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Invoice Processing Automation: Today's Best Practices And The Key To Success
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When it comes to automating invoice processing, you probably know that automating invoice you can cut your costs by up to 90%, reclaim office space, take advantage of early payment discounts, and achieve a level of management visibility they never had before with accounts payable – and with a positive ROI timeframe often achieved in less than one year. So why are you still manually processing paper invoices?
In the Old Days…
Early generations of invoice processing automation software were complex, expensive and offered little possibility of integration with your enterprise resource planning (ERP) or accounting software. As a result, only the largest companies could afford this technology and integration could easily be a nightmare.
Today’s AP Automation Technology
Invoice processing software today is simple, integrates well with most ERP and accounting systems and can acquired without any capital expense.
Invoice scanning can be outsourced to a local service bureau and document management with workflow automation can be implemented in the cloud – both of which can be achieved with a modest monthly expense.
Experienced document management system integrators can also ensure that your invoice processing system integrates with whatever system you have, so they can be viewed within that system, and the integrator may not even need to come onsite if it’s a cloud implementation. This allows organizations of all sizes to automate their accounts payable departments quickly and cost-effectively.
Scan to Workflow vs. Scan to Archive
Organizations that scan invoices today often do so after they’re processed so they don’t have to be stored in paper form – this frees up office space and precludes the need for offsite storage, which can get costly.
An emerging best practice in invoice processing automation is to scan paper invoices as soon as they are received, and directly into workflow automation software. This can take a few forms:
Have your accounts payable clerks scan invoices as they arrive at their desk
Have your mailroom scan invoices as soon as they enter the building
Have a document scanning provider pick up your mail from a PO box or, better yet, have all invoices be sent to them as many can scan and upload them to your system on a same-day basis
Whoever scans them, having these invoices in electronic form and managed by workflow automation software streamlines the approval and exception handling process, especially when utilizing digital signatures and integrated with your ERP/accounting system. Once approved and processed, these electronic invoices can be stored in your document management system for long-term archival and instant retrieval.
It’s All about ROI
A positive return on investment for invoice processing automation is typically achieved in 6-9 months and almost always in under a year. These savings stem from the following:
Labor Savings: dramatically reducing the need to manually process invoices means that less AP clerks are needed
Early Payment Discounts: processing invoices up to 90% faster can help you take advantage of 1-2/net 30 type discounts
Duplicate Payment Elimination: never pay in invoice twice again
Space Reclamation: scanning all invoices means that filing cabinets can be thrown out and basements/boiler rooms be cleared of boxes full of paper
Compliance: producing any document needed by an auditor prevents violations and fines
Better Decision Making: when management can access information, quickly and easily, they can make better choices
The Key to Success
While simple, cost-effective accounts payable automation technology is widely available, it still takes working with an experienced integrator to make it all work, troubleshoot along the way, train your people, and support you over time. Integrators of document scanning, workflow automation and document management are often referred to as value-added resellers (VARs) of both document imaging and enterprise content management (ECM) solutions – with “solutions” encompassing both document scanning and data entry services as well as ECM software and hardware. Just make sure you find a VAR that is experienced with both invoice processing automation and integrating it with the ERP/accounting system your organization uses – finding a VAR that is an accredited Accounts Payable Solution Provider (APSP) is a good start.
What are you waiting for? It’s time to automate AP. Then, when you’re done with accounts payable, you can use the same system for automating accounts receivable, human resources, any other back-office process, and then you can move on to operations.
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