Achieving Peak AP Efficiency When Staff Are Working from Home

Written by: Bradley Bloch, CEO of

Adapting to the new reality has been a whirlwind of activity for accounts payable leaders.

• Staff needed essential tools such as laptops, phones, Internet access and office equipment.
• Processes and procedures for receiving and processing invoices were established.
• Paper check runs were replaced with electronic methods of paying suppliers.
• Processes for accessing information and reporting on financial data were adapted.

Now comes the hard part: Ensuring productivity as staff Work from Home.

91% of accounts payable teams are working remotely, according to a poll conducted during a virtual town hall meeting held by the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM).

While most supplier invoices are getting paid on time, the way that accounts payable departments are doing things these days is not sustainable. One-third of accounts payable professionals are working longer hours, with 8% of professionals working an additional two hours per day, IOFM reports. Many accounts payable departments also are relying on risky workarounds, such as using e-mail to onboard suppliers and route invoices for approval. Some departments send a “skeleton crew” into their shuttered office once a week to open the mail and scan invoices into an e-mail box for routing.

With no end in sight to remote working arrangements, accounts payable leaders recognize that they need to find more efficient and effective ways of receiving, approving, and paying supplier invoices.

27% of accounts payable leaders surveyed by IOFM last month identified ensuring productivity as their biggest challenge as staff work remotely. 24% of accounts payable leaders admitted that it was a struggle for their department to pay supplier invoices on time.

Truthfully, the way that most payables departments processed invoices before the pandemic was not efficient or effective. Only 9% of departments are fully automated, with few or no manual tasks. 14% of departments operate in a completely manual fashion. Most departments have some automation with lots of manual tasks. Remote working exposed and exacerbated the shortcomings of manual, outdated approaches to invoice processing and supplier payments.

The impact of the shift to remote working is being felt across the invoice processing lifecycle:

• 26% of accounts payable leaders say invoice receipt has been most impacted
• 21% of accounts payable leaders say that invoice approvals have been most impacted
• 21% of accounts payable leaders say that exceptions resolution has been most impacted
• 7% of accounts payable leaders say that invoice data capture has been most impacted

Those statistics from an IOFM survey conducted last month illustrate the need for accounts payable departments to rethink the way they receive, approve and post invoices as staff Work from Home.

Now is the time to digitize invoice processing and supplier payments.

71% of departments plan to further automate their processes in 2020, IOFM reports. Even departments that describe themselves as “largely automated” plan to deploy more technology.

Why are businesses prioritizing accounts payable automation while other projects are scrapped?

Businesses recognize that the right accounts payable solution can deliver the efficiency gains that are required during tough times while providing insights that can help with cash management.

How automation streamlines payables

Here are five ways that automation delivers optimum efficiency, no matter where staff work:

1. Digital invoice receipt. Automation makes it possible for accounts payable departments to receive supplier invoices, even when staff cannot make it into the office. Invoices can be electronically submitted via e-mail, File Transfer Protocol (FTP) upload, a portal or fax.

2. Intelligent data capture. Automated accounts payable solutions extract the data from invoices and validate it against information residing in an ERP or accounting platform.

3. Dynamic workflows. In an automated environment, invoices are electronically routed for approval based on pre-defined business rules, eliminating the possibility that invoices are misrouted or lost. Notifications, alerts, escalations, real-time visibility into the status of invoices, and seamless ERP uploads keep approvals on track when staff work remotely.

4. Digital storage. As the economic downturn continues, accounts payable departments are receiving more e-mails and phone calls from suppliers regarding the status of invoices and payments. Automation puts information on invoices at a user’s fingertips, eliminating the need to retrieve paper invoices from a file cabinet or chase down purchasers for details.

5. Advanced analytics. It is hard to chase down information when staff work remotely. Automation puts smart cash and spend insights at a decisionmaker’s fingertips through graphical dashboards, exportable data, drill-down capabilities, and ad hoc reporting.

Manual, outdated accounts payable processes were not designed for remote working. Automation simplifies accounts payable, no matter where staff work, providing sustainable efficiency gains.

Want to learn how to make accounts processes more efficient, no matter where staff work?

Contact us at or call 1-833-905-2159 to arrange a no-obligation consultation and online product demonstration.

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