Accounts payable automation and the quest for efficiency

As companies seek better cost control and reduction the quest for efficiency is ceaseless. One solution that every enterprise needs to adopt is accounts payable automation. However, more than just efficiency, this type of technology confers significant competitive advantage.

On the surface, the purpose of matching procurement purchase orders with supplier invoices ensures timely and accurate payments for goods and services supplied. But it goes much deeper than this. AP is vital in underpinning smooth operations and compliance across the enterprise, through ensuring that the upstream supply chain is free from disruption caused by late payments, and that financial records are accurate.

There are a lot of vendors contesting the AP software market. However, when selecting a solution, it’s not simply picking a well-known brand, or taking another product offered by a vendor that already provides a component of your finance department’s software stack.

It is important to avoid underestimating the transformative power of good AP software. In the truest sense of the expression, a well thought out accounts payable automation solution is a game-changer. Selecting the right one requires careful consideration of what your AP department really needs to simplify and accelerate AP processing.

Limited AP functionality Vs. Maximised AP automation

  • In a conventional approach, many AP departments adhere to a manual or partly manual process, typically using Excel and process steps such as data entry, scanning and data extraction.Accounts payable (AP) software is intended to facilitate the AP department’s function. However, ‘AP software’ is a broad term covering a wide range of capabilities. It includes:Complex, large scale ERP solutions that may include AP ‘modules’
  • Accounting platforms that provide some AP features
  • A solution like APMatching dedicated solely to the purpose of maximising accounts payable automation

What does a good accounts payable solution look like?

There are many aspects to accounts payable automation, and as always, the devil is in the detail – many important intricacies reside within the realm of AP processing.

Some key questions that help to establish whether an AP solution is fit for purpose are below. APMatching’s capability for each one is given as a benchmark:

1. Finance stack integration – what support is there for the other applications in use by typical enterprise finance departments?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: APMatching integrates seamlessly with all major accounting systems and invoice types.

2. Supplier statement and invoice data entry – how is data captured by the system?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Simply email your invoices in any digital format to the exclusive mailbox provided, and we extract and upload data within 24 hours. This is totally touchless from the perspective of your AC payable team.

3. Multiple accounts for the same supplier – how does a system manage invoices to different accounts from the same supplier?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: TheLinked Suppliers function lets you group multiple vendor accounts so that any statements reconciled against invoices are correctly posted against those accounts.

4. Consolidated invoice statements for different entities – can a system cope with invoices to different entities of a single enterprise that are provided on consolidated statements?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Provides cross-company matching as a standard feature, performing the reconciliation of consolidated statements to multiple entities automatically.

5. Multiple statements from a supplier every month – how does a solution avoid the confusion that often arises when suppliers send multiple statements?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Merges statements from the same supplier together so they are reconciled as one within the system.

6. Invoice numbers altered with prefixes, suffixes and special characters – can a system cope with invoice numbers that differ from those on purchase orders?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Matrix Matching lets you set your own matching logic, allowing for any alterations of key data to be stripped out to create ‘cleansed invoice numbers’ for matching purposes.

7. Perform statement matching against PO numbers – how well does a solution handle statement matching based on purchase order numbers instead of invoice numbers?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Supports upload of 5 custom fields which may be used in the matching logic, allowing for the matching of invoices from any suppliers that include PO numbers on statements.

8. Part invoice and payment for orders that are partly supplied – can a system properly deal with partly supplied purchase orders that are partly invoiced?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Consolidated Line Matching matches single statement line to multiple ERP lines, posting invoiced amounts for goods and services actually supplied and posting debit amounts for those not supplied.

9. Automated supplier follow-up of missing data – does a system provide an automated way of querying suppliers when statement reconciliation identifies missing invoices and credits?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: The Data Automation Extension provides support for automated sharing of missing invoices and credit reports with the facility for automated re-check and send of further reminders where necessary.

10. Pre-year end auditing – is a system capable of providing reconciliation reports to specified historical dates that occurred before the current year-end date audit?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: Should you need to reconcile to a certain date, the system lets you enter an as-at date and the reconciliation ignores all subsequently dated documents.

11. Supplier portal – do suppliers have any means of checking the progress of their invoices through to payment?

  • APMatching capability benchmark: The Supplier Portal provides self-service to let suppliers see the status of their invoices, avoiding the need to send more statements, and telephone or email queries.

Competitor platforms to APMatching

Central to the mission of managing AP effectively using technology is the question of: How much of the process is automated? Or put the other way around: How much manual processing is eliminated?

Many systems are competent and may perform well at what they do. However, it is important to note that they offer varying degrees of AP functionality and automation. Systems that only partially address or are on the periphery of the core function of AP are unlikely to be fit for the purpose of squashing the manual overhead, eliminating errors and accelerating the speed of the AP process.

Systems which are not flexible enough to accommodate many of the intricacies of AP outlined above, may throw up exceptions that will need to be manually dealt with. This is clearly counterproductive to the goal of maximising the benefit of accounts payable automation.

Worse still, if they are not picked up as exceptions, invoices could be erroneously posted to the ledger and paid. If this is not identified and dealt with immediately, it may ‘bake-in’ inaccuracy that is only revealed by detailed analysis or an audit.

For any AP manager considering the adoption of new technology, it is essential to shortlist potential automation solutions. Below is a selection of enterprise AP platforms that offer an alternative to APMatching. To see how they really measure up, and whether they are a good fit with the needs of your enterprise, it is well worth evaluating them against the APMatching benchmarks outlined above.

Do a better job of accounts payable with APMatching

See how APMatching accounts payable automation software supports enterprises in the ceaseless quest for efficiency. Take a personalised demo with one of our representatives, and we’ll show you how the software eliminates tedious, time-consuming manual invoice processing and automates duplicate invoice detection.

If you like what you see, we’ll give you full support so that you can more fully evaluate APMatching with a Proof of Concept (PoC), demonstrating how effective it is using your own data.