AP departments continue to manage the review and processing of vendor and supplier payables in manual or semi-manual ways. For instance, while they may use a modern accounting system, the receipt, processing, and approval of transactions (usually invoices) are often still done by hand, with accounting staff manually reviewing received payments, re-keying them into their system of record.
Accounts payable automation software replaces most of these manual processes with rules-based decision-making and workflow offloaded to sophisticated automation software. If you're considering moving to AP automation, here are the requirements to consider when making a decision.
- Form Designer
A form is the front-end for the AP process. In many cases, vendors will be filling out forms directly, eliminating paper or static forms which removes the need for data re-entry. In addition, forms can be built dynamically based on the vendor, location, type of invoice, etc. The ability to customize forms, layouts, dynamic elements, etc. should be straightforward and allow for rapid deployment. Finally, forms should render well across all screens and browsers including mobile devices.
- Process Builder
The process builder provides tools for connecting tasks (human and automated) in a logical manner to initiate and manage the entire workflow behind an AP process. To speed development, drag and drop tools are frequently used, giving process designers a visual basis for how tasks fit together. Each task should be configurable and customizable to meet the process requirements and business rules should be intuitive to use. Task types should include a wide variety of situations including approvals, milestones, forms to be completed, data import, notifications, etc.
- Vendor Portal
Providing a user-friendly front-end for data entry (forms), status updates, task management, etc. gives visibility into the AP process for those submitting invoices as well as those handling them on the finance side. If desired, invoice submitters can track progress and see the status of their invoices, or this can remain hidden. Finance staff should be able to see invoice submission detail as well as aggregate data (number of invoices, time to complete, etc.) if desired as well. The portal itself should be easy-to-use for a variety of skill levels as well as being mobile-friendly.
- Complete Audit Trail
The system should log all interactions and time stamp all actions with names and dates. This allows for thorough visibility into each and every transaction which may be required for any organizational or externally mandated regulations. The complete history of any transaction should be available to anyone who needs to have it and should be customizable to provide critical information in a logical format. The data should be exportable to a variety of formats and reporting tools.
The AP automation system should integrate with a variety of ERP, Finance, CRM, reporting tools and other systems critical to Finance operations. The system should include an open API, allowing for the flexibility to integrate with future systems as needed. The system should complement these other applications like accounts payable software as the workflow manager of record while the applications remain the databases of record.
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