How AP Automation Streamlines Payables
AP automation software automates the entire invoice-to-pay-to-reconciliation accounts payable process, wipes out up to 80% of manual accounts payable processes, and scales to meet your operational growth.
I can’t imagine what our AP process would look like without Tipalti. We don’t want our team to enter data—we want them to analyze data.
Accounting Manager at Theragun
Before Tipalti, our finance team was working 70 hours a week on AP. Now, that’s down significantly with half the staff needed. It’s a huge reduction in both cost and time.
Head of Finance at Zipline
With Tipalti, we’ve shaved two days off of our month-end close process.
Senior Accounting Manager at Uptake
I’m getting 20 days a year back from not having to process AP manually. Everything is always available in the Tipalti system; it’s the one source of truth, finally, for our payments.
CFO at GoDigital Media Group
What is AP automation?
AP automation (accounts payable automation) is technology that organizations use to automate time-consuming manual AP work, such as invoice processing, PO matching, and payment reconciliation. AP automation helps companies save time and improve financial controls.
AP automation software was designed as the genesis for improvement initiatives in modern accounting. Whereas traditional accounts payable teams are burdened by overhead, manual data entry, and inefficiencies, automation software streamlines the full cycle of accounts payable. This allows teams to scale without adding more staff, gain better visibility into their financial data, and achieve financial close up to 25% faster.
The way AP automation works is through the use of artificial intelligence technology like optical character recognition (OCR) and machine learning. This AI creates a touchless invoice process that scans supplier invoices automatically and routes them to the correct approvers. Once invoices are approved, the software sends invoice data to an integrated ERP system, and archives invoices and audit trails. Advanced AP automation solutions are also capable of improving vendor management processes, managing tax forms, generating reports, and automating payments to suppliers around the globe.
What are the benefits of AP automation?
Automating the payable process is not as costly as one might think. There are a lot of advantages when you digitize an accounting system. Some of these include:
1. Streamline the AP Workflow
A business can process invoices quicker when a client sets up an automated workflow for invoices to follow. The software will then automate the approval process. It will match the invoice to the P.O. and send it to the appropriate AP departments.
These people can then authorize, deny, or halt payment for further investigation. These days, invoice approvals can be accomplished using a smartphone. This means quicker invoicing timelines and a streamlined workflow.
Intelligent AP software also records each step in the approval process for later review. Therefore, if any question should arise on an invoice, you can see in the system exactly who approved it and when. There is no need to sort through mountains of paperwork.
2. Reduce Errors
Manual processes typically produce a few errors here and there, like duplicate payments or late payments. These mistakes can increase processing costs and create bottlenecks in the AP system.
Unfortunate errors mean the client overpays or underpays, both of which are not good for improving vendor relationships. This can lead to extra work, a poor reputation, and lost money.
AP automation eliminates data entry by extracting data from an electronic invoice automatically. Paper invoices can be captured using a scanner. The system will simply read the picture to identify the amount and date.
3. Early Payment Discounts
Many vendors offer a discount if you pay an invoice early. Automating the AP process enables a business to seize more opportunities to take advantage of early payment discounts.
The computer is always watching the clock. AP payable systems can track these early-payment allowances to optimize cash flow. In fact, savings can amount to hundreds of dollars a year for each vendor.
Paying invoices on time also secures goodwill with vendors. They are more likely to give you better prices when they know you always pay in a timely fashion.
4. Security and Fraud Management
With unprecedented visibility and reporting capabilities, AP automation gives AP staff the ability to significantly reduce fraud and secure its finances. Using software to pay accounts is far more secure than one might think.
E-invoicing allows cash to be transferred securely to the creditor online. This, in turn, creates a traceable record of the transaction. Much like a digital audit trail. The business owner (or accountant) can recall those payments on a universal dashboard to ensure everything is legitimate.
An AP automation solution not only prevents fraud, but it also protects a business against honest mistakes made in manual data entry and invoice management. You don’t have to worry about typos, lost invoices, or forgotten paperwork ever again.
Additionally, disputes about payment are quickly settled. Especially when using a vendor portal for onboarding. If someone says an invoice hasn’t been paid, all parties can quickly check the data online.
If it’s been held up for any reason, there should be notes in the system that say why. If the invoice has been paid, that can be proven with an exact date and time. These same records also help if your client is audited for tax purposes.
5. Understanding Cash Flow
AP automation provides significant cost savings beyond what you’d expect from eliminating manual tasks. Companies can optimize a vendor portfolio to avoid duplicate payments and take advantage of early payment discounts.
When a client’s payment is paper-based, it’s not always easy to determine what their cash flow looks like. The data must be manually entered into a spreadsheet and then reporting is generated from there. The entire process is slow and labor-intensive. By the time you access the data, it is already outdated.
Automated AP keeps track of cash flow in real-time and helps to:
- Compare cash in against cash out
- Monitor all spending
- Preempt any emerging cash flow problems
Watch the dashboard to monitor the state of business and put together any quick reports. It’s your chance to flag upcoming issues and better structure cash flow. Everything is built to give you greater confidence in making smart business decisions.
How does accounts payable software work?
Accounts payable software works by optimizing the accounts payable process in key areas where manual labor is causing AP teams to be inefficient. When automation software is used, accounts payable teams are able to reduce costs, eliminate routine tasks, and provide better visibility and control over financial data. This helps companies streamline the accounts payable with greater efficiency, which translates to lower costs of invoice processing and higher levels of productivity.
How does automation software help AP teams scale?
If you seek to scale your AP team, automation is the next step. Here are a few ways in which the software can help your business grow:
Electronic payments are much cheaper than issuing paper checks. The average cost of a check transaction is $3.00 versus an ACH transfer which ranges from $0.26 to $0.50. There are also the savings on labor to consider. The AP team can skip menial tasks like data entry and focus more on helping the brand grow.
Stronger Vendor Relationships
Vendor and supplier relationships are critical to the workflow and processes that make a business function. Late payments, wrong amounts, or failure to pay at all puts a serious strain on relationships. Automation means you are always paying on time, at the right time, every time. It solidifies supplier relationships and keeps partnerships intact. This type of system will also help avoid any fees incurred for late payment.
In addition, some platforms allow for automated vendor onboarding. This makes approving new merchants a breeze. Typically, it is done through a vendor portal. A merchant must create an account with tax details and banking information. This means the AP staff can skip data entry because the invoicing is ready to go.
Adding automation into your workflow is not as costly or complex as many people assume. There is no need to replace your current point solutions. AP software sits right on top of your ERP system and is there to simply enhance the technology and efficiency. The platform optimizes your end-to-end accounting by enabling better communication and consolidating data.
By the year 2015, 73% of organizations were targets of payment fraud. Accounting strategies are always at the risk of compliance issues, regulation failures, and theft. Manual processing means a security breach is more likely. It can be difficult to identify potential red flags and track issues.
What is automated invoice processing?
Automated invoice processing streamlines capture, validation, and workflow to optimize productivity, improve vendor relationships, and cut costs. An automated invoice always moves through a workflow faster than a manual one. It takes all the menial tasks an accounting department must accomplish and assigns them to a computer. Whether it’s pairing a purchase order, matching price, or data entry, it’s all part of automated invoice processing.
How does automated PO matching work?
Upon receiving an invoice, the AP software platform extracts all invoice data. It automatically compares the line items with the purchase order information that is synced in your system. When the corresponding data is found, the software evaluates whether the lines match or not. This is considered “PO matching” and it improves early payment success.
How much does AP software typically cost?
There are a lot of factors that go into pricing AP automation software. It simply depends on the tasks your business needs to perform.
Scan and Archive
This is the most basic form of AP automation and can be achieved through basic service levels like a shared drive or folder. This also happens to be the least expensive solution and can be done for a few hundred dollars. If you are looking at integrating a document management system, it could cost anywhere from $10,000-$100,000 depending on how complex you need it. This also includes annual license fees and any technical support required.
Archival and Auto-Matching, Front End Invoice Processing, Approval Workflow
This is a tried and true approach but in a deployed setting, costs can run high. Especially considering the systems that are needed to power this approach. This includes features such as:
- Bi-directional integration
- Optical Character Recognition (OCR)
- Business intelligence
- Audit trail
- Document Storage
Deployments like this are typically taken on by a business running upwards of 10,000 invoice transactions a month. For this type of system, associated spend can easily range from $100,000-$500,000 plus the annual license fee and related support costs.
Cloud-based AP Automation
This is similar to the system above except all infrastructure investments are in the cloud. This means services are generally deployed across multiple tenants and the cost is shared. Usually providers of this approach charge on a transactional basis instead of the license model. The fees for implementation are typically proportional to the number of invoices processed per month.
If you consider the scenario above, 10,000 invoice transactions per month can run your implementation fees anywhere from $20,000-$35,000. Transactional costs range from $.65-$.95 depending on the scope of services and/or automation performed.
AP Automation and Payments
The costs for these systems vary. However, through this one payment type alone, companies can generate a 1-1.5% tap on eligible spend.
How much can companies save by automating accounts payable processes?
processing will save you an average of $14.93 per invoice over companies who manually process theirs. The more you move, the more you save.
Today’s top AP stats reveal an amazing 82% of invoices have at least one exception. This happens when further approval is needed to apply a payment or when invoice line items do not match the purchase order (PO). These obstacles can practically bring an AP workflow to a halt.
That’s why best-in-class solutions always feature two-way and three-way matching. This subsequently resolves any PO-matching issues. Accounts payable automation reduces the invoice time cycle by up to 80%. Rather than spending large amounts of time locating and verifying invoice data, quickly access the database of your AP software to determine which invoices are due first.
To help calculate how much your organization’s cost savings Tipalti has created this Invoice Processing & Payment Cost Calculator. Additionally, to help calculate costs due to errors, try our Payment Error Cost Calculator.
What is the accounts payable workflow?
Accounts payable workflow is a sequence of tasks that processes a set of data. It’s the path that describes how something goes from being undone to done and raw to processed. Organizations of all sizes can eliminate the need for manual AP steps that are involved with:
- Hand entering invoices
There is always a need to eliminate bottlenecks in the AP process. The cycle can be explained as the end-to-end system that includes all the steps within receiving, processing, and paying supplier invoices. The steps also include capturing the invoice data into an ERP/accounting system.
What is E-invoicing?
Electronic invoicing (e-Invoicing) is the exchange of an invoice between a supplier and a buyer in an integrated digital format. Many companies are unaware they are already sending/receiving EDI invoices.
Electronic invoices (e-Invoices) are typically used by trading partners, which includes customers and their vendors. It helps to monitor transactional documents between the two parties and ensure the terms of their agreement are met. The distinguishing factor of electronic invoices is strategic centrality. All the key information around invoicing and the supplier relations process is uploaded into a universally accessible cloud database.
What are electronic purchase orders?
An electronic purchase order is the same as a traditional purchase order. The only difference is there is no paper. It is a digital document that outlines line items in an order, terms and conditions for both parties, delivery, pricing, and other pertinent data you would expect to find on a PO.You cannot have invoice automation without an electronic purchase order. It is the only means to substantiate ordering by an authorized company or employee in an automated system.
What is OCR scanning and how does it work?
OCR is short for optical character recognition. This technology works with your scanner to convert printed characters into digital text. This allows you to search for and edit a document in a word processing program. Many industries deal with large loads of data processing that leverage OCR, from medical records to banking. And of course, accounts payable.
Not all OCR products are created equal. While paper invoices require a scanner, the majority of invoices are transmitted through email. The system you choose should be able to accept a digital invoice easily.
Some basic OCRs only scan invoice headers to capture basic bill data such as the vendor contact information and due dates. More sophisticated OCR systems are able to scan and itemize invoices down to the line level. This may be important if you have varied billing codes for a single invoice. Otherwise, your staff will continue to have to key in data and not be truly touchless.
How does Tipalti’s AP software handle tax compliance?
Tipalti’s tax solution allows companies to go global with international tax capabilities. It helps your company comply with IRS tax provisions and simplifies the AP process. Our guided tax form wizard helps suppliers choose the correct form based on the country and business structure.
For non-US payers, local and VAT tax ID collection is available. This helps to solve the highly complex and manual process of collecting tax information. It’s done through digital capture during the onboarding flow which ensures information is validated before payment is ever processed.
Tipalti facilitates IRS tax compliance with KPMG-approved tax form data validation and withholding calculations.
What is RPA for accounts payable?
RPA stands for robotic process automation and it’s transforming the way organizations handle their accounts payable and receivable. RPA enables enterprises to design computer software that imitates the actions of an employee interacting with digital systems. Automation software uses RPA by applying standard rules to routine AP processes.
How does accounts payable automation software integrate with ERP systems?
ERP system integrations are largely built around identifying back end processes that can be streamlined through efficient accounts payable automation. Even when a company invests a significant amount of time and resources in process automation, many still ignore the tasks that truly impact accounts payable and invoice processing.
Tipalti has integrations that are pre-built to connect to popular ERP and accounting systems, which include Sage Intacct, NetSuite, and QuickBooks Online. We sync bill and payment data from the Tipalti platform to the accounting system in real-time. Reconciliation is accelerated through automatic sync of payment details. The level of integration is always dependent on your needs and workflow.
What is paperless document management?
Just as it sounds, paperless document management means you digitize all paper documents into a central system. This reduces the need for physical storage and the cost of paper. These platforms also work in conjunction with scanners. This allows a business to digitally store all paper documents that run through a workflow.
Effective document management is always performed with a business intelligence software system. This technology acts as a repository and is capable of holding multiple iterations of the same document. This is known as version control and can be easily modified by users.
A paperless document management system provides a workflow process for tasks like:
How does automation software streamline the approval process?
Accounts payable software with automation helps reduce the AP portion of procurement to pay (P2P) cycle time. This means you can close the books sooner. The system automatically verifies vendors and validates invoices. It then forwards the approval request to the right person in the organization.
As an approver, you are sent (via email) the data needed prior to approving an invoice for payment. It does not matter whether it is two-way or three-way, the ap invoice approval process is the same. In a two-way approval, the invoice is automatically matched to the electronic purchase order. Three-way approval requires those documents, plus a receiving report as the third item.
Automation makes an authorized approver’s job quicker and more efficient. Not only does it help to avoid duplicate payments, your company can take early payment discounts to save money. This avoids late payments to vendors which could result in shipment cut-offs and poor business relationships.AP software skips the endless approver follow-up that happens with manual invoice processing. It eases the labor workload.
How does accounts payable software improve supplier relationships?
AP automation improves vendor relationships in a variety of ways. The system automatically alerts merchants when invoices have been paid. When something is not paid, real-time status updates can be sent via email to keep people in the loop. The technology is about communication, trust, and respect.
At some point in time, every business has an issue with invoice processing or order deliveries. Problems are addressed easier when you are working from an established relationship. There is rarely any finger-pointing or assigning blame. AP automation allows more accountability for all parties involved.
This type of software also forges vendor partnerships. Rather than seeing these companies as necessary operational transactions, a strong relationship means you have a competitive advantage. A healthy camaraderie should be based on transparency and respect. This means if a situation demands increased support or supply, vendors will be willing to go above and beyond to meet your needs.
How can an accounts payable department structure improve through automation?
Accounts payable automation software improves the structure of an AP department by separating duties both inside and outside of the team. Proper segregation of AP duties is a requirement for solid internal controls. Other objectives include preventing fraud, matching responsibilities, and redefining roles to accommodate automation. All of these will save a company time and money while improving the accounts payable process workflow.
How does automation technology improve vendor management?
AP automation works by consolidating all vendor information into a single digital database. This makes payment history, vendor relationships, and communication chains accessible to everyone. When a supplier has a question, more people are available to answer it, like approvers and account managers. That’s because the data is out there for everyone to use and access from anywhere.
Accounts payable automation enhances the procurement process by delivering valuable insight and data that can be used for future purchasing processes. This also helps to identify fraud and any vendors operating outside of company policy. The data will show which suppliers are not complying with contracted terms, as well as relationships that need further nurturing.
Vendor relationships are also improved through automated alerts in real-time. Sometimes people forget to pay, but an AP system will shoot out messages to remind vendors of due dates. This totally eliminates the need to contact the AP department or make extra phone calls. These types of notifications can also be used to alert vendors when they need to update payment information. This includes data like:
A KPMG-approved interface is used to collect and validate all of this critical data.
What is touchless invoice processing?
The basic definition of touchless invoice processing is that there is no manual input required. From the time the invoice arrives until it is posted to the ERP, there is no human contact. Touchless invoice data capture and AI-based approval are routing technologies for accounts payable software. This allows invoices to be fully digitized with no intervention at all. It makes them instantly approval and payment-ready. This helps meet the needs of a finance team straining to cope with scaling a business.
How does automated payment reconciliation work?
Automatic bank reconciliation enables a business to upload an electronic version of a bank statement and automatically reconcile it. The e-version is provided by the bank using “matching rules” that are designated in the system. A business can easily speed up its financial close with features like:
- Drill down filters
- Transaction level details
- ERP synchronization
- Real-time integrated reports
Remittance results across all payment methods, entities, and geographies are instantly normalized and built into deep reporting. This leads to faster and more accurate reconciliation and general ledger reporting.
How does B2B payment processing work with AP automation software?
The accounts payable process serves as a guardian of the funds. Oversight is improved with a full view of B2B payment cycles. When it comes to B2B payments, the trend points in the direction of ACH transfers as the leading form of payment. Every year, check remittances are steadily decreasing while wire transfers are on the rise. It’s evident that an increasing number of companies are realizing the benefits of AP automation software.