9 AP Automation Challenges to Overcome in 2024

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Written By Haisam Abdel Malak
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AP automation challenges have emerged as pivotal focal points in the contemporary landscape of financial processes. As businesses increasingly transition towards digital transformation, the automation of accounts payable (AP) procedures stands at the forefront of efficiency enhancements. Navigating these obstacles require true dedication and the utilization of the best ap automation software.

The biggest accounts payable challenges are:

ap automation challenges

Challenge #1- Supplier Onboarding

One of the key challenges you will mostly face is the ability to onboard your suppliers to your AP automation program. This requires the ability to manage change, train their personnel, and explain the added value they will get such as invoice tracking, notification on payment delays, or contact them for clarifications.

Having an additional portal to work on is not easily accepted by any employees specially if they don’t belong to your organization. I’ve dealt with this previously but my favorite part when suppliers grasp how important for them to join the program.

Challenge #2- Integration with Existing Systems

When it comes to provide a holistic approach of automating an AP process, integration with existing systems is what I usually feel it is one of the hardest points to cover. Invoices and data extracted should be automatically imported to ERP systems without any human intervention to complete the cycle.

In my opinion, this could be one of the most time-consuming tasks to finalize as you need to carefully identify the systems you need to integrate with, make sure that they provide ways for integrations, and implement the changes needed.

In summary, integrating the domains of AP automation with existing ERP systems, accounting software, and other tools can be challenging and require customizations.

Challenge #3- Data Accuracy

One of the biggest challenges in AP automation is ensuring accurate and complete data capture during the invoice processing phase. In order to automate any AP related process, we should think about how data is automatically collected from invoices and what is the level of accuracy of the information.

Nowadays there are lot of tools available that will provide high level accuracy of information extraction such as OCR or intelligent document processing available in mostly any language.

Challenge #4- Resistance to Change

I always mention this point whenever I talk about digital transformation or automation in particular. If you don’t get your employees buy in specially from high management and senior executives, you will most probably fail in your AP automation implementation and frustration will keep hunting you.

To ensure that everyone is onboard, follow my method and engage all key stakeholders from day 1 of the initiative. For example, you need to meet with them, get their feedback, let them be part of the automation cycle, and highlight the reason why this initiative is happening.

Through the course, make sure also to follow up with the latest accounts payable automation trends to push towards solving some of these major issues allowing you to streamline and automate the complete AP process.

Challenge #5- Ensure Compliance

Any time there is financial or money-related automation, you must make sure the new process complies with all applicable laws, rules, and standards such as tax regulations and data privacy laws. This is one of the most challenging tasks to perform as it requires understanding these rules and stay updated when a change is introduced.

Navigating through the complexities of tax codes, invoicing standards, and data privacy laws demands a comprehensive understanding of the regulatory landscape. Failure to maintain compliance not only poses legal risks but can also result in financial penalties.

To overcome this challenge, I recommend ensuring that you have legal and compliance experts that can help you ensure that your automated process is compliant and recommend changes when new rules or regulations are introduced.

Challenge #6- Workflow Standardization

Achieving consistency in accounts payable (AP) workflows poses a significant challenge for organizations implementing automation. In many businesses, different departments or branches may have varying procedures for handling invoices, approvals, and payments.

The goal of AP automation is to streamline and optimize these processes, but the lack of standardized workflows can impede these efforts. Standardization involves creating a unified set of procedures and guidelines for AP tasks across the entire organization. This requires a careful examination of existing processes, collaboration with various stakeholders, and the establishment of best practices.

Challenge #7- Cost

Cost is considered also a significate challenge that businesses face when implementing or maintaining such system. The initial price can vary depending on a lot of factors such as the size of the organization, the implementation scope, and the complexity of customized integrations required.

In addition, you must consider the cost of training, support, and hardware maintenance if you choose not to move to the cloud. You don’t want to end up investing in a portal that you will find it harder down the road to maintain and keep.

To overcome this challenge, you should carefully evaluate different offerings available, negotiate the price based on the number of users, and try to get 1-year free training and support.

Challenge #8- User Adoption and Training

The transition from manual to automated processes can be met with resistance, as employees accustomed to traditional methods may find it challenging to embrace new technologies. A comprehensive training program is essential to familiarize users with the features and functionalities of the automated systems, fostering confidence and proficiency.

The problem lies in tailoring training initiatives to diverse skill levels and roles within the organization. Ongoing support mechanisms must be in place to address user concerns and facilitate a smooth adaptation to the automated workflows.

Challenge #9- Scalability

As organizations evolve, transaction volumes and complexities often increase, demanding a scalable infrastructure that can accommodate these changes seamlessly. Scalability encompasses not only the technological aspect but also considerations like the ability to handle additional users, data storage, and processing power.

Without proper scalability, businesses risk encountering performance bottlenecks and increased downtimes. Addressing the challenge of scalability involves strategic planning, periodic assessments, and the flexibility to incorporate advancements in technology.

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