Accounts payable automation best practices are a set of guidelines that organizations should follow to effectively streamline their financial transactions. These recommendations along with the best ap automation software can help you increase efficiency, reduce delays, improve productivity, increase trust with suppliers, vendors, and service providers.
Some of the key accounts payable automation best practices include getting key stakeholders buy in, assigning responsible team, using agile methodologies, integration with ERS and accounting systems, centralization of accounts payable, standardization of processes, and monitoring performance.
Automating accounts payable processes is no doubt a challenging task to implement. However, following the latest AP automation trends and applying these techniques will allow companies to achieve maximum benefits of automation.
What are the Key AP Automation Best Practices?
Here are the key AP automation best practices:
1- Get key stakeholders buy in
Whenever a new change is needed to be introduced in any organizations, the first thing to do is to identify key stakeholders and plan for the change management phase. Moving away from traditional invoice processing to a fully automated one requires the evolvement from senior executives and managers from the first day.
From my 15 years’ experience of helping organizations transition to digital operations, I can surely recognize that the number one reason for automation failure is employee’s resistance to change.
This best practice should help you identify the key stakeholders in the project, including AP staff, IT staff, and vendors.
2- Assign responsible team
One of the most critical accounts payable automation best practices is to assign the proper resources responsible for:
- Creating a plan that outlines the goals, objectives, and expected outcomes to the project.
- Create clear policies for AP automation, including policies for exception handling, data management, and security.
- Supervise the different steps needed to take this project into phases.
- Involve internal and external stakeholders including employees, vendors, and suppliers in every single step.
- Collected feedback and prioritize changes required.
This team should include specialist in the AP processes, IT skilled personnel, automation experts, and at least one senior manager.
3- Use agile methodologies
There are lots of tasks to be implemented for automation AP related processes. However, taking the approach of gradual automation will surely help finalize this project in phases where you can automate for instance the import of new invoices to the system, measure performance, collect feedback, and later move to the next phase.
Agile methodologies are most common in the software development field where for the iteration of 1 month a set of tasks are prioritized and focused on to be developed. The same approach can be applied to the automation of AP tasks.
4- Integration with ERP and accounting systems
The full automation for the financial transactions within an organization can’t be implemented without the integration with the current ERP and accounting systems available in place.
The integration should allow the AP system to pull data from the ERP which is used for financial management and inventory management such as vendor information, purchase orders (POs), and inventory data and push data back to the ERP system related to payment information and updated vendor records.
Achieving this integration helps companies gain real time visibility of all financial transactions and streamline the complete process with very little human intervention. This all will help aligning with the initial business goal and vision created.
5- Centralize accounts payable
Implementing best practices policies in accounts payable automation involves consolidating all related tasks into a single portal which has the ability to reduce delays and standardize processes. It is very critical to provide a one single application that allows for all invoices to be processes, paid, and tracked which result in increasing efficiency and user experience.
Centralizations of accounts payable processes will make sure that all departments submit and process invoices in the same manner, providing consistent and accurate outcomes.
The main benefit from this step is to increase efficiency which can happen by providing a faster way to process invoices and a reduction in manual data entry.
6- Train employees
It is not enough to manage the resistance to change effectively as described in the first step, you need to make sure that employees, vendors, and suppliers are confident of the solution and feel empowered to use the automation tools that will help them operate faster and with very little down time.
Training should include giving an overview of the whole process from invoice submission to reports generation and a providing a complete tour of the application with detailed documentation that will help them resolve any issue without getting back to the team assigned in phase 2.
In addition, whenever a chance is introduced that might impact the productivity of these employees, you should introduce it by either an in-person training or/and updating the documentation.
7- Monitor and measure performance
The last recommendation in the list of the top accounts payable automation best practices is to keep on monitoring and measuring the performance of AP processes to ensure they remain effective and efficient. This can include identifying areas of improvements, measure the time to complete a process before and after, and identify new bottlenecks (if any).
Remember, the number one indicator of the success of this initiative is speed of an automated AP process. That is why, you should make sure to always maintain the steps and address changing business needs.
Each step in this list of the top accounts payable best practices has been included from my experience in automating related AP processes within medium to large enterprises. Make sure to go through them carefully if you are serious about improving the efficiencies of your accounts payable processes.