Digitalisation of a business; start simple, start with Accounts Payable automation.
When companies decide to embark on projects designed to automate their processes, the advice is often to start with something simple.
This has numerous benefits, from ensuring your project generates a return on investment, to establishing how your staff deal with major change.
Accounts Payable automation is one such area of a business that is ideally placed to be used to test wider automation targets. Not least because there are regular pressures applied to the finance function of a business when it comes to new legislation etc.
This is not something new…
Accounts Payable automation has been happening for many years, and with each new advance in technology, similarly the benefits increase.
When people think about automation, often times they are side-tracked by thinking about newer technologies such as AI, and once you start in this vein it can be increasingly difficult to actually come back to the project with any real ideas.
Starting with whole-scale changes whilst focusing on new technology is likely to end up in a failure to deliver any real changes or benefits.
Focusing on an area of a business that has many years of experience in automation and improvements, and then looking for a solution that genuinely future proofs the processes should be a better way to approach this.
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Accounts Payable automation may end up being a necessity.
As mentioned above, legislative changes in the UK often target the finance function of a business. From the more recent Making Tax Digital for VAT, to Duty to Report a couple of years ago. This means that managers within the finance function are uniquely placed to embrace and adapt to change.
When it comes to automation, this adaptability can result in automation being embraced more quickly, and with less push back, than other areas of a business may experience.
Inevitably, the automation of time consuming, tedious, repetitive tasks is something that virtually every organisation will embrace in the coming years. This applies to Accounts Payable, invoice capture, and document management as much as to any other department.
Automating internal processes first.
Another thing to consider when deciding which parts of a business to automate, is what impact this could have on your wider business. Especially of you are not (yet) experienced in delivering these sorts of projects.
Automation, whilst undoubtedly a business benefit, can be costly if it goes wrong. This is especially true for organisations if they attempt to automate customer facing processes without enough knowledge and experience.
Starting with internal processes is, generally, a far safer way to start your exploration of automation. Accounts Payable, again, is ideally situated for this. Initially, simply automating the capture and processing of supplier invoices will give you a real insight into projects of this nature. And will deliver a really obvious return on investment.
This can then be extended, logically this would be to automate elements of the procurement process. This will enable you to continue on your path to automation, but will shed light on departments capacity to work together, embrace new technology and solutions and apply best practices to their current processes.
Then consider automating external facing processes, starting small.
Of course, Accounts Payable automation doesn’t stop with automating the Purchase-to-Pay process. You can also gain first-hand experience of automating an external facing process, with your suppliers.
Implementing technology such as Supplier Portals, this is no longer just about your own teams and processes, now you are asking third parties to buy into your automation projects.
The lessons that can be learnt during this phase of an Accounts Payable automation project can often times be taken and applied to automation projects involving customers etc.
Sometimes, something small can lead to much bigger things.
At a first glance, simply automating one back office function may be seen as a cop out, but in these few short paragraphs I have shown that it should, in fact, be seen as a stepping stone to much greater things.
And, of course, starting with a smaller project means a smaller investment from organisations, and a much clearer, more defined RoI, that can easily be tracked and traced.
Remember, Accounts Payable, in its most traditional form, is simply a cost centre. As a department, its primary responsibility is for paying money OUT.
By embracing technology, and change, and considering other ways to do business, this can be turned around. Simply requesting early payment discounts, and being able to obtain these, could make this department a revenue generator.