The time of manually processing invoices and your accounts payable documents is a thing of the past—or at least they should be. Adopting AP automation saves your staff time, but that’s just the beginning. Modernizing your AP department decreases the risk for fraud, decreases or eliminates the number of errors and provides real-time data to make better informed decisions.

According to an Aberdeen study, 40% of business respondents recognize the need for real-time data for a more visible AP process. About 30% of respondents use paper-based documents and say that locating and managing them continues to be a struggle. In terms of fraud prevention, an APEX Analytix report found that 65% of surveyed businesses don’t authenticate vendors against external data sources and only 14% capture verifiable details of their vendors’ beneficial owners and officers.

About 30% of respondents use paper-based documents and say that locating and managing them is a big challenge. —Aberdeen study .

The time to update and modernize your AP and financial department is now. Our checklist below gives you an idea of what to expect and what actions you should take when deploying an AP automation system.

  1. Get buy-in and participation from not just your IT department.

Deploying AP automation system technology isn’t just a job for your IT department. Because your finance and AP departments will be working in your new system every day, it’s crucial to get your finance and AP department involved from the beginning. Together, you can create a vision on how your AP process can be optimized.

  1. Focus on enhancing and streamlining operations.

Once you get your AP and staff together in a room, start asking questions. This step in the checklist is where you examine the status quo. Determine what steps and methods are working. What isn’t working? What should you change? Where is work being duplicated? Now is the time to evaluate your workflows to figure out what can be done to make them more efficient. Think of it this way: deploying an AP automation solution is an opportunity to reimagine your AP processes—take full advantage of it.

  1. Divide the workload

Now that you’ve made a map or a list of what can be done to make your AP processes more efficient and cost effective, organize and divide invoice processing activities between the AP department, the rest of the finance team and other team members who review and approve invoices.

When thinking about your AP processing activities, consider centralizing as much of the AP-related work as possible. A centralized system consolidates all related functions in a single location with a specific team. Centralized processing is more efficient, as it identifies recurring events, such as invoice matching against purchase orders and contracts, that are solid candidates for automation. This is helpful if the AP team processes at least 20 similar invoices per month.

  1. Identify areas to improve control and compliance

Plan how you will implement controls and compliance over the entire process. First, consider the internal policies to effectively control AP and to avoid fraud.

Some questions to ask you team can include:

  • Do you need to have two approvers on invoices of a certain dollar amount?
  • Which team members can add new vendors?
  • What steps will you take to recognize duplicate invoices?
  • How are exceptions handled? What is the process to report them?

Secondly, list the regulations–industry-specific and otherwise–that you need to comply with. The processes involved in meeting compliance can be built into you automated system.

  1. Develop a matching plan for your optimized process

Use the vision and strategy that forms out of the optimization phase when you implement your new AP system, including how purchases and invoice will be handled from receipt to payment, who approves what and when, and what needs to be done and what data needs to be captured to stay in regulatory compliance.

Here are some tips for simplifying automated invoice review and approval:

  • The easier it is to use your AP automation system, the better results you will get.
  • Automatic matching and approval of PO-based invoices will reduce the number of invoices you will need to handle.
  • Make sure the system offers mobile capabilities to support remote work.
  • Offer automatic approval of contract-based invoices.
  • Only route invoices that require approval before payment, avoiding things like intra-company invoices or consumption-based invoices.
  1. Take into account IT considerations

Minimize customizations in your Dynamics 365 and AX system to ensure the most straightforward upgrades. We understand that customizations sometimes are necessary, but we recommend only use the customizations that you really really need. That said, choose an add-on AP automation solution that is compatible with your current or future Dynamics system to minimize unforeseen headaches during implementation and future updates and upgrades.

  1. Train your staff

Making sure your entire staff has buy-in is one step. Making sure your staff knows the ins and outs of using your new AP automation system might be just as important. A staff with inadequate knowledge of your new AP automation system is more likely to get in the habit of finding and using workarounds.

Providing system training early on allows them to experience the benefits of automation themselves. This will go a long way to getting them on board for the long haul.

Conclusion

Transitioning into an AP automation solution is a completely doable proposition with benefits that directly impact your bottom line. To learn more about how to get started and get your questions answered about the ins and outs of invoice automation, join our interactive, live webinar on June 12.