How Automation Helps Accounts Payable Work Better

Posted by Greg Bartels on Dec 9, 2020 4:56:59 PM
Greg Bartels

It is anything but “business as usual” in accounts payable departments these days.

How Automation Helps Accounts Payable

Ninety-one percent of accounts payable departments are working remotely, at least in part, according to the Institute of Finance and Management (IOFM).

Invoices now are being approved in home offices, dining rooms, living rooms and elsewhere, while accounts payable staff juggle the responsibilities of work, home care and parenting.


Watch our video on AP Automation in the New Normal.

A new way of working in AP

The sudden shift to remote working has disrupted established processes and procedures for how invoice processing gets done. As a result, many accounts payable leaders are concerned about the way they are doing things these days. Some are feeling overwhelmed by it all.

A chief concern among accounts payable leaders is the fear of new fraud and compliance risks. Interpol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and countless law enforcement organizations are warning of greater risk of payment fraud. Many accounts payable departments are leaning heavily on e-mail routing of invoices and supplier information to get approvals from far-flung purchasers. But e-mail routing of invoices does not assure chain of custody or segregation of duties, it is hard to audit the actions taken on an invoice, invoices can be deleted ahead of mandated timelines, and e-mail routing of invoices increases the possibility of successful phishing attacks or Business E-mail Compromise (BEC) schemes.

Accounts payable departments also are having more trouble approving invoices before the due date. Many accounts payable professionals are working longer hours to compensate for the increased difficulty in getting invoices approved. Adapting manual and semi-automated invoice processes to a remote working environment is hard. Many accounts payable departments send a “skeleton crew” into the office once a week to open the mail, scan invoices, and route them via e-mail to the person who accounts payable believes is the approver. Some accounts payable departments that rely on paper-based processes have been forced to hand deliver invoices to purchasers for approval.

Additionally, accounts payable departments are experiencing more calls and e-mails from suppliers regarding the status of invoices and payments. The economic fallout of the pandemic has created an unrelenting cash crunch for many suppliers. Chasing down the information required to determine the status of invoices and payments can be difficult when accounts payable staff Work from Home.

Generating the reports that decision-makers need to tightly manage working capital and corporate spending also is tougher these days. The root of the problem is that many accounts payable departments manually generate cash forecasts and other reports using spreadsheets.

Clearly, accounts payable departments need ways to make their processes work better.

Why automate accounts payable?

Cloud-based accounts payable solutions make it easy for AP departments to adapt their operations for remote working and reduce manual tasks, accelerate cycle times and mitigate the risk of fraud.

  • Reduce manual tasks. Whether it is invoice receipt, invoice data capture, workflow routing or invoice reporting, deploying a single end-to-end automated solution eliminates manual tasks across the accounts payable cycle. By eliminating manual tasks, accounts payable departments can lower overhead, reduce the possibility of errors and scale their operations without adding headcount. Freeing accounts payable staff from the drudgery of manual invoice processing also enables them to focus more time on higher-value activities such as data analysis, supplier management and vendor master database cleanup.
  • Accelerate cycle times. Automation optimizes an accounts payable department for remote working in the short term while setting it up for long-term success. Digital invoice approvals keep processes moving, regardless of where staff work. Online exceptions tools eliminate the back-and-forth e-mails and phone calls that grind approvals to a halt. Built-in controls, complete audit tracking and real-time visibility into invoice status ensure strong governance. Graphical dashboards empower accounts payable leaders to easily manage global operations. Invoice information is instantly available 24/7/365 so decision-makers can stay on top of cashflow. Online portals enable suppliers to effortlessly submit invoices and other accounts payable documents and check the statuses of invoices and payments. And all interactions between buyers and sellers can be managed digitally, eliminating processing friction.
  • Mitigate the risk of fraud. Role-based security, data encryption, complete audit trails, multi-factor authentication and the enforcement of invoice approvals, segregation of duties and chain of custody mitigate the risk of fraud when staff Work from Home. The controls and reporting built into the best AP solutions also help avoid non-compliance penalties.


Having the right tools in place is critical to ensuring a successful remote working environment. 

By automating accounts payable with a cloud-based solution, organizations can achieve optimum efficiency, effectiveness and control whether staff Work from Home, in the office or on the go.

See how IPS can help your accounts payable processes work better.

Contact IPS to discuss your invoice processing needs today!


Tags: Invoice Processing, AP Automation, AP Automation Solutions, Accounts Payable Automation