The Holy Grail of Accounts Payable

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1 The Holy Grail of Accounts Payable Achieving Truly Holistic Accounts Payable Automation Featuring insights on... Challenges with AP Compliance and Control Among Today s Organizations Shortfalls of Piecemeal AP Solutions Benefits of Holistic AP Automation Software Underwritten in part by

2 Contents Introduction 3 The Need for Holistic AP Automation 4 Transformative Benefits of Holistic AP 7 Conclusion 9 About PayStream Advisors 10 2

3 Introduction When organizations move to automate their Accounts Payable processes, many select software tools that only meet the basic requirements of a holistic AP transformation. Some businesses think that the only tools needed for this transformation are those that eliminate reliance upon paper and facilitate automated invoice processing, such as OCR data capture and electronic invoicing. While these are valuable solutions, they are only some of the components of complete AP efficiency, and they alone do not fully realize the possibilities of AP automation. Competitive finance organizations go beyond adopting only these tools; they holistically transform their entire AP operation, including all key processes across the entire supplier payment lifecycle. A holistic, far-reaching AP automation approach is particularly important for organizations that have global operations or are planning to expand their business internationally. For example, validating overseas suppliers can be a complicated and error-prone process, as can keeping compliance with increasing and ever-changing international legal and tax regulations. Making secure payments is also a great concern and difficulty for many organizations, as well as maintaining strong supplier relationships amidst the delays and complications possible with all these activities. If a business uses an invoice automation solution that only pushes paper and does not properly support the complex requirements of the entire supplier payments workflow, it is putting itself at a major risk. Streamlining AP processes does not end with getting rid of paper it requires a strong focus on sensitive financial data and the ability to competently and securely control all AP operations. When an organization approaches AP automation holistically by connecting and controlling all its core AP processes, it gains new levels of efficiency, global scalability, and success. 3

4 The Need for Holistic AP Automation It is easy to reduce the value of AP solutions to their ability to simply eliminate manual procedures and bring process costs down. However, PayStream Advisors research has found that the factors that motivate companies to implement AP technology reach far beyond electronic paper pushing. Most organizations seek great improvements in efficiency, control, processing times, and visibility in their AP processes. They also want to seamlessly unite key back-office departments and processes so that these teams are able to better support the costs and risks associated with rapid global growth. More specifically, today s innovative organizations automate their financial processes in order to gain: Better management of and visibility into AP processes and supplier data More efficient supplier onboarding and validation procedures Greater financial controls through increased abilities to collect accurate supplier information, collect tax and legal data, comply with regulatory payment requirements, and audit processes Greater mitigation of risk related to tax (W-8, W-9, 1099, 1042-S, etc.) and regulatory (AML / OFAC requirements, etc.) compliance Fewer supplier inquiries and improved supplier relationships Increased ability to capture early payment discounts Improved financial reporting and analysis Faster payment times and increased control through electronic payments support Reduced payment error rates and automated global payment remittance Many of the current market-leading AP solutions touch on all of the above goals in their product offerings. However, many solution providers focus on certain areas more than others. For example, one provider may offer stronger capabilities for automating general invoice receipt and workflow, but gloss over other, more specialized processes, 4

5 such as tax compliance support. In this case, the client would be left to continue handling these processes through manual methods, or to find another third-party provider to relieve the burden. This is not an ideal situation, and it may hold that organization back from achieving enduring and holistic AP automation. An organization s finances and business success can suffer great damage when sensitive, data-driven back-office processes aren t handled properly. For example, in the last few years, federal involvement in international payments has become a major concern for organizations making overseas payments, most notably in the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA). FATCA requires U.S. taxpayers to report certain types of payments made to them from foreign accounts (known as foreign financial institutions, or FFIs). To enforce FATCA, the U.S. Treasury Department has established treaties and agreements with more than 110 nations and tens of thousands of financial institutions, and it requires US businesses to use an expanded version of Forms 1099 and 1042-S reporting that involves more varied and detailed W-9 and W-8 forms. Failure to comply or properly report the information can cost payers heavily in financial penalties. However, despite the far-reaching relevance of FATCA, many organizations have made no steps towards automating the filing processes. Six percent of organizations surveyed by PayStream don t know about the act at all, see Figure 1. Figure 1 Where does your organization stand with the new Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act requirements? 6% 6% 4% We use a software solution to maintain compliance We have an in-house team responsible for FATCA compliance What is FATCA? 23% 61% We use a third-party provider to maintain compliance We do not have any foreign payees that are classified as Foreign Financial Institutions (FFI) 5

6 Complying with FATCA in a tumultuous economic climate is one of the difficulties that many organizations face difficulties that make it vitally important for these organizations leaders to rethink AP automation. These companies must look beyond simple invoice automation tools and explore the features, services, and benefits that come with holistic AP solutions. 6

7 Transformative Benefits of Holistic AP One of the greatest strengths of holistic AP automation lies in its ability to manage secure and accurate supplier, transactional, and legal data from the very beginning of the AP lifecycle and the supplier relationship. This control also brings better overall automation, removing friction in each aspect of the AP process while improving visibility across the extended supply chain. Leading holistic AP solutions offer: Supplier Onboarding Holistic AP solutions incorporate advanced supplier onboarding tools to help organizations gain higher supplier participation, and to make sure a supplier is a secure and compliant business partner from the very beginning. This involves supplier validation measures checked against thousands of rules based on payment method, currency, and country. These measures may also use smart forms to ensure that data is entered properly, and will legally verify suppliers by running them through OFAC / AML international Do Not Pay lists. Once a supplier is securely in the system, the supplier portal allows it to upload additional documents, submit inquiries, customize payment details, view payment history, and check on invoice and payment statuses. The system often also monitors suppliers activity in the portal to make sure they adhere to all policies, enabling buying organizations to easily recognize fraudulent supplier activity. Some of these solutions now incorporate payee self-service to collect contact and payment information. This approach reduces AP workload, error rates, and payment disputes. It also improves the security of sensitive information, as it is more controlled than if a supplier sends payment information via . Invoice Management Invoice management involves converting paper invoices to an electronic format, either through OCR data capture technology or by leveraging an einvoicing solution. Providers often also incorporate an automated approval workflow tool that includes rules-based routing, 7

8 exception management, and straight-through processing capabilities. In addition, a holistic AP solution leverages advanced enterprise-level financial security to carefully move financial information between business parties. Tax and Regulatory Compliance In addition to validating suppliers, holistic AP automation allows organizations to easily collect tax information from suppliers up front, preventing tax and regulatory issues from arising after it is too late for corrections. The solution assists AP departments by automatically gathering the right tax form and tax ID information from suppliers prior to payment. These solutions ensure that the payees have provided the correct required documents (W9, W-8, VAT, etc.), validate the forms and information for accuracy and completeness, and calculate tax withholding when applicable. The collected information is included in supplier payments and 1099 / 1042-S tax preparation reporting outputs. Holistic AP automation solutions also provide smart forms with built-in controls to make the compliance process more streamlined, user friendly, and secure. Some solutions even notify their clients of regulation changes that might affect them. Secure Global Payments Holistic AP offers payments support that facilitates safe and timely payments to any supplier in the world, with full visibility into the process. These solutions facilitate communications between payees and suppliers, provide suppliers with real-time status on their payments, help resolve payment errors, and automate payment reconciliation. They also simplify payments across borders, with support for different payment methods and currencies by country. In addition, payment data is transferred to a client s ERP using a variety of integration methods, as holistic AP providers enable an organization to transfer data in the way that best fits their technical needs. 8

9 Conclusion What happens to AP processes with truly holistic automation? PayStream s research shows that when organizations employ software that streamlines all areas of AP, the top benefits are seen in process reduction, compliance, supplier relationships, and scalability. An AP solution greatly reduces staff s workload, allowing them to focus on more strategic tasks. Along those same lines, AP automation allows an organization to expand its operations and supplier base overseas without dramatically increasing internal resources. These companies can comply with international tax and legal requirements much more easily, and they are able to maintain more secure and successful B2B relationships. In all, this holistic approach brings finance closer to the vision of truly efficient end-to-end AP. 9

10 About PayStream Advisors PayStream Advisors is a technology research and consulting firm that improves the way companies plan, evaluate, and select emerging technologies to achieve their business objectives. PayStream Advisors assists clients in sorting through the growing complexities of IT applications related to business process automation with the goalof making objective, analytical, and actionable recommendations. Wherever business process automation technology is an issue, PayStream Advisors is there to help. For more information, call (704) or visit us on the web at 10

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