Even with all your enterprise-level digital adoption, accounts payable can still be one of the most paper-intensive departments in your organization. The team’s primary function, invoice processing, costs the company resources due to time-consuming and repetitive tasks, slow processing cycles and human-introduced errors. The longer you ignore the cost of manually processing invoices, the deeper the dents it tends to cause in your organization’s bottom line. Learn how the benefits of accounts payable automation can reverse that trend.
The True Cost of Your Invoice Processing Flow
The U.S. Institute of Finance & Management (IOFM) suggests that the cost of processing a single invoice can be anywhere between $1 and $21. Putting this into perspective, think of a mid-sized company that has approximately 1,000 invoices to process per month. They would lose significant money through the gaps caused by process inefficiency. AP automation benefits can help to solve those inefficiencies and reduce your invoice processing costs.
What Makes Invoice Processing Expensive?
Wondering how best to calculate the expense of processing invoices in your organization? The simplest way is to equate it with the costs of associated human effort. Typically, a member of your accounts payable team would take at least 30 minutes to process a single invoice. Considering the average salary of an accounts payable clerk in the U.S. is $43,917 (approximately $21 per hour), processing one invoice could cost $10.50. For the mid-sized company mentioned earlier, this would add up to more than $10,000 every month.
And that’s not all! At this point, we’ve only discussed the base costs involved. But there’s more to it, such as:
- Cost of fixing manual errors: Invoice processing is highly susceptible to errors due to daily variances, volume-based pressure or sometimes even sheer human fatigue. To fix such errors on a paper invoice, you might have to spend a significant $53.50 to create a new document, communicate with different stakeholders and redact payments already made.
- Lost opportunity costs, such as discounts: Most vendors offer discounts for early payments, which can be as much as 2% to 5%. Manual invoice processing can create delays, causing the payment to miss the discount window.
- Strained vendor relationships: The inefficiencies related to manual invoice processing, such as delayed payments, payment redactions and multiple requests for the same information, can seriously damage your brand’s reputation in today’s vendor and supplier landscape. More severe mistakes could even harm long-term relationships, adding to your overall invoice processing costs.
- Physical costs, like storage and paper: Manual invoice processing goes together with paper-based processes, involving costs for physical file storage, stationery, etc. Unstructured hybrid systems can be even more expensive as the accounts payable team might have to switch between digital and paper formats, spawning duplication.
- Cost of efforts diverted from core functions: Finally, complex approval processes coupled with frequent exceptions call for measures by personnel outside the invoice processing team. Business leaders might have to intervene in invoice processing, and their valuable person-hours (which would otherwise be spent on higher-value functions) must be factored in.
What is Invoice Workflow Automation & STP?
Invoice automation and the benefits of accounts payable automation go beyond barebones e-invoicing, which only recreates paper processes in a digital format and replicates its inefficiencies. The intelligent automation of invoice processing leverages technology in a meaningful way to remove the bottlenecks in your accounts payable workflow, bringing human intervention down to near-zero. This enables straight-through processing, or STP, where automated technology manages the end-to-end invoice lifecycle, and the average handling time by humans is dramatically reduced.
6 AP Automation Benefits That Achieve STP and Help Reduce Invoice Processing Costs
According to McKinsey, intelligent automation can streamline 93% of tasks in payment processing. The stages of accounts payable automation include:
1. Extract Invoice Data Using Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning
AI/ML-based technology such as object recognition and optical character recognition (OCR) can extract data from scanned images, PDF snapshots, etc. and automatically populate the fields in your accounts payable system. Intelligent invoice extraction is compatible with country-specific EDI formats, XML/JSON files, scanned images and even mailbox attachments.
2. Set up A Custom Supplier Portal
The worst long-term issue caused by inefficient invoice processing is probably the erosion of trust in vendor relationships. The smart UX of an automated solution allows you to set up a digital portal where vendors and suppliers can choose their relevant forms, make data entries and enjoy seamless interactions with your invoice processing team.
3. Configure Workflows to Handle Exceptions
Among the many benefits of accounts payable automation, automated exception handling lets your accounts payable staff tackle complex invoice scenarios without claiming the time of multiple business stakeholders. For example, they can set up workflows to handle exceptions such as potential signs of fraud, invalid vendor data, invalid file formats and specific PO detail mismatches. Configurable rules like these for invoice validation reduce an agent’s time to manually process an invoice by 80%.
4. Integrate with Your ERP
An AP automation workflow can connect with your existing systems like SAP, Oracle, Pegasus, Microsoft Dynamics, Salesforce, Infor, Sage or homegrown applications to enable bi-directional data flow. Your ERP can act as the reference for validating extracted invoice data (which otherwise needs to be performed by an AP staff member) and document the workflow information.
5. Gain from Analytics and Data Insights
Over and above AP automation benefits like lower invoice processing costs, automation becomes a true value generator here. First, it uses validation rules to assign a risk assessment score to every invoice. It also prioritizes tasks automatically based on load, productivity or your unique segmentation rules. Next, it uncovers vital data from your invoice processes to highlight productivity trends, KPIs and improvement areas, creating real-time visibility into invoices pending approval.
6. Consider Hosting on the Cloud
Cloud-based workflow automation software significantly lowers your upfront costs and ongoing maintenance overhead, while reducing your overall TCO. On-premises partly managed hosting is also an option in areas where there are critical regulatory requirements.
Save More as You Grow. Make Accounts Payable a Profit Center.
While traditional invoice processing methods become more expensive with scale (as volume and costs are directly related), intelligent automation and STP allow you to reduce costs as you grow. As the solution architecture is inherently scalable, your automation partner can offer volume-based efficiencies — for example, incrementally reduced pricing for volume tiers above 5,000 invoices per month.
JIFFY.ai delivers invoice processing and accounts payable automation benefits for small businesses, large finance and accounting teams and every organization in between. We can help them achieve 80% STP and reduce the human efforts needed to process invoices from a new supplier to 0%. Sophisticated AI and ML-based workflows allow you to look beyond just replicating age-old manual processes in a digital wireframe. Leveraging our intelligent and scalable automation HyperApps, we are committed to helping future-oriented enterprises derive business value across critical functions like accounts payable.
Get the Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation with JIFFY.ai
If you want to iron out bottlenecks or inefficiencies in your business processes through sustainable, intelligent invoice processing automation, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. Our HyperApps experts will be happy to help you accelerate!