The shape of the average small to mid-sized business is changing fast – more staff are working remotely, whether that’s from a home office, client site or simply while travelling during the working day. A recent study by YouGov found that 54% of UK office workers are free to work away from the office, and it’s estimated that more than 70% of firms are likely to give their employees this flexibility by 2020 (The Work Foundation of Lancaster University). But the need to keep control of costs and company expenses is more important than ever as cash flow is lean and margins are tight.
What does this mean for AP?
Have your AP systems adapted to these shifts in working patterns? You may be finding that your existing manual processes are suddenly feeling very rigid and inflexible. One impact of an increasingly mobile workforce is a growing volume of expenses claims. But more than that, you might be struggling to simply complete your usual daily, weekly and monthly tasks because key personnel are not in the office at the right time to authorise payments.
The average AP team in a SME is under intense pressure to hit deadlines and still deliver the vital financial insight that the business relies on. That’s why it’s time to look at automation solutions that can play a key role in delivering some much needed efficiencies. Here are some opportunities you might want to consider.
1. Authorise payments on the go
Rather than have to wait for team members to come back to the office and sort through a pile of paper invoices, use a mobile-friendly solution that allows them to review and approve invoices remotely. It will provide a better user experience for your staff and will avoid unnecessary delays to payments.
60% of UK businesses said they have been charged late payment fees due to missed invoice deadlines. A mobile solution to review and authorise payments can help to avoid delays in the process and keep suppliers happy.
2. Cut out unnecessary steps and keep the process moving
Most AP professionals know the pain of constantly rekeying data from paper invoices into their tools and spreadsheets. It’s a huge drain on time and what’s more, mistakes can easily creep in. When capturing data, AP teams are not spending time providing more valuable insights and services to the business, like tracking supplier spend over time or negotiating supplier discounts. Automation can help. When invoices first arrive, capture them digitally using optical character recognition (OCR) technology and upload them directly to your finance tool
3. Get smart with supplier management
Dealing with enquiries from suppliers about payment status is a major time-sapper. 69% of AP professionals deal with supplier calls about payments at least once a week. Provide self-service capabilities so suppliers can check on payment status without having to contact you directly. You’ll not only improve the accuracy of your invoice processing, you’ll also save a lot of time handling emails and phone calls.
OCR technology can reduce invoice capture times by as much as 50-75%. And by removing the need to manually key data into the system, you can reduce the risk of errors in the process, too.
Embrace the opportunities
Your AP team is uniquely placed to add huge value and insight to the business, from cost analysis to reporting. It is the engine that drives your operations – so why not invest in the right systems to create greater efficiency? Download our eBook, “A 10-Step Guide to an Efficient Supplier Invoice Process” to find out how you can empower your AP team to support your ever-changing business.