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Now’s the Best Time to Automate

Accounts Payable AutomationBest practices
Anna Tujunen

Here’s a tip to help you increase efficiencies, save money and gain control over your liabilities and payments in the new year: automate. And if you’ve already automated some of your invoicing processes, then automate some more.

Studies from industry analysts have shown that automation is a key driver of AP excellence. Ardent Partners’ State of ePayables 2018: The Future is Now report found that through automation best-in-class companies were not only able to reduce the costs of processing an invoice by five times, but also do it 2.5 times faster.

When it comes to automation, there’s no time like now to get underway. Here are tips for helping your department move along the automation path – no matter where you are in the process:

For companies using Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations

If your company has implemented Dynamics 365 for Finance and Operations (D365FO) for operational processes, it's easy to establish an automated process that extends across AP. Best-in-class invoice automation solutions offer a strong integration with ERP and require minimal IT involvement, meaning the finance department can take the lead in determining the current level of automation and provide the impetus to progress the automation journey.

Companies planning to upgrade to D365FO

If you're planning to upgrade, it’s a good time to implement invoice automation at the same time. It's easy for IT departments to include AP automation in the upgrade process, with little of their time required. The finance department can advocate for this approach, highlighting the benefits and value that AP automation will bring to the organization.

Organizations not planning to upgrade to D365FO

Even if your company is still running an older version of Dynamics ERP and does not have plans to migrate to D365FO yet, you can still easily benefit from invoice automation. IT departments can deploy an AP automation solution to the current ERP and, if and when your company upgrades to D365FO, there is no need for a new implementation project. All that is needed is to connect the AP automation system to the upgraded D365FO. By implementing AP automation now, your finance department can still enjoy the cost and efficiency benefits as well as the visibility into your invoices, spend, and payments, among other benefits.

Tips and best practices for the journey

Once finance and IT realize that the time to automate is now, the next step is to begin the journey. The first step for finance is to evaluate your current AP operations. It doesn't make sense to implement a broken process in a new system. Look at each stage of the process to see if it can be streamlined or improved. For example, work with the IT department and take a look at your data. Since the quality of the invoice data impacts invoice automation’s accuracy and efficiency, the more you can digitize the receipt of invoices, the better. For a deep dive into optimizing your data, including the best way to capture the invoices and move toward e-invoicing, check out our free guidebook, The Road to Automation: The Invoice.

Look for ways to improve matching capabilities for PO-based, recurring, and contract-based invoices. Consider adding robotic process automation (RPA) to augment invoice automation by handling tasks that are too small, irregular or rapidly changing for traditional automation systems. For an overview of RPA and examples how to best utilize it, check out our booklet, A Guide to Robotic Process Automation.

Next, determine the best way to organize and divide activities. Can you centralize invoice processing to provide greater oversight and make it more efficient? Then, consider how you can implement controls and incorporate compliance into your operations. Look at all the regulations you need to comply with so you can build them into the AP automation system. What are the controls you need to implement to help prevent fraud? To get greater insight into the planning process and tips for effectively implementing AP automation, take a look at our free guidebook, The Road to AP Automation: The AP Process.

At the same time, your IT department can provide insight to guide your automation choices and help you select the right platform. Many organizations are moving to the cloud because it not only makes it easier and faster for companies to automate, but it also makes the solution available anytime, and anywhere. IT can help you plan for this move and make it easier. With the help of IT you can look at automating the entire AP process, rather than just parts of it, to achieve better results. Additionally, IT can help you find the AP automation solution to best meet your organization's needs, and help you plan for the implementation process. Tips and strategies for including IT in the planning process can be found in our guidebook, The Road to AP Automation: AP Automation from the IT Perspective.

The benefits of automation are undeniable, and the good news is that no matter where you are in the process, it's easy and advantageous to get underway. Imagine a new year of greater efficiencies, visibility and cost savings – that's certainly something to look forward to. How will you move your department ahead this year?

This article was published first on MSDynamicsWorld.com

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About the Author
Anna Tujunen
, Dooap's Chief Product Officer, is a former controller now developing software “from an AP professional to an AP professional”. She is also a member of the US e-invoicing Sub-group. This well-versed AP guru loves traveling and music quizzes.

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