Cloud invoice processing - a way in which businesses can save, analyse, and process invoices without a tonne of hardware - has become one of the most sought-after tools in accounts payable. One of the main reasons behind this increasing popularity of cloud invoicing solutions is the skyrocketing change in work environments. Whereas in the past it was usually required for both management and their teams to work on-site, company policies have (and continue to) change. Staff are now constantly on the move or working in remote spaces and are just as comfortable working at home or the local cafe than at the office.
As a result, businesses have rapidly increased the speed of digital transformation in all departments including finance, delivering new developments such as cloud and automated invoice processing.
Indeed, the shift to Cloud and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) reflects the need for organizations to move away from slow and inefficient on-premises servers and more towards technology that provides greater flexibility. More and more finance managers are realising this, calling on businesses to invest in tools that can provide significant increases in financial productivity, accuracy, and security. According to the 2021 research survey “The State of Automation in Finance, “ Cloud/Software-as-a-Service solutions (41%) are the top tech focus for UK finance leaders, more so than either cybersecurity (31%) and Big Data analytics (22%).
Why process invoices in the Cloud?
A significant reason to process invoices in the Cloud is speed. Continuous, 24/7 speed to start and continue. Compared to on-premise solutions, Cloud promises an incredibly quick integration. First, as cloud invoice processing tools are developed to work with existing Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) applications and accounting solutions, it is unlikely that you will need to rip out and/or replace existing hardware or software. Plus, as Cloud solutions are constantly upgraded and therefore more developed than on premises-solutions, automated technology can reduce the invoice processing time by as much as 80%.
Cloud invoice processing can also be a lot more scalable in terms of both price and capacity. This ability to adjust is especially important for those businesses who might see seasonal highs or lows in the number of invoices they receive or others which are experiencing rapid growth. It also means the solution comes out as an operating budget expense rather than capital expenditure and therefore one lump sum, and the cost varies depending on the actual number of users or invoices processed per month.
Finally (but certainly not the last), Cloud invoicing solutions are also more secure than those located on-premises. Data security in the cloud is handled by the provider and is often safeguarded by strict security protocols and encrypted to protect from intruders. Because it’s a Cloud solution, it also means the latest security patches are automatically installed as they’re released, meaning you don’t have to worry about your data being stolen by cybercriminals. These invoice solution systems also have the ability to double- and triple-check document information within seconds, immediately identifying errors and routing them for further investigation.
What are the benefits for staff?
An oft overlooked benefit of cloud invoice processing is the impact that it has on employees and the company environment. By handling what were once daily tedious, time-consuming, and mind-numbing tasks - data entry, invoice scanning, invoice validation, and more - in a fraction of the time, the use Cloud-based automated invoice processing helps expedite the payment process for the AP staff. Now freed of the shackles of manual processing, those same employees are able to spend more time of strategic tasks that require a more person touch such as such as customer support, relationship building with key suppliers, and financial reporting.
Also, because the automated workflows are backed up by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning, the more the software is used the more it learns and becomes more accurate. With automation taking care of the robotic, manual processes, the element of human fatigue is eliminated and the chance of risk and error reduced. For example, one wrong number in a cost sheet or purchase order number can lead to massive payment issues or hours spent trying to rectify the issue. With automation, invoice data is automatically scanned and checked against historical invoices, purchase order numbers, and receipts to make sure that the information is correct (certainly handy in combating fraud from the very start!).
Another outstanding benefit to automation is that, as the solution automates a significant portion of the workload for the AP staff, it also provides them with real-time data and updates on the invoice status. Cloud invoice processing also means that this information is available from any mobile connection at any time. No waiting to discover if an invoice is paid, overdue, or in queue for approval. Instead of waiting for month-end reports to review the business' financial spend, management has anytime access to instant feedback and accurate information to drive more informed decision-making and efficiency across the entire business.
Can cloud invoicing help grow my business?
In a single word, yes.
We've already discussed the benefits of increased processing speed, security, and staff benefits. However, these are just a few of the many benefits of a cloud-based automated payable system. By automating manual processes, cloud invoicing can help eliminate late payments issues and consequently improve relationships with vendors and suppliers. Likewise, it can also lead to on-time payments and cost savings from businesses offering early payment discounts. And the up to 80% savings mentioned above resulting from cutting the per invoice processing cost? Those savings can be passed along to either customers or to the business.
Plus, as cloud invoice processing is both scalable and flexible, it means businesses don’t have to invest more than necessary. Instead, they can easily add (or remove) more users whenever they like without worrying about if the number of incoming invoices will max out a yearly or multi-term contract.
Cloud solutions also represent a low total cost of ownership (think no physical area for machines or storage, no maintenance, and no transport costs) resulting in the possibility of realising a faster return on investment. By freeing up capital spend, more important investments can be made elsewhere while also providing finance staff with a solution that helps solve key challenges or increase productivity.
Simply put, with invoice processing in the Cloud, businesses can grow faster and easier without being tied down by on-premises solutions. Invoice processing delivered as-a-Solution helps to reduce deployment cost and time, meaning staff can get up and running as quickly as possible without the need for custom integrations. Finally, as the software is designed to be user friendly, it doesn’t require specialised training, with all levels of accounts payable staff able to quickly benefit from it.