Accounts Payable Automation Benefits

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1 w h i t e pa p e r Accounts Payable Automation Benefits Facts and best practices by leading analysts Purchase to Pay by Medius, Powered by ReadSoft Author: ReadSoft, August 2011 Edited: Medius, June 2012 Copyright 2011 ReadSoft/Medius

2 Evidence for Accounts Payable Automation Benefits Research-based evidence shows that automation is yet again the way forward for cost savings and improved efficiency Enterprises are increasingly aware that paper and people-based processes lead to high AP transaction costs and missed business opportunities. In a recent survey1, approximately half the organizations interviewed stated that they had problems with manual data entry, inefficient processes and manual routing of invoices for review and approval. Other issues were lost or missing invoices, a high number of discrepancies and exceptions, an inability to see outstanding liabilities and no way to capture all discounts offered by suppliers. This White Paper examines the recent research findings carried out by several independent business analysis companies, namely: Aberdeen Group Gartner Inc The Hackett Group PayStream Advisors Inc It breaks down the AP automation issues faced by organizations and highlights the numbers behind the proof that there are major benefits to be gained in implementing an AP automation system. It also shows the criteria for selecting a solution provider and how organizations need to make sure they choose an experienced provider such as ReadSoft to guide them through a proven process. The sources of the facts and figures that support this evidence are provided in the conclusion of this document. These consulting companies conclude that there is tremendous potential for improvement by automating the AP process - namely invoice receipt, invoice matching and approval workflow. Best-in-class Accounts Payable performance, according to the Aberdeen Group, gives you: 92% lower invoice processing costs 81% faster invoice processing cycle times Source: The Aberdeen Group: Imaging and Workflow April Page 2 of 11

3 Key Factors Driving Change Time and Money Time and money are the key drivers for AP automation 1 along with high paper usage, most AP departments still suffer with high AP transaction costs and cycle times. The top two pressures driving organizations to reassess their AP function are lowering invoice processing costs and improving and/or standardizing the AP process. Research has shown that best-in-class enterprises report 7 : Invoice processing costs that are, on average, 92% below their peers; Invoice processing time cycle times that are, on average, 81% faster than their peers. Other Drivers Other reasons why organizations 3 focus on electronic enablement of AP transactions are: Buyers and sellers gain savings opportunities by partnering and improv ing the process between each other; Technology has become flexible to integrate with existing business sys tems, and more affordable; Process, data and system standardization simplify implementing the technology; Improved performance in areas such as complying with contracts and optimizing working capital; Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) drives organizations to adopt technology with the necessary controls as part of the application. Page 3 of 11

4 AP Automation Elements for Success In the current AP world there are four elements necessary for AP success: Visibility, Collaboration, Control, and Automation: Visibility Visibility into liabilities and operating expenses is the basic requirement for most major functions within an enterprise. It is used to give an overall view of operations and establish standards on which to base strategies for performance improvement. Research has shown 1 that best-in-class organizations are 43% more likely to have enterprise-level visibility for AP transactions. The rest suffer from higher transaction costs and longer cycle times. Not seeing material liabilities that are not yet entered impact the timing and accuracy when closing accounting periods. Collaboration Cross-functional coordination among key stakeholders such as accounts payable, procurement, finance, treasury and suppliers creates an environment where key information flows easily between these stakeholders 1. Without this, treasury can t make optimal capital decisions; procurement can t identify negotiation opportunities with key suppliers, and suppliers and internal stakeholders can t track invoice processing status. It will also be difficult to set up different approval and routing rules based on different types of invoices or supplier arrangements, such as PO-based, non-po-based, preapproved and supplier maintenance. Control Good audit controls help organizations enforce corporate policies and achieve contract compliance. Audit controls ensure that AP transactions are processed in a way that complies with policies, procedures and regulations. They help reduce late payment fees, capture negotiated discounts and early payment discounts, eliminate duplicate invoice payments, and prevent fraudulent payments. Research 2 has found the exception rates in top performing firms are 85% lower than other enterprises. Automation Automation is a critical foundation to lowering costs and streamlining each of the four AP sub-processes: invoice receipt, approval and inquiry, validation and reconciliation, and settlements. Technology solutions to manage invoices and workflow, and electronic payment methods reduce the inefficiency of manual and paper-based processes. 1-3 While 44% of Best-in-Class enterprises utilize a single e-payables solution to fully automate their entire AP process, the majority of AP departments utilize a patchwork of solutions to automate certain processes. Page 4 of 11

5 Electronic payments have the highest penetration among all AP automation solutions (80% for Best-in-Class ; 60% for all other enterprises). Organizations with on average 60% payments made annually via paper-based checks have an opportunity to greatly improve. Benefits An automated AP solution 1 streamlines and drastically improves performance by utilizing e-invoicing, scanning and workflow, online tracking and reporting capabilities, electronic invoice dashboards and supplier portals, supplier networks, payment services and spend analytics for all invoices. Using an automated AP solution, organizations will successfully drive transformation of their accounts payable departments to overcome the challenges of manual and paper-based processes. Benchmarking research on AP strategies across nearly 400 organizations 3 revealed the benefits that Best-in-class organizations achieve by developing efficient processes and mapping them to automated AP solutions: Performance area Invoice processing costs Processing cycle time Late payments Staff time responding to inquiries Best-in-Class Advantage 91% lower 46% shorter 12% fewer 30% less Page 5 of 11

6 What are the must-haves? Key areas required by organizations to ensure that a solution covers current and future needs as the process matures 2-4 include: Automate your process: From arrival to post and archive, with efficient workflow to streamline verification and exception handling; Any format, any source: Physical documents, electronic documents, and document images, via mailbox, , fax and file transfer; Improve what you have: Integrate with the major ERP/financial system of your choice; Increase visibility: Improve your cash flow and invoice management; Better control of received and invoiced goods, automatic purchase order matching, optional automatic posting of invoices, enhanced security, less manual work, shorter total processing time, decreased total cost for supplier handling and early notification of errors; Improved day-to-day information on financial status (regarding current projects, for example) and basis for business decisions. This saves a substantial amount of valuable time at the end of every month, quarter and year. Shared service centers: A centralized or shared services approach will help ensure that AP tasks are streamlined and standardized; best practices are documented and shared, and AP technology budgets are consolidated. And not just for large organizations... AP automation technologies have been limited to larger companies until recently. Now there is evidence that small and medium sized businesses are adopting the technologies for the following reasons 4. A competitive business environment means even small and medium-sized businesses need to focus on reducing processing costs and increasing efficiencies for invoices and employee expenses. Streamlining the AP process has become extremely important in a tough economy where cash flow and greater control over payables is critical. An increased interest in early payment discounts is driving smaller organizations to investigate tools and technologies that enable them to shorten their invoice receipt-to-approval cycles. On-demand and Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) delivery models have lowered the initial cost of implementing AP solutions and make them easier to maintain. The convergence of electronic invoicing and front-end invoice imaging gives organizations a single, comprehensive solution that can manage both paper and electronic invoices through a common process. Value added-services delivered by solution providers for supplier recruitment tasks mean that buyer organizations can engage suppliers more quickly. Page 6 of 11

7 An End-to-end Solution Organizations obtain maximum value by selecting the broadest possible solution set that can change user roles from exception and problem handling to oversight and process management. This requires end-to-end solutions for automating AP processes in any major Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) or financial system; from invoice arrival, though information extraction, validation and verification, to approval workflow - all with Sarbanes-Oxley (SOX) compliance support. Top performers are four times as productive as Non-top performers Number of invoices a full time employee can process per year Source: The Hackett Group, 2009 So which types of solutions make the most sense? Extensive research 3 has found that: Electronic invoicing solutions automate the invoice reconciliation and payment process and address most invoice types. Workflow and imaging solutions manage all aspects of in-house invoice scanning and documentation and provide an effective electronic archival system. They are often part of a cross-functional enterprise solution. Payment automation platforms specialize in accounts payable and accounts receivable processing. They offer relief in disbursements for payroll, benefits, regulatory and tax issues, as well as intra-company transfers. These solutions range from automated clearing house (ACH) and general payment processing to company-wide AP solutions. Enterprise financial solutions, which manage the budget and general ledger of an enterprise, consist mainly of Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) providers. They typically offer functions such as a general ledger, and sometimes more advanced capabilities like supply chain auto-reconciliation and AP workflow. Page 7 of 11

8 Medius Automated AP Solutions for Microsoft Dynamics The benefits of AP automation and the vast savings and improvements in efficiency that can be made in this area 1,7 has led Medius to develop Mediusflow, a powerful, user friendly and web based workflow-platform together with world class solutions for Supplier invoice automation and Purchase-to-Pay with a powerful line level matching engine. What sets Medius apart from many of our competitors is that our commitment to process automation also covers Enterprise Resource Planning systems, especially Microsoft Dynamics where Medius also acts as a Microsoft Gold Partner and a supplier of Microsoft Dynamics systems. To create a fully integrated solution, covering Mediusflow with its applications and Microsoft Dynamics, Medius has developed a Microsoft certified integration between the two systems. By combining the know-how from both areas Medius has been able to take a birds view on process automation and workflow systems, including both workflow systems and Enterprise Resource Planning systems and the link between the two. This has allowed for functionality that goes further to meet the demands of our customers and a deeper understanding of the success factors behind AP automation. Medius Combines Flexibility with Powerful Features Any incoming invoice, paper or electronic, is automatically captured and interpreted by ReadSoft INVOICES. All relevant data is extracted, from both header level as well as line-item level. Based on invoice data such as supplier, invoices can be routed to the correct member of the AP team for further handling in Mediusflow. With automated, advanced line-level matching, you can eliminate the manual labor and lag time associated with matching. Invoices without deviations are processed automatically, and those with unacceptable variations are instantly flagged. Acceptable deviations, such as shipping and handling charges within certain pre-set limits, can be automatically approved and coded, and all others routed to the appropriate user for action. With an AP automation system, invoices are automatically routed to the correct team member for authorization based on predefined rules. Customized distribution lists, in conjunction with authorization and coding rules, further streamline the process and can facilitate the production of audit trail reports and compliance with internal and external regulations. While many AP automation solutions post vouchers directly into the general ledger, Medius certified integration towards Microsoft Dynamics allows postings to be made to other modules. As an example many service companies use the Project Module of Microsoft Dynamics as a basis for their accounting. With Mediusflow, postings can be made directly to the project mod- Page 8 of 11

9 ule allowing better traceability and compliance with business rules. Another example is the integration with the Fixed assets module. In order to cater for the needs of different users Mediusflow can be accessed directly, with two different user interfaces depending on the nature of the task, through Microsoft Outlook or through our Mediusflow iphone app. A cross-industry solution Medius continues to bring success for Clients across diverse sectors. A few examples of the customers and sectors who have already discovered the benefits of combining Mediusflow and Microsoft Dynamics: Haugen-gruppen AS - Food wholesale - Nordic countries XXL Sport og Villmark AS, Intersport, Bygghemma - Retail - Nordic countries Polarcus - Marine Seismic exploration - International Flexenclosure, Alfdex - Manufacturing, Engineering - International Page 9 of 11

10 Five Steps to Success While the savings and strategic benefits of AP automation are compelling, only one third of all enterprises currently have any significant level of automation in place. Enabling solutions that handle unstructured content alongside financial/accounting transactions and improve workflow/process management will bring efficiency to financial processes through reductions in administrative support and costs. Visibility into accompanying content of financial transactions will bring business improvements and vastly improve relationships with customers and suppliers. Using Medius solutions, coupled with their vast consulting experience, small to very large enterprises can bring AP automation to the optimum level at a pace that matches their structure and resources and just as importantly, where they are in the maturation process. Medius experts help plot the course for AP transformation to make sure that enterprises can effectively 7 : 1. Define all the goals and objectives is it global, is it enterprisewide? What is the time for deployment? 2. Engage with other key stakeholders to define requirements (including treasury and finance, procurement, IT, suppliers); 3. Build the business case and agree on performance metrics and ROI targets; 4. Gauge current invoice receipt and workflow capabilities such as invoice cycle time, data capture (and resulting quality of invoice data) and routing of invoices for approval. This will assist decisions regarding centralized data capture, standardizing processes across the Organization; 5. Match the AP automation solution that provides the best-fit By utilizing Medius framework for solutions, Organizations of all sizes can effectively implement AP automation and move to seamless AP transformation. Page 10 of 11

11 References: 1: The Aberdeen Group: The 4 Pillars of A/P Success: Visibility, Collaboration, Control and Automation, November : The Aberdeen Group: The CFOs View of Accounts Payable: Cash is King, February : The Hackett Group: Automating the AP Process, June : PayStream Advisors Inc: Invoice Automation Benchmarking Report Q : Accounts Payable Invoice Automation written by John E. Van Decker, December : The Aberdeen Group: E-Payables Solution. Your Guide to A/P Automation. 7: The Aberdeen Group: E-Payables Receipt and Workflow, May 2009 (updated April 2011) Medius develops and provides Mediusflow, a world-leading purchase-to-pay and invoice automation solution. As of today more than 700 customers all around the world are enjoying the benefits of full A/P automation powered by Mediusflow. Mediusflow is a powerful, user-friendly and web based ERP independent workflow platform with a range of applications. Mediusflow enables companies to quickly move from idea to solution for automating, improving and optimizing business process that extends beyond any business applications (ERP). Medius is a certified Microsoft Gold Partner. ReadSoft is a global leader in accounts payable process automation with its global head office in Sweden. Our solutions have been selected by an impressive range of local and multi-nationals seeking to improve control, efficiency and effectiveness of AP and other document-driven processes. Since 1991, ReadSoft has developed an organization of more than 500 employees in 17 worldwide offices. Page 11 of 11

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