ActiveWorx Blog

4 Steps to Touch-free AP Processing

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

For years, accounts payable (AP) leaders pined for the days when invoices would flow through their department and post directly to their ERP, with little or no intervention required by AP staff.

AP automation solutions and invoice processing software would make it all possible.

While 77 percent of AP departments now have deployed some type of AP automation solution1 – scanning software, optical character recognition (OCR), a supplier portal, or something else – most AP departments are still manually handling most of the invoices they receive from suppliers2.

It’s not uncommon for a single invoice to be handled five or more times before it is approved for payment. In addition, many AP departments exacerbate the problem by paying their suppliers with paper checks, which require staff to print, stuff, mail checks, and manually reconcile bank statements.

Why AP is so labor-intensive

Every manual task in the accounts payable cycle results in higher costs, more opportunities for errors, a greater chance of delays and lost invoices, and less visibility into where things stand in the process.

Automation isn’t to blame for all these manual tasks. Instead, the fault lies with the piecemeal approach most AP departments have taken to automate their invoice processing and supplier payments.

When processing invoices and paying suppliers, AP departments big and small rely on an assortment of point solutions and closed-loop networks, each with its logins and passwords, user authentication, file formats, and proprietary integrations. Manual intervention and data silos abound. As a result, the typical AP practitioner spends 84 percent of their typical workday on manual, repetitive tasks such as keying data, shuffling paper, and chasing down information.

Manual tasks undermine the entire accounts payable cycle:

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Fintech Visionary Joe Proto Joins ActiveWorx Board of Directors

Joe Proto Headshot

NORRISTOWN, PENNSYLVANIA, UNITED STATES, August 31, 2021 (IssueWire)-ActiveWorx, Norristown, PA, 8/31/2021 – News release content. 

 

ActiveWorx, a leading financial technology firm, is excited to announce that Joe Proto will join the Board of Directors and serve as Chairman of the Strategic Advisory Board, effective immediately. A serial entrepreneur and senior executive, Mr. Proto has four decades of experience in the financial technology and banking industries.

 

In his dual role, he will work closely with the executive team to support ActiveWorx’s position as a leader in financial automation and B2B payments.

 

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Powering Payments for 2021 and Beyond

The Impact of Automation, AI, and Blockchain on B2B Payments

Artificial intelligence (AI) and blockchain are quickly making it possible for companies of any size to elevate their payments processes to make them faster, more efficient, and more secure. While Accounts Payable departments were once buried under paper checks, forms, and statements, the digitization of processes has expanded the possibilities for streamlined payments and invoice processing. Automation, AI, and blockchain may feel like buzzwords at this point, but these technologies are by no means mere trends. They are changing the backbone of how we process payments and enabling companies to grow faster, improve vendor relationships, and lower the risk of fraud and human error. Organizations that embrace the changing landscape will have numerous competitive advantages.

Speed, Efficiency, and Fraud Reduction
The convergence of AI and blockchain has compelling implications for B2B payments. Sensitive data can be securely stored and shared using blockchain technology. From there, AI can analyze and generate insights from data to add value. Together, these processes increase speed and efficiency while reducing fraud.

AI expedites processes in numerous ways with minimal human supervision. Organizations with a low level of AP automation take an average of five days to move an invoice to the AP department from the date of receipt, according to a survey conducted by Levvel Research. AI technology makes payments faster by learning how your organization typically processes invoices and automatically routing them to the correct person. Additionally, it can recommend or automatically apply specific actions based on criteria set by the organization. These capabilities move invoices through the business faster, making the time to process an invoice significantly shorter.

AI also improves efficiency by reducing the amount of manual input required, enabling employees to focus on tasks that require a human touch. It’s more accurate than human review and can catch errors or missing information before processing even begins, eliminating hours of back and forth between departments and vendors. AI can also detect discount opportunities and suggest the optimal timeframe for paying an invoice. Late payment fees and missed early payment discounts add up to a significant cost for the organization each year. In some instances, matching an invoice with a purchase order and a receipt of goods statement using AI may enable straight-through processing (STP) – the completion of the payment transaction without human involvement. By automating these processes with AI, organizations can immediately improve efficiency and start seeing ROI.

While we may be less aware of how blockchain impacts our day-to-day life, it’s already powering many transactions each day. Businesses are already leveraging blockchain in payments to reduce the risk of fraud and further improve efficiency. Blockchain has three features that make it particularly resistant to fraud:

  1. Distribution. Blockchain distributes information across a network, meaning there is no centralized database where all data is stored. This means there is no single point a fraudster can access to steal information, unlike a traditional structure where information may be saved on a centralized server that can easily be hacked.
  2. Immutable. Transactions made via blockchain can’t be deleted or changed. Though a new transaction can be created to modify the condition of an asset, it will merely be added to the chain, and the original record will remain available. This means there is always a record to refer to in the event of an audit or cyberattack.
  3. Permissioned. Not all blockchain networks are permissioned, but this is a valuable feature that businesses handling payments should certainly consider. Permissioned networks control who can access what and their activities on the network by using a digital “member card.” This is significantly more secure than the simple username and password combination we all know.

Blockchain also adds to the speed and efficiency of payments by removing the need for intermediaries and additional security checkpoints. Together, AI and blockchain significantly improve upon AP processes by eliminating some of the most time-consuming and vulnerable manual components of processing payments.

 Automating the Invoice-to-Payment Process

Automating the invoice-to-payment process is becoming increasingly critical to remain competitive. Organizations that leverage automation realize ROI almost immediately by reducing invoice cycle time, increasing invoice processing capacity, improving vendor relations, and negotiating power. When processing invoices manually, it’s easy to miss deadlines or make mistakes when determining the best way to process the payment. These mistakes can add up and become costly to the organization. Human error also makes organizations more prone to accidentally processing fraudulent transactions, putting customer data at risk.

Automating allows organizations to grow more quickly because it makes the AP department more flexible and scalable. Without automation, invoice processing capacity is very limited by the number of employees an organization can onboard.

While it remains to be seen if blockchain will become a foundational technology for invoice processes, we already rely heavily on AI to reduce the time spent on data entry, vendor relationship maintenance, and manual transactions. This lets employees focus on more complicated tasks that require their expertise and reduces the potential for missteps.

Ready to get started? Contact us today, and we will talk through your business objectives and how the latest in AP, AR, and payment automation can accelerate your business.

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5 Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation for Agencies

ActiveWorx's innovation and leadership in the business process automation space go back to the beginning when it started as a consulting company. For the past eight years, we have focused on the financial automation space because we saw a massive opportunity for all types of companies to improve their systems and processes. In that time, I have seen how incredibly valuable accounts payable automation really is for organizations of all sizes.

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An organization with multiple ERP systems needs robust automation to streamline financial transactions.

The Challenge of ERP Integrations

Business success. Sustained business success. The sales folks will tell you it’s because of them. And yes, they keep growth coming. But the real backbone of ANY successful business is the accounting process. Yes, the bean counters. Without someone accounting for all the ins and outs, the pluses and minuses, and making sense of it all it would be chaos. In addition to the counting, a successful endeavor requires a financial infrastructure. There needs to be rules and procedures followed so that the whole organization understands where things are financially, are on the same page and driving towards the same goals. True success is only achieved when things are measured, managed, and acted upon. It’s then that all the aspects of a company can work together to achieve that success.

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