Every crisis has a silver lining, even the current COVID-19 upheaval. For the Accounts Payable function that means it must continue its drive to become more efficient and smarter.
“Efficiency and intelligence are AP’s pandemic game-changers,” advisory firm Ardent Partners declares in its report on the State of ePayables 2020. “For the AP industry, the ‘age of intelligence’ means that global businesses will be able to draw actionable knowledge from the invoice, payment, and supplier data that resides within ePayables systems and make smarter decisions.”
We are exploring the report’s key findings in two posts. While last week’s installment described how AP Automation can rise to the challenge and ensure both business continuity and resilience, this week we’ll look at the key strategies for successful AP Automation in challenging times.
AP Automation serves two important tasks. First, it drives operational efficiencies by doing away with costly and time-consuming manual processes, reducing errors and fraud, and significantly speeds up cycle times. Going digital from invoice to pay yields nearly immediate performance gains, and truly smart technologies such as machine learning or AI “provide next-level value beyond the eradication of paper,” according to Ardent.
There’s a second goal that AP Automation puts within reach. Harness the power of automation and you have access to deeper analytical capabilities than your non-automated peers. More agile reporting takes reporting and analysis to a whole new level, giving the CFO and other managers a big picture view relevant for topics such as liquidity and cash management, payment strategies, supplier management, fraud and compliance control.
And now’s the time to get started with a successful strategy for AP Automation. “In the face of extraordinary times and a challenging business climate, AP groups have the opportunity to drive tremendous value and help the greater enterprise navigate these tough times,” the report states.
Ardent lists several recommendations to map a path back to normalcy. Let’s take a closer look at them.
- Align AP operations with the CFO and its team to ensure liquidity. Because timely insights from B2B payments are more valuable than ever when liquidity and cash management are king.
- Understand and react to changes in business and supplier strategies. It matters to know how markets change, particularly how and when suppliers are paid.
- Develop short-term work-arounds to fill gaps in core AP processes. Working from home should be no reason for delays in processing invoices and payments. They can be handled remotely, even from a smartphone.
- Accelerate automation efforts. Digital transformation deserves funding because it leads to reduced costs, shorter cycle times, improved visibility and control.
- Expand all cash management tactics and strategies. AP plays a key role in knowing where your money is going and helps to regulate the flow of payments and the cadence of key payment activities.
- Invest in and develop an agile AP workforce. Talent is a company’s top competitive advantage because investing in good and skilled people means better weathering a storm.
- Push the department to become more forward-thinking and strategic. AP teams need to actively spread the news that they are a truly critical function for the enterprise.
- Collaborate with other key stakeholders to close operational and strategic gaps. It’s about working together with internal and external partners to empower them with data and intelligence culled from AP processes.
- Maintain and build organizational expertise. Address gaps in knowledge or expertise to ensure the AP function stays highly productive and relevant.
- Develop more robust data and intelligence capabilities. Information from invoice and payment processing is extremely valuable, so review and refine how you collect, analyze and present your financial intelligence.
- Revamp disaster recovery and continuity plans. As the return to a “new normal” is fluid and uncertain, AP leaders should use the learnings from the current disruption to prepare for future turmoil.
- Make technology adoption a priority and mandate its use. Automating and then consistently using smart invoice-to-pay technology shouldn’t be an option. “It’s a strategic move to improve the overall AP function.”
“In this new decade, AP groups will increasingly transform their operations into hubs of visibility and intelligence,” Ardent concludes. And that transformation “can positively impact financial operations and performance.”
Curious to learn more about ePayables in 2020 and successful strategies? Watch our On-Demand Webinar presented by Yooz and Ardent:https://cloud.getyooz.com/webinar-on-demand-epayables
You can also download the entire report here: