Processing Invoices During the COVID-19 Pandemic

Posted by Greg Bartels on Apr 1, 2020 11:16:27 AM
Greg Bartels

How would your business pay its suppliers, if no one could get into the office to process invoices?  That’s the challenge many businesses are grappling with as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Invoice Processing during PandemicOnly 29 percent of businesses are “fully operational” as a result of the employee work restrictions implemented as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to the international RapidRatings State of Supply Chain Survey.  Fifty-seven percent of businesses are “partially operational.”

Small businesses with revenues in the $10 million to $100 million range are bearing the brunt of the work-from-home disruption, with 76 percent unable to continue operating at full capacity.  

"The coronavirus global pandemic has us in unchartered territory with no end in sight, and that is creating perhaps one of the most stressful workforce situations in U.S. history for employers and employees," says Eagle Hill Consulting President and CEO Melissa Jezior. "We've gone from employers struggling to find and keep employees, to deserted offices and dire job loss forecasts.”

The fallout from COVID-19 is even more sobering when you consider that we are only starting to feel the pandemic’s impact on business operations.  Work-from-home mandates, quarantines and illness increase the possibility that businesses will experience more disruptions to their operations.

There’s also no telling how long it will be before workers in areas with shelter-in-place mandates can return to the office.  Among businesses that have closed their facilities, 42 percent don’t expect to re-open them for another two to four weeks, and 15 percent for at least a month), RapidRatings reports.

This begs the question of how core back-office functions such as invoice processing will get done. 

Just 12 percent of businesses are “highly prepared” for the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.  That’s according to a survey of more than 1,500 professionals conducted by Gartner last month. 

As a result, 57 percent of those surveyed by Gartner expect COVID-19 to slow their pace of operations.  Sixteen percent anticipate that COVID-19 will severely restrict their operations and one percent expect that their daily operations will be discontinued altogether as a result of COVID-19.

Only two percent of those surveyed believe their business can continue as normal during the crisis. 

Getting invoices processed, when you can’t get to the office

Forty-nine percent of U.S. employees say they are now working at home as a result of COVID-19.  The problem is that only 51 percent of U.S. employees say their organization has the technology, tools and training needed to transition to a work-from-home situation, Eagle Hill Consulting finds.

That’s especially true when it comes to processing invoices received from suppliers. 

Most accounts payable departments rely on manual, paper-based invoice approval processes or antiquated on-premise systems that were not designed to support today’s work-from-home reality.   

Few businesses have the luxury of not paying their suppliers.  Unpaid invoices can result in:


  • A spike in calls and e-mails from suppliers regarding the status of invoices and payments
  • Strained supplier relationships and the loss of supplier goodwill
  • Less leverage at the negotiating table with suppliers
  • The loss of valued suppliers
  • Customer service issues caused by supply chain disruptions
  • Credit and collections headaches
  • An inability to accurately forecast cash flow

 

Cloud-based accounts payable solutions enable businesses to ensure the continuity of their invoice approval and payment processes, even when back-office operations are constrained.  Here’s how:


  • USPS, UPS or FedEx mail forwarding: At least 217 million people in at least 23 U.S. states, 84 counties, 17 cities and one territory have been urged to stay at home to help slow the spread of COVID-19, the New York Times  reports.  If your staff cannot get to the office, forward your supplier invoices to a third-party that can provide cloud-based, end-to-end invoice processing, including scanning, intelligent data capture and digital workflow routing.  A file with data on approved invoices is uploaded to your ERP.  Fast turnaround times and guaranteed data capture accuracy ensure that suppliers are paid the right amount, on time.
  • Intelligent data capture in the cloud: During the crisis, businesses may not have all the manpower they need for labor-intensive tasks such as data capture and validation, invoice approvals, exceptions resolution and posting.  Make the most of your limited staff by scanning your invoices to a secure cloud, and a third-party will handle the rest.
  • PDF invoice processing: If your staff is unable to get to the office, direct your suppliers to send their invoices as PDF e-mail attachments and a third-party can process them, based on your business rules.  A cloud-based accounts payable solution eliminates the need to print or manually key PDF invoices, and the digital workflows provided by a cloud-based solution are more transparent, reliable and controllable than e-mail-based approval processes. 
  • Invoice approval in the cloud: Work-from-home mandates have disrupted the paper-based approval workflows that many organizations rely upon.  Keep your approvals moving by scanning your invoices to a secure cloud and a third-party can facilitate digital and mobile approval with your purchasers, wherever they are located, based on your business rules.
  • Virtual card payments: Pay your suppliers on time – even if you can’t get into the office to cut checks – and earn cash-back rebates on spend made with a card.  Simply upload an approved invoice file to a secure cloud and a third-party can pay suppliers via virtual card.       

 

COVID-19 is constraining business operations. But accounts payable departments must find ways to keep their invoice approval and payment processes moving.  Cloud-based accounts payable solutions enable businesses to overcome the challenges brought on by the pandemic, while better equipping them to support remote and on-the-go workers in the future.

Contact us to learn how we can help!

 

Tags: AP Processing, Document scanning, document management system, AP Workflow