CloudX Blog

Exploring Where Accounts Payable Software & ePayments Meet For SMBs

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Dec 15, 2017 2:46:48 PM

prison mike.jpg

You know why they call me Prison Mike?

SMB’s can hardly be categorized “da belle of da ball” in the now famous Michael Scott, aka “Prison Mike” vernacular.  While they may have a bridesmaid and not the bride type rap, SMBs (small and medium businesses) make up nearly 97.9% of the United States’ 5.83 Million employer firms.  That is nothing to bat an eye at and until now has represented one of the last frontiers that is primed for process automation.

There are a variety of ways that automation is happening to the financial back office of the small business, whether you look at banking apps that simplify how checks get processed through mobile capture and manual indexing to things like accounting systems in the cloud that sync with your credit card provider to eliminate subsequent journal entries.

Some of the other, harder to reach areas include things that big corporates have been tackling for a while...invoice processing automation, epayments, and the like.  The intersection of these technologies, especially now through cloud based delivery methodologies essentially means a world of possibilities for small business leaders.  Not only can their processes be improved and transformed so they are virtually hands free and so that they have complete visibility, but they can literally be engineered to make their businesses make money.  This is no longer the realm of the big corporate only because cloud-based delivery has upended the traditional install based deployment model and paved the way for businesses of all shapes and sizes to follow in their footsteps.

With the expansion of repeatable integrations to key core SMB platforms like Quickbooks, Xero, Sage and such, moving data in and out is no longer a boondoggle and when we’re talking about automating how transactions get logged into a system that is otherwise reliant on manual entry, data manipulation and release is EVERYTHING.

Three Key Benefits to SMB’s Exploring Accounts Payable Software and ePayments

  1. Wave bye bye to data entry! - Through mobile (or desktop or MFP or email) capture, you’ll never have to enter another invoice into your accounting software.  Invoices and relevant documents get sucked into a capture process and enter your accounting software instance as if you had done the work.  Whether you want them be auto approved (assuming no GL coding is required and they match at a line level to open POs) you can shift gears to straight-through processing.  Gains in this area from a productivity standpoint are upwards of 80% to a manual process.
  2. Say hello to always knowing where your invoices are and what their status is! - This is a little thing called visibility and is kind of like a blind person receiving their sight.  If you don’t have sight, it can be difficult to imagine just how powerful seeing really is, but it is that profound.  Through a system integrated to your accounting software you can call up each and every invoice and understand every processing touchpoint, decision, payment name it, and never lose another invoice or miss a payment. POWERFUL!
  3. Count your blessings...and your benjamins! - This really pertains to those who would have the foresight to take automation all the way and get into payment optimization.  Through a simple epayments strategy tapping both virtual credit cards and ACH transactions you can divest yourself of approximately 50% of your check payments (maybe more).  Again, you save time, speed up the process, enhance controls, introduce visibility, and create a cash rebate flow back into your business fully flipping your back office cost center into a profit center.

If this seems too good to be true, well believe it.  We’ve seen numerous clients fully automate their process and enjoy the financial and operational benefits to automation and you can see that here!

Download The Four Keys To Maximizing The Strategic Value of Accounts Payable

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Topics: accounts payable software, Accounts Payable Automation, smb, Invoice Processing

Is AP Automation Worth It?

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Nov 8, 2017 2:59:36 PM

Is AP Automation worth it? Depends what your building...

Count the cost!


It’s always a good idea to determine whether something you’re thinking about doing is worthy of the effort.  I mean, who goes blindly into a venture without first counting the cost...that’s just dumb!  Could you actually imagine some engineers, architects, developers, and construction workers looking at each other at a skyscraper site and just shaking their heads saying I can’t believe we can’t finish...the beancounters say there’s no funds left.  It’s ludicrous, because that would never happen (except maybe for that hotel in Pyongyang, but hey).

Though most Accounts Payable professionals don’t have extensive building construction expertise it is not entirely dissimilar in that the question needs to be asked before beginning the lift in terms of process automation.  Though AP automation is definitely a known entity, it’s more involved than in bygone years, especially with the advent of numerous B2B payment rails.  The thrust of what we want to bring into view today though is really the measurement by which one could assess the prospects of AP automation and determine whether it would be worthwhile.

Three perspectives that need to be considered:

  1. Financial costs - Certainly any project has a financial cost consideration to take from inception to completion, like our building example above.  In many cases, the end result is something that may have an intangible value, though that won’t cut it in terms of assessing the viability of bringing AP automation to bear.  In fact, most organizations that have brought transformation to their Accounts Payable function have done so for precisely two reasons: a. They had a desire to do things more efficiently and they knew that was possible and b. They had the foresight to realize that an improved process would have the directly proportional effect of driving their costs down, and thus they would eventually achieve a break even and ultimately return on their investment.  This whole model is well and good, though new ePayments mechanisms like virtual card are tipping the apple cart though as they afford businesses the opportunity to monetize their payment stream and literally flip AP into a profit center virtually overnight.

  2. Opportunity costs - What does not automating this onerous process mean to your business? How is a poor or suboptimal process impeding your doing business with vendors and ultimately your supply chain? Is it creating error in your process that is then getting found out through internal and external audits?  What are the impacts on your people, and not just your back office AP staff, but how are your approvers engaging with this and how much is the effort requiring of them and what is their time worth.  What comes of doing nothing in terms of improving and maintaining the status quo?  All of these questions need to be posited and then you must taken an honest inventory of the responses before determining what matters most.

  3. Resource / political costs - Some hills are worth fighting for and others worth dying for, though not all are worthy of a fight.  If you know you don’t have the personnel to pull a project off, in some cases an honest assessment before getting started is what’s absolutely required.  In other cases political infighting can doom a project before it finds its feet.  For some companies, areas and projects are more siloed and competitive and as such, getting an initiative can be challenging to say the least.  Either way you need to count the costs in this respect and determine how much support you have and how much ack ack you have coming at you and what the best path forward is.

From our perspective, staying mired in inefficiency, waste, and limited visibility is an absolute non-option.  So, granted that we’re biased in this area, but we’re also unapologetic advocates for improvement where possible, and via cloud based AP automation virtually any business can benefit from an improved process and one that monetizes each transaction coming through and going out the doors so to speak!

Free eBook on AP Automation vs E-Invoicing:  What's Right For My Business?

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Topics: ap automation, Accounts Payable Process

Harnessing AI Via AP Automation

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Nov 1, 2017 11:00:17 AM

Best AP Automation is AI powered!

Rise of the machines

There’s increasing buzz over the impact of AI (artificial intelligence) in the workplace.  With all the B2C impacts we’re seeing of late it’s with good reason.  Just consider how Alexa and all the Amazon devices, or Siri on iPhones, or the Google suite of products are changing how we do life at home and you’ll quickly grasp the pace and scope of the landmark changes in our world.  This is all well and good in our personal lives, and somewhat easier to comprehend, but the business implications of artificial intelligence in the back office can not be understated.  Sadly, many companies still don’t grasp how this technology can be leveraged in the here and now to create better business outcomes, reduce costs, improve cashflow, and drive profit, all in back office areas.

The primary way that AI is influencing AP automation would be three fold:

  1. OCR - It’s by no means a new technology, but one that has been changing and improving for a while.  OCR is now a highly reliable, trainable, adaptive technology that utilizes a machine learning engine to continuously improve in terms of accuracy and data throughput.  At a minimum, if you are in the data entry game in areas like Accounts Payable, this is a technology that can deliver a massive amount of value and should be on your roadmap to explore.  Granted, it’s not for everyone and typically only fairly large companies have successfully deployed it, but rest assured there are cloud and BPO models that can take your documents and data and run through an OCR engine with validation services to deliver high quality data back to you (and without breaking the bank).
  2. Workflow - Business Intelligence can be applied to drive documents or processes forward and this is a welcome change.  For anyone who has been trying to push approval processes forward and understands the challenge of doing this across a large or geographically dispersed organization, this is a definite win.  By applying your unique business rules to an electronic workflow, you can obtain the approvals needed to advance a transaction all while establishing a digital audit trail that can be tapped into later as a means of process visibility.  Various triggers can be used in conjunction with OCR so an AP automation system intelligently knows who and where to route invoices or transactions for human interaction.  Things like Address, Vendor Name, or Dollar Amounts can all be triggers for delegation or escalation and will help most businesses navigate even the most cumbersome of processes.
  3. Payments - Payment broker technology is a relatively newer development in the B2B landscape, but is a technology that can intelligently apply payment to your vendors based upon their preference.  This is massive for Payors as it enables them to push ePayment adoption and thereby advance their interests in terms of divesting themselves of traditional, onerous payment methods like Check.  Also, due the increasingly diverse set of B2B payment rails, it’s a welcome support to the AP staff that are otherwise responsible for executing payment transactions.  In today’s business climate, companies can pay via Check, Wire, ACH / EFT, credit cards, or virtual payments.  As such, having this technology that can intuitively offer payment according to the vendor’s preferred payment method, or one that can be designed to offer payment by the Payor’s preference as an initial offering and then default to a secondary method.

All of these are solid examples of the use of machine computing and intelligence to bring about positive wholesale operational benefits that come with a major financial upside.  If you haven’t explored these yet for your business it’s time to get serious and look into these for yourself to see where you might be missing out and learn what you can do about it!

Download The Four Keys To Maximizing The Strategic Value of Accounts Payable

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Topics: ap automation, artificial intelligence, ai

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