CloudX Blog

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: Accounts Payable Process, ap automation

Making the best use of data in Accounts Payable Software

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Oct 3, 2017 12:16:54 PM

Best Accounts Payable Software Makes Big Data Meaningful

It’s all Greek to me.

We’ve all heard this adage in one context or another.

In the day and age of big data however, this is not necessarily a good thing and for too many businesses, their data is unfortunately all Greek to them.  With that said, there are many savvy and intrepid businesses that are maximizing the raw power of their data to achieve enhanced business outcomes.  That’s all well and good, but what does it have to do with Accounts Payable software?

We’re glad you asked!

We’re going to look at a few different scenarios as it pertains to this question over the next week or so, and in the first example we want to share with you a client win who was able to leverage cloud based accounts payable software deployment to achieve multiple things.  In this instance the client was a large consumer packaged goods maker who had multiple, disparate accounting and inventory system that presented a major challenge to integration and data aggregation.

Here are the main take-aways from their experience with cloud based account payable software:

  1. They were able to streamline their frenetic and highly seasonal approach to invoice processing to be something that was streamlined and scalable.  Where they used to have to augment staff heavily to meet the demands of their yearly peaks, they now possess the ability to scale and adjust through the automation afforded to them with accounts payable software.
  2. They were able to make their data meaningful.  This is probably the key to the entire post today in that data is entirely useless unless you can digest and interpret it.  For many businesses, especially as it relates to AP invoice processing, there is little to no data analysis and certainly less intentional action around invoices.  For too many business the raison d’etre for AP is simply pay the bill when it come in.  This is a major disservice to the strategic function of AP and ultimately will cost said organization lots of dollars through blown opportunities by way of missed discounts and tacked on penalties.  We believe the best way to make data meaningful from the steady stream of invoices that pour in is by utilizing a tool like advanced OCR technology to extract all the data from an invoice and then run it through a logic based automation tool that looks for and identifies key data sets...invoice number, vendor name, due dates, terms, line items, totals, tax, freight, etc.  All of this can then be used for later analysis and action.
  3. They were able to assemble a data warehouse where their legacy system was unable to.  This is partly due to the flexibility of cloud based accounts payable software and the implications that most cloud technology has over fixed, static, legacy systems, but in this case, the client was actually able to establish vendor contract data in the cloud based upon the stream of invoices that was pouring in.  Granted one of the assumptions that was made and accepted by the client was that there was a certain good faith element to accepting the customer pricing as listed on the invoice.  However, by implementing logic controls around price / item / and location variance, the client was able to triage invoices that underwent any kind of a price augmentation above a standard, pre-defined acceptable change threshold.  Where there legacy system was incapable of providing, clean, dynamic data, by housing this data in a new cloud based system, they were able to transform their insights and reporting to achieve never before seen clarity within their process and which ultimately ended up with enhanced vendor management and optimized financial outcomes in terms of payment. Beyond this they were able to monetize their payments through virtual Mastercard payments and make AP a profit center!

If this means something to you don’t let your process or lack of quality data hold you hostage any longer! Check out the eBook below or give us a shout and see if we can help you transform your accounts payable process!

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

Read More

Topics: Accounts Payable Process, accounts payable software, virtual mastercard, data

3 Workflow Non-Negotiables When Evaluating Accounts Payable Software

Posted by Chris Cosgrove

Sep 1, 2017 12:57:52 PM

Electronic Workflow - Accounts Payable Software Buying Checklist!

People love to buy things but they never like to be sold.  


There’s a certain awkwardness to buying things especially of a higher valued nature.  Cars, appliances, contractor services, even homes can evoke nauseating feelings due to the ride of emotions that are brought about from having to communicate wants and needs, negotiate terms, offer course corrections, and ultimately come to agreement for pricing, options, and delivery.  Many people dread these situations, and often experience significant bouts of remorse after a purchasing decision has been made.  Perhaps this is why people are so invested in the honest economy afforded by the internet.  Blogs, community forums, and YouTube have transformed how people research topics and inform their decision making.

Such is the case with Accounts Payable software (especially with respect to electronic workflow capability) and this is part of our raison d’etre.  We want to provide the best possible insights to all persons evaluating the accounts payable process from the lense of automation to help you glean from the things we’ve learned during our time of helping many organizations move from static, burdened processing to dynamic, streamlined efficiency.

So, with that said, we wanted to look at some electronic workflow non-negotiables that your Accounts workflow software must have if it is to be of significant value to you.

Three Electronic Workflow non-negotiables for Accounts Payable software:

Business intelligence flexibility - Accounts payable software for workflow has to have business intelligence flexibility.  Business intelligence flexibility enables you to automatically route things based upon logic that is set in motion when setting up workflows.  This business intelligence can and should be used as a process trigger to ensure invoices get where they need to from an approval chain perspective.  Additionally, business intelligence flexibility can cover things like item / cost variances to allow invoices for automated processing or to be flagged for exception handling.  However, if your system doesn’t afford flexibility around defining what the triggers are for such instances, then it means that everything boils down to manual intervention.  This then means that the investment in workflow is moot on some levels, because even though you may gain electronic distribution of documents and decisions, you’ll be doubling down on what’s required for effecting decisions.

Mobile device compatibility -  Some Accounts Payable workflow systems don’t have a clear path forward from a mobile platform perspective.  Granted, long term players in this space that care about their customer base are obviously going to ensure that this is not the case for them.  However, if you’re looking to get the most out of your AP workflow software, then you better be sure that it has the ability for at least your approvers to access their invoice queues through a mobile app so they can approve on the fly.  We personally think that giving your people the ability to grab and go is helpful.  This way approvers can download their workload to approve offline, and then sync back up once network connectivity is re-established.  If your AP automation provider isn’t talking about this...perhaps you’re barking up the wrong tree.

If that's the case, give us a shot to chat with you and we promise it will be worth your while!

Customized expense coding - Finally, and somewhat in relation to the first non-negotiable, your workflow must have the capacity to be augmented to reflect the nuances of your unique process.  I’ve seen this be especially important on services (aka Non-PO) invoices within an organization where they want to code things with some unique departmental or project code related ID.  While most people encompass this in some sort of numeric or alpha numeric text string (105.111753 where 105 is department and 111753 is the type within the department) others do it separately outside of a text string and thus have a need to book it a different way.  A lot of this is predicated on how their accounting system reconciles GL codes, but either way your AP workflow software has to be able to accommodate this or you’re going to quickly find yourself getting frustrated.

Final Thoughts


So, those are just a few things to consider when evaluating what Accounts Payable workflow software is going to be right for you!

Here are some other items you should be thinking about to achieve highest value in your quest to improve AP!  Also if you haven't yet monetized your process, you're letting profit slip right through your fingers daily.  Check this out and tap into a new and sustainable back office revenue stream!


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

Read More

Topics: Accounts Payable Process, accounts payable software, ap workflow

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