It seems that a culture has emerged of “If AP ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. This is not specific to any level of a business, generation, or gender.
Instead this idea seems to be reinforced by professionals who can’t see the benefits to automating accounts payable, when compared to a completely manual process.
Whilst keeping processes running the way they have been for the past 10 to 20 years is far simpler than undergoing a streamlining project, it could be costing your company hundreds of thousands of pounds per year.
In fact, according to our whitepaper “Transforming supplier invoice processing into a competitive advantage” a company processing 30,000 invoices per year could see over £200,000 in savings when compared to a manual process.
When it comes to a compelling business case, the biggest factor will be cost. Costs can be associated to multiple factors: Time, People, Mistakes, Environment, and Office Space.
Automated processes are, by their very nature, much more time efficient than manual processes.
A piece of software can read a document much faster than a human, and, with Intelligent Capture Recognition (ICR), will remember and understand everything that it has read.
This, paired with Machine Learning to refine each step, can process invoices over eight times faster than a manual process (Increasing from 50 per person per day to 400+).
Every minute your team is spent processing invoices is time that they could spend doing more beneficial activities, which brings me to…
When automation is brought up in conversation, someone will inevitably pipe in “automation is destroying jobs”.
Whilst it is true that automation is taking away menial tasks from humans, it is mostly thought that it will open the doors to more meaningful (and valuable) tasks.
In Accounts Payable these could include chasing suppliers that frequently leave PO’s off invoices (yes, these kinds of analytics are available with automation).
Once suppliers are comfortably managed and are sending in all the required information on their invoices, there will be even less manual processing for the AP team.
Once manual processing is down to a minimum, so is your payment cycle, presenting opportunities for early payment discounts and freeing up cash-flow for other investments and a clearer forecast.
This could then give you the availability to up-skill your workforce and promote from within without the need to replace your clerks, saving the department tens of thousands in salaries year on year.
Misreading, mistyping, allocating to the wrong code, sending the document to the wrong person (or department) for approval, submitting the same document twice, and even losing or destroying the document are common place mistakes easily made by humans.
When utilising Robotic Process Automation (RPA), these errors will never happen, unless of course the human that creates the workflows makes a mistake!
These mistakes massively increase risk of fraudulent payments, as well as wasting a lot of time, and as we all know, time means money.
A lot of time is given these days to the affects us humans are having on our beloved planet earth, especially since David Attenborough’s Blue Planet II in which he shares the devastating effect we have had on life in the ocean (whole coral reef’s becoming bleached etc).
Automation and the digitalisation of documents means a drastic reduction in paper consumption and fuel for transportation.
These environmental benefits come with other perks such as saving time (it’s much faster to email than to send in the post), and of course, saving money as you no longer need to service printers or bulk buy paper and postage stamps.
No, I’m not talking about the 1999 comedy film starring Ron Livingstone and Jennifer Aniston (which, by the way, I recommend you watch if you haven’t seen it already), I mean the actual space in your office.
If you deal with lots of documents, you must then have the inconvenience of having to store them, either on site or off site.
Either way, you will be spending money on that space through ground rent, heating (if part of your office), and lighting costs.
Instead you could be using that space to give your employees a little more desk space, or even transform larger storage areas into meeting rooms and enclosed offices.
On top of paper storage, technology such as the cloud also allows you to reduce space used by IT servers, since these servers are no longer needed to host your organisation’s software.
Is your AP broke?
It may not seem like it, but now you can hopefully identify benefits of changing the way you process invoices instead of being blind to the problems of a manual process.
There are many more benefits to reviewing, perfecting, and updating your processes than there are to keep the status quo and sometimes, what you think is working smoothly, could in fact be prohibiting the progress of your company’s bank balance, as well as your work force.