The events of the past year are expected to pave the way for a new era of home/office hybrid working. To enable this, businesses are increasingly turning to technology. For finance teams, automation software helps to solve the immediate pressures of manual AP processes in a hybrid world. It brings a wealth of other benefits too.
I was recently joined by Jamie Radford, Founder & CEO of the Accounts Payable Association, during a webinar where we discussed how businesses are able to overcome the pressing challenges presented by the pandemic, and how digital technologies can help SMBs to maintain their profit margins and operate at scale.
From my perspective, there are four key areas where I believe a digital approach to managing invoice spending can drive businesses forward and set them apart from their competition, which I’ll cover here:
1. It Helps Drive Productivity
Priorities for businesses at the moment include doing more with less and continued recovery following the pandemic. We know that a digitised AP process helps improve productivity to support businesses in achieving these aims. For example, research shows that each finance team member typically saves nine hours a week after automating supplier invoice management.
Best-in-class businesses are taking things further by regularly monitoring and updating their processes, sharing best practices, and training their employees to drive further efficiencies.
In fact, according to Aberdeen, high-performance UK businesses with greater levels of automation reported they are 31% more productive even in the wake of the pandemic.
2. It Helps Combat Fraud
Fraud has increased substantially in the past year. Added to this, it's often harder to spot instances of fraud when you aren't in the office or physically seeing transactions. But good practice guidance remains the same: Take the time to double check transactions, and always raise the alarm if you're concerned.
Your invoice solution should support your business to combat fraud by flagging out-of-policy spend or duplicate/fraudulent invoices coming in. Did you know, Concur Invoice identified and stopped £6 million worth of duplicate invoices being paid by its UK clients in a 12 month period? Businesses can also take risk management to the next level with purchase request tools, which require upfront sign off before spending happens, thereby preventing fraud, and driving policy compliance.
3. It Enhances the Employee Experience
There’s a perennial concern about technology taking people’s jobs. But more and more businesses are adopting automation as they realise how key it is to success. This is especially true in remote and hybrid working environments when a paper-based AP process is no longer fit-for-purpose.
Far from taking people’s jobs, an automated AP process enables people to do their job more efficiently and gives them back time to spend on more value-added tasks – like making sense of your spending data.
4. It Improves Your Data Visibility
In a traditional AP process, data visibility into your outgoings can be a real challenge. And this lack of useable data makes it harder to plan accurately.
A digitised AP process unlocks data that businesses can use to better budget, make savings and negotiate supplier discounts. In doing so, they can add value to the bottom line.
The Roadblocks to a Digitised AP Process
Research shows that 70% of UK companies are prepared to invest in technology to speed business recovery. So what are the roadblocks to investment? Generally, they come down to two things. The first is the perceived cost. The second is the time it will take to implement new systems.
But we see considerable returns on investment for those businesses that do choose to make the switch.
For instance, UK SMBs on average save £38,000 annually by using Concur Invoice. Full support is available during the implementation process and there are also service partners who can bring additional resource and expertise to businesses if they need it.
Top Tips for Businesses Considering Digitising Their AP Process
If you are considering digitising your AP process, there are three pieces of advice to bear in mind.
Firstly, engage with others. Whether it’s joining communities or listening to webinars, it’s important to understand what others are doing and how it might work for your business.
Next, put in place a sound transformation plan. You don’t need to benchmark yourself to others, but you do need to know what best practice looks like so you can measure progress.
Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, have fun along the way. Digitising AP frees you up to spend more time on strategic work so you can add tangible value that everyone can see. Embrace not having to fact check every line item or recapture details from invoices.