How AP affects your bottom line, part 2: Improving access
In part 1 of this series, I discussed how improving the efficiency of accounts payable (AP) teams can impact your bottom line by accelerating payment cycle times, reducing operating costs and improving customer service. And getting there often requires a little help from process automation technology.
But solving for efficiency is just one part of the equation. Trends outside the AP department are affecting how teams operate and interact with their non-AP colleagues. The past several years have seen a rapid increase in the amount of mobile office workers. Looking several years forward, the number of remote consultants, field professionals and other mobile workers will proliferate.
This can create a lot of challenges for AP teams when invoice approvals are required from mobile employees who cannot access the necessary systems, documents and information or perform the tasks required to keep the invoice approval process moving forward.
Luckily, there’s a solution. Enterprise content management (ECM) helps organizations improve access to information and overcome some common AP process challenges.
Mobility is not a fad
Don’t think improving remote employee access is a priority? Let the numbers speak for themselves:
- The global mobile workforce is set to increase to 1.75 billion by 2020, accounting for 42 percent of the workforce worldwide
- 50 percent of surveyed AP professionals say that remote approvers contribute to AP processing complexity*
- 40 percent of businesses expect to use a smartphone or tablet to approve supplier invoices within the next two years*
The location of employees isn’t the only challenge – scattered content can be a major roadblock as well. When invoice and payment data is only stored in an ERP or other business system, non-AP employees may not be able to access this information without additional software licenses and training.
Many organizations are meeting these challenges by giving remote employees access through cloud-based networks and mobile apps. ECM provides users with the ability to retrieve, approve and update documents and complete forms, with offline support options.
Further, integrations with common office applications, like Microsoft Outlook®, allow non-AP employees to participate in the invoice approval process without having to log into the ERP or even the ECM system. Users access and edit documents without ever leaving their primary Microsoft Office application. Business can take place anywhere, at any time.
How can this support your overall bottom line?
Accelerate cycle times
With mobile access, ECM lets remote and field employees quickly access information they need. They can approve invoices or perform the tasks required to move the payment process forward, which helps avoid delays that could lead to missed or late payments and penalties.
“Our guys are out in the field – they could be out in corn fields, on tractors or on the road driving somewhere,” said Sharon Hollfelder, Accounts Payable manager at Hartung Brothers, Inc. “They’re not at a desk, but they can get that email – they get their phone or iPad out and they see the invoice, review it and approve it right there, wherever they are.”
And because you store all AP documents and data in a single system, that same information is instantly accessible when users are back in the office. A central system that tracks all changes in one place improves accuracy, maintains consistency and allows for version control.
Reduce training and licensing costs
By integrating with applications like Microsoft Outlook, ECM allows AP and non-AP business users to view and approve invoices directly from their inboxes. Using familiar applications simplifies user training and speeds adoption by eliminating the need for users to learn multiple complex ERP interfaces to perform daily tasks.
Organizations save time and money when they don’t have to train employees on complex systems they are reluctant to use. Not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars saved by not having to constantly update existing ERP or other software solutions and licenses for users who only need to approve invoices or who barely participate in the invoice approval process.
Keep an eye out for the next post in this series, when we’ll talk about creating greater visibility across AP processes and content.
In the meantime, to learn more, download the Accelerating Accounts Payable eBook.
* According to the IFO Accounts Payable Efficiency Study