Traditional AP & Expense Challenges Amplified: How AP/Expense Automation Can Help Now

Thoughtware Alert May 05, 2020
Computer screen with code

With the SARS-CoV-2 virus and incidence of COVID-19 continuing to spread throughout the world, many organizations are having to rapidly adapt to this new reality. Traditional ways of completing tasks like processing vendor payments, employee expenses, receiving/invoicing accounts payable (AP) and approvals will no longer suffice in a remote working environment. Many businesses’ employees are being exposed needlessly to COVID-19 because their current systems dictate the processes above must be handled in the office. With social distancing being enforced, it has become impractical and risky to work with paper invoices. This pandemic has proven these manual processes need to change.

In a 1959 speech, John F. Kennedy famously said, “When written in Chinese, the word ‘crisis’ is composed of two characters—one represents danger and one represents opportunity.” Changes in supply and demand for certain existing or new goods and services caused by COVID-19 clearly provide organizations with new or lost revenue opportunities. However, there also are opportunities from a finance and operations perspective. Paying vendors is a business-critical function, so how can AP departments continue to do their part to keep business moving forward?

You seek a solution that helps you and your accountants manage invoices effectively, efficiently and remotely. AP and employee expense automation can assist. AP automation can seem like a nice-to-have process when all is going smoothly, but the current situation has shed light on how operating without it affects business continuity and puts AP staff attempting to visit your office at risk. This solution can help you:

1. Receive Vendor & Employee Invoices Electronically

Paper invoices are usually sent or received via postal or shipping services, received on site and processed by the accounting back office. If you and your staff need to work remotely, this could pose many problems. Most apparent is the need to be at your offices to access any new invoicing. Second, disruptions in the postal supply chain could lead to delays in receiving those invoices. With AP and expense automation, you receive electronic invoices instead of paper ones. These are delivered in PDF or other digital formats through email, so you can access them even when you are at home, provided you have internet connection. This allows a fully functional remote office experience when combined with a cloud enterprise resource planning (ERP) solution like Microsoft Dynamics 365 Business Central.

2. Process Payments & Turn Checks into Electronic Payments Anywhere

AP and expense automation not only allows you to receive e-invoices at home but also enables you to process them. A cloud-based solution gives the organization the flexibility to perform necessary invoice-related tasks even when employees are out of the office.

Converting to Automated Clearing House and virtual card payments and outsourcing your remaining check stack can help you avoid the physical challenges of printing and mailing checks in-house, while saving money in the process. Also, because automation takes care of most of the document management process, the risk of error remains low no matter which device you use to do your job. This means you can be just as effective and efficient even when working from home.

3. Streamline the Process

When your team is spread out across home offices, being able to approve invoices and payments from anywhere becomes vital. Having the right solution in place eliminates the need to receive paper invoices at the office and the expense of manual data entry into your ERP. It also includes native workflow capabilities so the right approvers can easily view and validate information online before invoices are paid.

With AP and expense automation, invoices can be approved from a computer, mobile device or tablet. Many solutions now have apps available for your phone or tablet. The system is cloud-based and secure, so your financial data is protected from loss and theft. And because you are likely to have your phone with you all the time, you do not have an excuse to put off approvals.

4. Lower Risk & Improve Security

In a manual process where data is entered from a paper document and that document is then routed for approval, there is a risk for things to get lost or, worse, fall into the wrong hands. With cloud-based AP automation platforms, as soon as you scan the document into the system, it moves securely through the complete workflow and then is stored securely in the cloud, and the original can then be shredded.

Documents stored in the cloud can only be easily accessed by those with login credentials, whether it be to view or approve. Users also can see the document’s history, including who has accessed it, who has approved it and where it is in the workflow—no more paper documents being exposed at all stages in the process or lost documents. AP automation also can provide fraud-resistant audit trails for your processes.

As with most topics related to COVID-19, changes are being made rapidly. Please note that this information is current as of the date of publication. For more information, reach out to your BKD Trusted Advisor™ or submit the Contact Us form below.

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