While some may argue that AP automation is old news and bolder, fresher ideas like e-invoicing are the way forward, the fact remains that even best in class, leader type organizations can not mandate 100% adoption of these means. Just as other advanced technologies like EDI have not displaced traditional invoicing there is and will remain a segment of all payables departments that depend upon alternatives to manual invoice processing. However, there are certain ways to doing things once the AP automation effort has begun that will yield better results than others. As such, we thought it appropriate to take a more instructive role in this post to foster some ideas that may assist you in your quest to achieve maximum efficiency.
Here are five best practices to make your Accounts Payable workflow software deployment optimal!
1. Leveraging location - One of the best ways to tap into the automation potential of AP workflow software is to harness header data off the invoice to drive the electronic workflow to the correct processor or approver. In this case, if you have a geographically distributed business and correlated AP process, this is an ideal way to ensure smooth processing of invoices by your AP team. By capturing the City, State, and ZIP information off the invoice header, you can use a geographic assignment within your workflow configuration to get invoices to their correct destination faster. As an aside you can also leverage delivery (ship to or services rendered to) info as well. This is a tactic that is especially helpful in processing third party invoices.
2. Vendor assignment - Another easy to deploy and beneficial method to improving your accounts payable process is to auto-assign vendors to processors, GL-coders, or approvers by vendor. This helps expedite vendor specific invoices to the correct processing route without intervention and eliminates manual processing steps. This is an elementary step to deploying workflow and is probably the lowest hanging fruit from all the items in this list and should be done at the outset of an AP workflow software roll out because it’s very simple to put into motion.
3. GL Coding Restrictions by Approver - This is more of a control to prevent errant coding of invoices, but one that should not be neglected. In conjunction with a phased roll out departmentally, which is something we absolutely advocate, we believe that by restricting the available GL codes that an approver or exception handler has to choose from (think drop down menu), the chance of them selecting the wrong code and creating an inaccurate expense booking diminishes drastically.
4. Delegation in Absentia - Delegation becomes an important component for process continuity management especially as it relates to employees who are required to approve invoices who may have to travel frequently, or are out on vacation or leave. Having delegation rules built into your workflow eliminates process bottlenecks and saves invoices from getting lost in the cracks of the process which can then result in missed discount capture or worse late payment fees.
5. Automated Reporting - Reporting from workflow metadata is key as well to monitor the process of invoices throughout their various stages so you can see which invoices are moving swiftly through the process and which are bogging down. Common breakdowns can be assignment by approver, department, vendor, amount, terms date, or due date. By having automatic views into each of these data points intelligent action can be taken to ensure the best possible business outcomes. Additionally, month end closing processes such as the common practice of accruing outstanding ‘suspected’ invoices in queue, can be facilitated in a moment because once invoice data is available within the workflow / business intelligence system, it’s available for dynamic reporting, which in turn will save manual effort associated with compiling that data outside of a system.
Hopefully these 5 best practices to AP workflow software deployment give you a positive frame of reference for maximizing how your organization goes about automating AP. If that’s not something you’ve done yet, we think you should check this out! Also, if you’ve done this but haven’t monetized your process, you’re leaving money on the table instead of turning AP into a strategic profit center and we think that’s silly! If you’ve a mind to achieve greater value and contribution from AP to your organizational health, then check this out!