An Insiders Thoughts on Preparing for Future Automation in AP

If you’re like me, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, meaning if you want to be sure something is being done properly you need tangible, conclusive evidence, especially regarding your future automation needs.

When it comes to automation, we imagine a completely dark process where nothing but what goes in and what comes out is visible to the user.

No, you can’t sit and watch a PC monitor as a piece of code fills in forms and codes invoices, but you can do a number of things to be sure your automated AP solution is working exactly as you’d like it to, even before implementation of a solution.

Streamlined and robust, like a race car

Ensure your process has been thoroughly streamlined, is robust, and faultless.

Make it your mission, before implementation of a solution, to write out your processes from start to finish, making sure there are no unknowns or questionable steps.

Making your process bullet proof usually involves appointing the right people for approvals, thankfully with a digitised process, approvals can be managed in parallel and may also be deferred, for example if your Finance Director is out of the office for the next week, the approval may defer to the next in command.

This step may also bring to light the amount of time your team have been wasting on a manual process and could result in some important changes to your policy, does your marketing manager really have to spend time approving every invoice coded to his department?

Making these changes and committing them to an automated workflow can reduce your processing time by up to 90% as has been achieved by Network Rail as documented here.

Would you trust your vendor this much?

Be sure to choose a vendor you can trust, with plenty of experience in the industry.

Make sure you have a say in which vendor supplies your automation solution. Often you may just go to your ERP vendor and purchase from their partner, they may sell this to you as having the best integration to their ERP when ERP integration is unlikely to be a challenge for any experienced vendor.

When it comes to trust, this can be created in multiple ways, possibly through existing customer reviews, being upfront about features and benefits knowing what they are talking about, and the ability for them to listen to you and work with you to produce the best possible result for your process.

Engaging with your businesses

Engage with your business

Discuss the project with members of different teams within your business. Don’t leave it until last minute to contact IT for their help with implementation as chances are, they will be busy, and you could have aligned schedules to make the project as efficient as possible, increasing the chance of hitting that ROI you presented to your CFO.

You may also find that another part of the business is looking to automate another process within the business, this could give you the chance to either learn from their mistakes and increase your automation awareness, or, work alongside their project and seek a vendor that could offer a solution for both processes.

Clean your Data

Tidy up your data

How’s your supplier master data looking? Usually this is a sore spot for a finance department, as it is often the last thing to be looked at when revising your processes. In fact, we regularly find that Supplier Master Data isn’t even looked at until a solution has already been procured.

This data is, however, vitally important when it comes to automation. As I’m sure you can imagine, this is how the robot finds who to pay and where to pay them. A thorough cleanse of your supplier master data will mean a much more blissful first few weeks, as the solution will achieve higher throughput rates.

New technology called “Capture as a Service” (CaaS) harnesses machine learning to create a mutualised repository of supplier master data, meaning the system can match your records with ones pulled from many other companies, work out the correct data set, and use that every time the data is needed, speeding up processing time and allowing you to be hands off your own master data (as I’m sure you are already!).

Why not take this opportunity to register for ITESOFT’s upcoming webinar “Exploring RPA and AI in Accounts Payable”.

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Post by Rory Coleman-Smith

Rory has been working with ITESOFT since early 2017. He has placed himself as a thought leader, educating finance departments on the latest advancements in technology in Financial Process Automation.

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