One of the most rewarding aspects of my work is being able to talk with organizational leaders about how, when and why they decide to improve their business processes. And while no two companies or situations are the same, overarching trends come to surface—trends that can provide valuable insight to decision makers at other organizations who may be nearing their own inflection point.
By Daneen Storc, Senior Product Marketing Manager at ABBYY.
Awareness is first step
Traditionally, an AP improvement project takes root when the awareness of the problems associated with manual processing and associated benefits of automation are recognized. Case in point is Wildman Business Group (Full disclosure: I’m an ABBYY user). Eighteen months ago, the Assistant Controller of Wildman attended a session about AP Automation at a popular industry trade show. It was the first time she was introduced to the technology and associated benefits, and was amazed by its potential. She brought it back to her CFO and less than a year later, Wildman deployed an intelligent invoice solution to automate the data capture of its 48K invoices per year.
The benefits of AP Automation are well documented by industry analysts and research firms. With automation, companies see more than four times increase in the number of invoices an employee can process per year, and spend 30% less time responding to supplier inquiries. With the right technology, invoice cycle time will decrease to 5 days or even shorter, which can foster strong supplier relationships and allow for early payment discounts. Paper-based processes can cost five to ten times more than automated processes. In fact, a recent study by prominent research firm reports that the average cost to process a single invoice is more than $13, compared to best-in-class performance of less than $3. Accuracy is yet another big benefit. The human error factor is always in place as the result of manual entry of invoice information into accounting systems.
Keeping up with growth spurt
Lately, we're seeing a strong trend, particularly with midsize organizations, that the growth of the company fuels the interest in invoice automation. With growth, there are more invoices to process and decision makers need a way to manage the increased volume. A growing transportation and logistics company that we work with in the northwest processes 150K invoices per year and recently took the leap to invest in invoice automation. The primary reason? Automation allows the company to manage the influx of invoices without having to hire additional full time employees.
Antiquated legacy solution
The newest trend is toward replacing outdated solutions. Invoice automation software was first introduced nearly two decades ago, and many businesses—especially the larger enterprises—adopted the technology along the way. Today, the leaders of those same businesses are finding that those solutions can’t compare to the performance of newly-developed technology.
The regional operations of an international food service—which recently deployed ABBYY technology—processes 100K invoices per year and saw a need to replace its outdated capture technology due to lack of flexibility and accuracy. In addition, the legacy solution provider had been acquired twice in the last two years, and lack of support was becoming an issue.
Whether you’re just coming to understand the undeniable benefits derived from invoice automation, facing the fact that current processes won’t support future growth, or maybe an early adopter recognizing that what was once cutting edge is no longer cutting the mustard—it may be time to kick off an improvement project in your Accounts Payable function.