Accounts Payable

Your AP Team Needs Help, But Do You Know Why?

Ascend is a Workday Select Partner, that offers account payable automation that enables AP teams to achieve invoice processing rates of 80 to 90 percent. With touchless processing, AP teams save a substantial amount of time, digitize processes and audit trails, pay invoices early (with discounts!), and catch errors early, such as duplicate invoices.

Explore your AP team’s day-to-day to maximize their potential and your enterprise overall

 According to a survey by Oracle, “strategic CFOs have stated that investing in new financial management technology is one of the most important goals for financial success.”

But how can you determine the right technology to meet your AP team’s needs?

AP teams often arrive at our doorstep with a disjointed background full of processes that cautiously connect overburdened AP team members by a thin thread. Some are fully manual, some are paper-based, some rely on a mix of paper, emails, and electronic filing—but none are automated.

To provide the best and most effective solution for your AP team and your organization as a whole, you need to get an inside look into their daily tasks. This team makes up one of the most important financial engines of your business—and you’ll be surprised at the depth of coordination that goes into keeping that engine running.

AP Team tasks: more than what they appear

As anyone on your AP team might tell you, no two days are the same. But what’s bound to happen each cycle is a rush of invoices and bills that follow a similar yet lengthy process. When each invoice follows a different procedure for approval, payment, and filing, that’s when a “simple” task bears the weight of an elephant.

Each team is different, but if your AP Team still uses manual processes or a mix that includes paper and electronic filing, they’re likely to encounter all of these tasks regularly.

Receive, sort, & classify

AP teams can usually expect the same volume of invoices each month and anticipate an increase during busy periods. The first part of their work is to manage incoming invoices and classification. That includes:

  • Opening physical mail and sorting invoices
  • Sorting through AP email for electronic invoices
  • Soliciting invoices from all team members and the organization as a whole
  • Identifying duplicates
  • Separating statements from invoices
  • Identifying supporting documentation
  • Reviewing and identifying errors (the first of many times during the process)
  • Recording bills, invoices, and receipts in an ERP or dedicated worksheet
  • Managing communication from external vendors and internal teams

Suffice to say, this is where the web of AP team dysfunction starts. Tasks such as soliciting invoices internally, managing communication, and identifying supporting documentation can take hours, if not a whole day of your team’s time.

Invoice distribution

Next, the invoice needs to be distributed so it can be processed appropriately. Beyond the tasks of classifying, acknowledging receipt, and sometimes printing and/or electronically delivering, the AP team member in charge of that invoice has to know where each invoice is going and maintain its status. That includes:

  • Classifying as PO or non-PO
  • Determining thresholds required for signature or approval
  • Coding and tagging invoice or set of invoices
  • Printing and physically delivering the paper invoice—if delivering physically
  • Scanning or saving and sending—if delivering electronically
  • Saving invoices to a desktop or server file system

Invoice processing & follow-up

Once the invoices are distributed for approval, signature, or storage, the next steps for an AP team are the most repetitive and time-inefficient:

  • Repeated check-ins with approvers
  • Requesting and re-requesting signatures
  • Chasing down obstacles to signatures (i.e. stuck in an inbox, signor is OOO, or problem with the invoice)
  • Moving invoices from one approver to the next
  • Changing statuses in the ERP or designated spreadsheet
  • Applying codes and tags—or matching, in the case of a PO—to delivery notes, wherever they exist
  • Request filing, copying, or provide backup documentation when exceptions are present
  • Fielding calls from vendors requesting payment statuses

Payment runs, reporting, & month-end close

Toward the end of each day or week, AP teams need to perform payment runs. Those include their own set of approvals while the remaining invoices move forward in the process.

If it’s the end of the month, your AP team is likely bogged down with not only the process above, but also financial month-end close activities and reporting. Regardless of invoice processing importance, these month-end activities take precedence over everything else.

It doesn’t end there

AP managers have their own part to play in the process by keeping track of challenges and figuring out how to overcome them—whether it's an internal bottleneck or a prolonged issue with a vendor

And if the process is entirely manual, it’s almost impossible to navigate through a blame game of personal anecdotes as it comes to invoice processing follow-up.

Then, with the high turnover rate AP teams typically face, it’s not surprising that additional needs such as onboarding new team members or training existing team members usually overtake process-improvement planning and entirely new projects.

No one has time… literally.

The benefits of AP automation

It’s too easy to think that an AP team’s time is filled with menial tasks. As you read above, their time, energy, and potential are consumed by manual and mixed processes that create an ineffective system.

But with AP automation, you can elevate AP systems to encompass a holistic, end-to-end process and give your AP team the boost they need.

Here are some of the benefits of AP automation: 

  • Better strategy execution and time for planning
  • Avoid an inundation of manual classification with rapid invoice image and data capture
  • Reduce risk with smart error reconciliation
  • Opportunities for new team projects and data analysis
  • Take advantage of rebates or early payment discounts
  • Identify cash flow management opportunities to improve negotiating terms
  • Reduce turnover and increase time for team development
  • More accurate month-end close and reporting
  • Peace of mind and improved morale for your whole AP team

According to SSON, 60% of all AP organizations are at least partially automated. To keep up with the ever-scaling times, augment your AP team’s ability and boost your organization’s capacity overall, it’s time to automate your AP processes.

Ascend can help

Not sure where to look or how to take the first step? Ascend, a certified Workday partner, offers a solution capable of managing your unique financial processing needs.

Ascend users are achieving touchless invoice processing rates of 80 to 90 percent. Meaning 80 to 90 percent of their invoices are pushed to Workday immediately upon receipt, without needing AP to perform classification or data entry, which is four to five times faster than those who are manually processing these same invoices. With touchless processing, AP teams save a substantial amount of time, digitize processes and audit trails, pay invoices early (with discounts!), and catch errors early, such as duplicate invoices.

Ascend knows how busy your business is, and we understand the potential your AP team could have. Schedule a demo or contact us to see how we can meet your AP needs.

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