In today’s fast-paced digital world, staff are under more pressure than ever to deliver. Add inflationary and economic pressure into the fold, and Accounts Payable departments are having to do a lot more with a lot less. Plus, with so much data available, results and company finances are being increasingly scrutinised.
Its clear staff need a helping hand, especially when having to manage and process hundreds or thousands of invoices every month as well as deal with supplier relationships and other business pressures. As a result, businesses are looking for ways to improve and increasingly turning to automation. This is bringing with it some new and pretty impressive benefits.
Just consider, ChatGPT and other AI-based tools have moved past general public interest, raising boardroom-level discussions on the adoption of automation with serious consideration being given as to which business challenges can best be addressed by the technology. One-third (33%) of UK businesses are planning to allocate spend towards automation, with those concerned over retaining and recruiting staff more likely to move forward with these plans.
One particular area getting attention is digitalisation in finance. While it used to be regarded as a technology laggard, the recent digitalisation of the industry has transformed it into a prime example of how automation can enhance business operations.
Business Process Automation (BPA) in particular has proven to be an effective tool that can improve efficiency levels and alleviate the burden of manual Accounts Payable (AP) processes. As a result, BPA has rapidly gained popularity among finance and accounting staff members.
What is business process automation?
Business Process Automation (BPA) refers to the use of technology to automate multiple elements of an end-to-end process; repetitive, manual tasks and streamline business-critical operations. It involves the use of software applications, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Machine Learning (ML) to automate workflows, reduce errors, and enhance efficiency in a broad range of business processes. It should be noted that the technology is not stand alone; it can be integrated with most of the popular ERP accounting systems used in finance today.
But is it truly useful? By automating tasks that are typically error-prone and time consuming such as data entry, document management, and report generation, BPA allows companies to free up resources and lets employees focus on high-value activities that can drive growth and profitability. In fact, because of its proven success, BPA has become an essential tool for modern businesses looking for a cost-effective way to streamline their operations and remain competitive in today's fast-paced market.
Tell me how it can benefit my organization and team
There are several benefits of business process automation offered to organisations and teams including:
1. Greater accuracy
The problem with humans is that we’re all well, human. Regardless of the amount of experience we have, we’re prone to making the odd mistake here and there. However, with such high stakes in the finance and accounts payable departments, these errors can end up being costly.
By deploying business process automation and automated workflows to remove the need for staff to get involved with every step in the process, you can reduce the chances of mistakes being made while improving the accuracy of finance data and payments.
2. Increased efficiency, productivity, and compliance
With business process automation taking care of the repetitive tasks that used to bog down accounts payable staff, colleagues can get more done within a shorter space of time. What used to typically take days or weeks can now be done even in hours. Not only is this beneficial to the entire invoice approval and management system, but it also means vendors and suppliers are always paid on time.
3. Decrease wasted time
Whether its scanning paper-based invoices or inserting data into accounting or ERP systems, a reliance on manual processes has seen accounts payable staff spend a significant amount of time on routine tasks; time that could be better spent elsewhere. With business process automation in place, staff are freed from the shackles of manual processes and can prioritise tasks that better require their attention, such as financial planning and forecasting or fostering supplier relationships.
4. Improved vendor relationships
One of the biggest reasons why relationships with vendors and suppliers deteriorates is because of the payment process. All businesses rely on a constant flow of revenue coming in, especially smaller and more independent ones, and it can cause a lot of friction when payments are late or for less than the amount agreed. Using business process automation means this situation never happens, with structures put in place to ensure payments are sent at the right time, every time.
5. Reduced errors
BPA automation can significantly reduce the chance of information errors that occur due to manual data entry or other human-related tasking mistakes. This will in turn improve the accuracy of company data and reduce the likelihood of costly mistakes.
6. Improved customer service
By automating processes such as inquiries and invoice processing, BPA can help to improve the speed and quality of customer service, leading to increased customer satisfaction and loyalty.
Overall, implementing BPA can lead to significant improvements in efficiency, productivity, accuracy, and cost savings.
Why use business process automation for accounts payable?
Business process automation is the key to unlocking the full potential of accounts payable departments. Freed from painstaking, repetitive manual processes means staff can better spend their time on tasks that directly drive the bottom line. Supplier payments are made on time, businesses have a better understanding of their finances, and accounts payable staff feel liberated in their new-look role. The benefits of business process automation for accounts payable must not be underestimated.