The internal discussion happens every year, doesn’t it? “We don’t have the budget… We don’t have the resources at this time… We have another project that is taking priority… Let’s consider AP Imaging and Workflow Automation next year…” Automating your AP department may feel like a daunting undertaking, but can you really afford NOT to do it? If you break down the project into a few key considerations and partner with a proven provider, this could be the year! But in order to fully maximize the benefits of AP automation (and avoid the pitfalls), here are 10 factors you should absolutely keep in mind, when evaluating your options:
- Examine and document your existing Accounts Payable processes so that you can easily communicate how invoices are received, the format they arrive (e.g. Paper, EDI, email, etc…), how approval routing is completed, how invoices are coded, how long invoices must be retained and how PO vs. Non-PO is processed just to name a few. Keep an open mind to new processes–the application of best practices will save enormous amounts of time and effort!
- Understand the cost benefit analysis associated with your project. What is the Return on Investment (ROI) you should expect and how many months until the project pays for itself? Take the time to really understand the ROI calculator being utilized and error on the conservative side to ensure that the numbers are as accurate as possible. A cost benefit analysis that your Controller or CFO buys into, is a project with a much greater probability of approval. A fully integrated AP Imaging and Workflow automation solution will cut your AP process costs by 50%. You can’t afford NOT to do this… Really!
- ERP Integration is extremely important to the success of your project… this cannot be emphasized enough. Understand the options available for the solution selected and ensure that your expectations match what the new system actually delivers. Some systems add transactions to your Accounts Payable module real-time and validate against the most current vendor and GL data, while others require staging tables and nightly batch uploads. Also, make sure you understand how document images may be attached and retrieved from within your accounting system. The level of ERP integration can stifle organizational adoption and greatly influence your staff’s satisfaction with the system.
- Indexing Options vary widely from one OCR (Optical Character Recognition) application to another. Some systems require templates be setup for each vendor where XY coordinates are utilized to indicate the location of an invoice#, invoice date, PO#, etc… Templates are tedious to maintain and accuracy degrades over time. Other systems read the invoice much like a person reads an invoice–labels like vendor, invoice date, remit to and amount are indentified and associated with corresponding data values.
- Imaging as a Service may be the best approach for your organization. Invoices are sent directly to the scanning (or imaging) service bureau via lock box or PO Box for processing. The service bureau will open envelopes, remove staples and paper clips, sort the invoices by type, scan, index and validate the invoices to then be transmitted directly to your approval routing engine. Your AP environment is now paperless without the worry of filing, storing, tracking retention dates and managing document destruction.