How Automation Helps Remote Accounts Payable Work Better
By automating accounts payable with a cloud-based solution, organizations can work better to achieve optimum efficiency, effectiveness and control.
Working remotely is the new norm. It is anything but “business as usual” in accounts payable departments these days.
Ninety-one percent of accounts payable departments are working remotely, at least in part, according to the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM).
Invoices are now approved in home offices, otherwise known as dining rooms, living rooms, or remodeled hallway closets. And remote accounts payable staff are simultaneously juggling work, home care, and parenting responsibilities.
Working remotely – a new way of operating in AP
The sudden shift to remote working disrupts established processes and procedures for how invoice processing gets done. As a result, many accounts payable leaders are concerned about the way they are doing things these days. Some are feeling overwhelmed by it all.
A chief concern among accounts payable leaders is the fear of new fraud and compliance risks. Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and countless law enforcement organizations warn of greater risk of payment fraud. Many AP departments are leaning heavily on email routing of invoices and supplier information to get approvals from far-flung purchasers.
But routing invoices by email does not assure chain of custody or segregation of duties. It also makes it hard to audit the actions taken on an invoice. There is a chance that invoices will be unintentionally deleted ahead of mandated timelines. Additionally, email routing of invoices increases the possibility of successful phishing attacks or Business Email Compromise (BEC) schemes.
Accounts payable departments also are having more trouble approving invoices before the due date. Many accounts payable professionals work longer hours to compensate for the increased difficulty in approving invoices. Adapting manual and semi-automated invoice processes to a remote working environment is challenging.
Not completely remote for some AP departments
Many AP departments send a “skeleton crew” into the office once a week to open the mail, scan invoices, and route them via email to the person who accounts payable believes is the approver. Some businesses that rely on paper-based processes have had to hand deliver invoices to purchasers for approval.
Additionally, accounts payable departments are experiencing more calls and emails from suppliers regarding the status of invoices and payments. The economic fallout of the pandemic has created an unrelenting cash crunch for many suppliers. Chasing down information needed to determine invoice and payment status can be difficult when accounts payable staff Work from Home.
Generating the reports that decision-makers need to manage working capital and corporate spending tightly is also tougher these days. The root of the problem is that many AP departments manually generate cash forecasts and other reports using spreadsheets.
Clearly, AP departments need ways to make their processes work better.
Why automate accounts payable?
Cloud-based accounts payable solutions make it easy for AP departments to adapt their operations for remote working. It helps reduce manual tasks, accelerate cycle times, and mitigate the risk of fraud.
Reduce manual tasks.
Whether it’s invoice receipt, invoice data capture, workflow routing or invoice reporting, deploying a single end-to-end automated solution eliminates manual tasks across the accounts payable cycle.
By eliminating manual tasks, accounts payable departments can lower overhead, reduce the possibility of errors, and scale their operations without adding headcount. Freeing accounts payable staff from the drudgery of manual invoice processing also enables them to focus on higher-value activities. Those activities include data analysis, supplier management, and vendor master database cleanup.
Accelerate cycle times.
Automation optimizes an accounts payable department for remote working in the short term while setting it up for long-term success. Digital invoice approvals keep processes moving, regardless of where staff work. Online exceptions tools eliminate the back-and-forth emails and phone calls that grind approvals to a halt. Built-in controls, complete audit tracking, and real-time visibility into invoice status ensure strong governance. Graphical dashboards empower accounts payable leaders to manage global operations easily.
Invoice information is instantly available 24/7/365 so decision-makers can stay on top of cash flow. Online portals enable suppliers to effortlessly submit invoices and other accounts payable documents and check the statuses of invoices and payments. And all interactions between buyers and sellers can be managed digitally, eliminating processing friction.
Mitigate the risk of fraud.
Several automation features, such as role-based security and data encryption, help mitigate the risk of fraud for remote workers. Additionally, complete audit trails, multi-factor authentication, the enforcement of invoice approvals, and segregation of duties and chain of custody help prevent fraud when staff Work from Home. The controls and reporting built into the best AP solutions also help avoid non-compliance penalties.
Having the right tools in place is critical to ensuring a successful remote working environment.
By automating accounts payable with a cloud-based solution, organizations can achieve optimum efficiency, effectiveness, and control whether staff Work from Home, in the office, or on the go.
Edenred Pay, an Edenred Company, is the global leader in invoice-to-pay automation. Our integrated platform connects businesses with suppliers, ERPs, banks, FinTechs, and payment rails to automate, optimize, and monetize the entire B2B payments lifecycle – from invoice receipt through payment reconciliation. Edenred Pay’s efficient, integrated solutions create a frictionless process and help deliver value to the enterprise by enhancing visibility and monetizing AP.