patches to be abandoned once the pandemic recedes. Neil McHugh, head of commercial operating products in corporate products and services at TD Bank, explained in this month’s Feature Story how many companies are adopting AP approaches that will become regarded as the new “best practices.” This refreshed form of AP includes digitized payment flows that bring greater efficiency and built-in AP redundancies that protect operations against the potential of future disruptions.
Find the full story in the Tracker.
Invoices may arrive formatted in idiosyncratic ways or displaying difficult to decipher handwriting, and financial teams then have to spend valuable time contacting vendors to clarify details. That slows down what can already be time-consuming manual invoice processing procedures. Automation tools can eliminate much of these frictions, however. This month’s Deep Dive examines how robotic process automation (RPA) tools paired with artificial intelligence (AI)-powered optical character recognition (OCR) technologies can save employees time and improve accuracy by reviewing and reformatting invoices as well as verifying and correcting details.
Download the Tracker to read more.
About The Tracker
The Next-Gen AP Automation Tracker®, a PYMNTS and Bottomline Technologies collaboration, is a monthly report that highlights the most recent accounts payable developments and automated solutions disrupting how businesses process invoices, track spending and earn rebates on transactions.