Unlocking valuable business insights with AP automation
Why you should give AP a seat at the business decision-makers’ table
Accounts payable (AP) is a great source of business insight, but all too often it’s seen as a cost rather than a valuable strategic asset. That’s because AP is notoriously a time-consuming and heavily manual process. This can make it difficult for AP teams to analyse data in real-time and deliver information that will help grow their business.
AP data goes beyond the management of financial transactions. Visibility of where your organisation’s money is going, what it’s being used for and whether it is used effectively can lead to opportunities for business performance and growth.
The five financial insights hiding in your AP that are much easier to uncover with accounts payable automation:
1. Cash flow – what’s going out and when
For visibility of the money going out of your business, you need bills entered into its accounting system. This requires your AP team to show fast typing skills or you need to hire more people to speed up data entry – both of which can be expensive for your organisation.
AP automation makes this process faster and cheaper, making it easier to see payables for the next month and gain clarity over your financial position. AP teams will also find it quicker to retrieve information and easily view it on live dashboards, saving even more time.
2. Suppliers – negotiate better deals
Often, companies have little insight into just how many suppliers they’re working with or where they could consolidate to negotiate better pricing.
Yahava owner Paul Davies says automating accounts payable has provided a clearer picture for the business. Whether that be combining what it purchased from two different suppliers, getting a quick overview of the volume from some suppliers or negotiating a better deal with others.
“It definitely helped us to sharpen our pencils about getting the most out of each supply.”
3. Budgeting – find ways to spend smarter
Finance teams can use AP data to manage how they are trending against the budget every month, but only if they have the time to budget, analyse metrics and find ways to reduce costs. Usually, these insights take weeks or months to generate manually.
For CDB Group, Australia and New Zealand’s largest importer, distributor and marketer of electronic products, real-time data analytics have been critical for gaining control over larger cost lines.
With AP automation, there’s no need to dig through stacks of paper to uncover valuable data insights. All the invoices are now in one portal, easily accessed with nothing lost. This allows pulling data and building meaningful reports to improve business operations.
“With all the information available, we can now analyse and interrogate it. For example, you might be interested in who your main suppliers are, the dollar amounts spent with them or the regularity of invoices. Ocerra enables us to drill into the data and see who we are paying, how often and how much,” says Mark Lumsden, CFO at CDB Group.
4. Get more accurate data – essential for analytics
Manual data entry often includes typing errors, while late payments and duplicates can create bottlenecks in your approval process. For example, if your total number of invoices processed is low compared to your total number of invoices received, something is stopping your team from processing invoices on time.
All of this can lead to decision-making based on incomplete or inaccurate data.
AP automation software is designed to scan and extract data from invoices automatically.
Machines are better with repetitive tasks than humans resulting in higher accuracy.
It can also validate that data against what's in your other systems to ensure accuracy, leaving you with accurate data you can trust.
"Ocerra pre-populates invoice data including account codes and taxes and then saves to MYOB with the original PDF file attached”, says Natalie Tat, Corporate Accountant at Booster
5. Compliance – reduce the risk of fraud
With manual AP systems, paperwork can be easily misfiled, destroyed or tampered with. This can make controlling and monitoring levels of access harder for financial managers, and leave your business open to unauthorised spending.
Shifting to a digital solution means you can secure your data while setting up access to security features like multiple approval checkpoints for purchases. You can also access compliance and fraud reporting to ensure complete visibility over invoice workflow and financial transactions, and significantly reduce the risk of fraud by tracking invoice history and approval.
Automation equals faster and more accurate insights from your accounts payable
It’s almost impossible to see all the invoices across an organisation without AP automation. By leveraging automation, you can unlock valuable business insights such as spending trends, or uncover opportunities across your financial supply chain for strategic improvements. With accounts payable automation, your team will not only have more time to focus on providing insights for the business, but other teams can also access this information more easily, empowering the entire organisation to make smarter spending decisions.
Read next: The benefits of a three-way and two-way match with AP automation