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Behind the Curve on P2P Automation? Here’s a Secret!

For more than a decade-and-a-half, the business press has touted automation for accounts payable.

It’s been going on so long that many AP managers quietly assume theirs is the only AP department on earth that is still shuffling paper. The truth? It ain’t necessarily so. Now tipping points may have been reached for some kinds of solutions, particularly for large organizations. But even if your organization is one of those that has not gotten very far, you are not alone.

Proof? A 2018 study by Accounting Today looked at digital workflow tools and found that 71 percent of large firms have already implemented such tools. For mid-size companies, it was 51 percent, and for small firms, 38 percent.

That’s 29 percent of large firms that have NOT implemented digital workflow; half of mid-sized firms have not, and 62 percent of small firms have not! Now it did also find plans to implement digital workflow among 10 percent of large companies, 18 percent of mid-sized and 16 percent of small ones.

But just for a minute, count “plan to implement” and “implemented” as one group. That still leaves almost 20 percent or one in five large companies without digital workflow, along with 31 percent of mid-sized and 46 percent of small companies.

Feeling less alone?

Now you should be moving towards automation. It changes things in very positive and important ways. The point is you don’t have to whisper about your situation as if you are the last one without. Besides, you stand to benefit from those that have gone before. Link up with your fellow AP colleagues at a conference and you can get tips and advice from them. Their pain can be your gain.

Not only that, but the automation solutions have not remained static. Early adopters found the problems in the initial automation systems and gave plenty of feedback to the providers, who have been locked in competition with one another trying to come up with the best solutions to AP’s challenges. Advances in the way technology is implemented/delivered have further improved the picture.

You get to leapfrog early stages. You can benefit in other ways too. If you’ve been reading widely on the subject, you’ll recognize that for many organizations, there’s not a single solution for the entire procure-to-pay process, which you really have to be looking at in order to solve AP issues. While a whiz-bang system may be just the ticket for the majority of your work, chances are you also need to pick up a few discrete applications to solve specific problems.

The opportunity there is to implement a discrete app that can free up time and resources while you prepare to address other larger challenges. For example, take the time your staff devotes to customer service, answering phone calls and emails, looking up information and calling back.

A major part of that time can be reclaimed through introduction of a vendor self-service portal. Now a brand new study about to be published by InvoiceInfo finds that just 12 percent of organizations have implemented a vendor self-service portal. Call it the “last mile” of P2P automation. But it doesn’t have to be last.

Vendor portals can support a host of necessary vendor information tasks, but probably the greatest benefit comes in vendors being able to find out their invoice payment status themselves when they want it, without anyone on AP’s staff having to get it for them. Between 60 and 80 percent of inquiries from vendors are simple, straightforward questions about when they’re getting paid. A vendor portal can take away 60 to 80 percent of the phone calls and emails!

Now some portals are part of large automation programs or even ERP systems. But there are also robust discrete portals available that are quick to implement and quick to return the investment. By starting off there instead of saving it for last, a company can get a quick “win” and free the time necessary for implementation of larger, more complicated parts of P2P automation.

So wherever you are on the path toward fully automated, digital operations, there’s no shame and lots of opportunity to advance. To learn more about how InvoiceInfo’s vendor self-service portal can benefit your operations click here to request more information or call (678) 335-5735.

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