Is AP automation a good idea? Certainly yes, it speeds up processing, minimizes exceptions, and reduces costs. Can an AP automation project derail? Also, yes, particularly if the execution isn’t up-to-the-mark and/or expectations aren’t clearly defined.
Chances are you are already aware of the several advantages AP automation offers, but you haven’t seen firsthand how it can benefit your operations.
So, can you carry on without AP automation? Well, not in the long run.
With several competitors leveraging technology to streamline their processes and the well-informed accounting professionals being conversant in automated processes, you cannot afford to lag and risk a disadvantage to your business. Following the right approach and avoiding pitfalls can transform your AP department from being a cost center to a profit center. Backed by our extensive experience with numerous clients, we have provided below five important aspects that can help ensure a successful AP automation project.
- Automating a broken process will not mend it
It all begins with taking a step back and analyzing the existing financial value chain. Review and document the steps involved in the existing processes, define SOPs, and create flowcharts. If redundant tasks exist and decision-making principles are not well-defined, merely shifting the processes to a software-driven system can add to the complications. We cannot blame the automation in such cases. Thus, it is the ideal time to fine-tune your existing operations before you proceed towards a digital transformation.
- Accounts payable cannot perform in isolation
When it comes to realizing the two major goals of accounts payable, i.e., paying the suppliers on time and managing finances efficiently, dependencies on other departments come into the picture. For instance, receiving all the invoices and receiving them on time is necessary for ensuring timely payments. Other departments failing to comply with such requirements might affect the AP automation outcomes. These pre-existing challenges will only be amplified after automation and might be mistakenly perceived as complications ‘after automation’.
- Ignoring change management can be a recipe for disaster
Prepare your army well if you want your automation strategy to succeed. Your employees are the ones who are going to work with the upgraded system, so communicate the vision clearly. Before the fear of unknown creeps in, make your team understand that AP automation will shift their roles to more strategic and value-adding profiles. The communication must be transparent and should be done well in advance to avoid panic.
Lack of training can leave the participants directionless. Apart from the initial training during the implementation phase, ensure readily available support after the team gets back to actual work. Appointing change agents at various levels in the organization can promote a smooth transition. Delegate them the responsibility to help the employees understand how they will benefit from AP automation. The agents can share case studies and use cases that made a significant impact in order to develop more confidence in the team. Each one in the team must know how his/her role will become more meaningful and how everyday challenges will be resolved. Beginning with a positive outlook will help the employees adapt better.
- A clear vision is imperative
Embark on your AP automation journey with a list of goals and a time frame. Determine the current and expected turnaround time for the tasks, spot the bottlenecks that need to be eliminated, costs that need to be minimized, and pain-points that need to be eradicated. Also, calculate the expected ROI. Keeping your KPIs at the forefront will make it easier to measure the outcomes of the AP automation project and identify the gaps.
- The right solution provider can steer you clear of the above complexities
The solution provider you choose can make or break the project. The competency of the provider determines whether you will be focusing more on strategic functions or still struggling with implementation issues or lack of support after the automation. So, go through the reviews from existing customers and ask as many questions as you want till you are sure your specific needs will be met.
The Circulus team works together with you throughout the automation journey. Our service-oriented approach provides the guidance required for a successful implementation. Consult our experts right from the consideration phase. Co-create a plan of action based on the status of your current processes, dynamics between different departments, the scale of operation, and budget. Define your objectives and identify the key metrics with our analysts. We can work together to assemble a solution for your workforce and help prepare them well for the change. Post the implementation; we extend ongoing support through free training and prompt resolutions.
We at Circulus, believe that one size does not fit all, so you can configure your workflows or set roles and permissions based on your specific business rules. Our non-license-based pricing lets you add unlimited users without additional fees. Circulus is available on iOS and Android too, so you can upload bills and access Accounts Payable on the go.
Risks associated with not automating AP are inevitable!
Continuing to rely on paper-based processes, manual processing, judgments, and workarounds for accounting tasks can expose the AP department to a multitude of risks. Lack of visibility, corporate amnesia, and short-sightedness can drive the performance downhill.
On one side, you have underutilization of talent, inefficient use of time, unnecessary work, lack of fraud prevention, and frequent errors followed by rework. On the other side is AP automation by Circulus where you get more security, accuracy, pending task notifications, visibility to fix loopholes, plus the ability to spot trends and plan organizational spend. Gauge your department’s performance with well-defined metrics and pave your way to continuous improvement.
Success with AP Invoice Automation Requires More Than Paper to Digital – Gartner