Is your leadership team thinking about re-opening the office?
As stay at home orders loosen and states move to later phases of their COVID-19 plans, it’s time to take stock of processing accounts payable lessons learned from COVID-19.
Based on conversations with our customers and with other accounting and finance managers, it appears that COVID-19 has changed accounts payable forever.
An example: AP best practices suddenly matter – a lot.
For many companies and organizations, this means finally taking a serious look at investing in technology.
For other organizations it means a greater use of – or more robust adoption of – existing technology.
And it also means taking stock of how employees’ attitudes have changed and what that means for your organization.
So let’s look at 5 things to think about as you re-open the office and what they mean for the future of processing accounts payable.
- Lesson 1: The Ability to Process AP Remotely is Now a Requirement
- Lesson 2: Fully Implement and Use the Technology You Already Have
- Lesson 3: If You Have Not Invested in AP Automation, NOW is the Time!
- Lesson 4: The AP Workplace – Like All Workplaces – Will Look and Feel Different
- Lesson 5: AP Departments Will Be Expected to Do More With Less
Lesson 1: The Ability to Process AP Remotely is Now a Requirement
In January of 2020 the idea of having most accounts payable team members working from home was something that might have been on your long-term IT road map as part of a business continuity or disaster recovery plan. It was one of those things that you know you ought to do but never actually get around to doing.
Two months later the ability to process and approve accounts payable invoices from anywhere, including work from home, went from being nice-to-have to an absolute requirement.
Delta and Omicron taught us in 2021 that COVID-19 is not through with us yet. And of course some other disaster could come along and require AP staff to work from home or work remotely.
So you need an AP automation system that allows your AP staff to work from home in place as quickly as possible. Even after you re-open your offices.
The unlikely scenario that we never prepared for actually came true. It may have felt surreal to actually need the ability to work from home. But it happened.
Be prepared for the future and act now, before it happens again.
Lesson 2: Fully Implement and Use the Technology You Already Have When you Open the Office
Companies that already implemented AP automation that allows employees to work from home found themselves in a very fortunate position during COVID-19.
For example, one of our customers is a leading provider of mortgage insurance in the United States. They told us, “We got CoreIntegrator’s AP automation solution installed just in time. And since we were forced to work from home, we were able to keep processing without any disruption in our business.”
Some had to implement remote approval automation functionality or workflows. Others had to train users on the remote functionality of the solutions. But all of our AP automation customers were able to quickly adapt to the ‘new normal’ of working from home.
If your AP automation solution let you down during COVID-19 then take a look at our solutions. We can have you up and running on 100% remote automated AP processing in as little as 3 days!
And we can even implement your AP automation solution 100% remotely!
Lesson 3: If You Have Not Invested in AP Automation, NOW is the Time!
The biggest accounts payable changes in the wake of COVID-19 will come to those organizations or companies still receiving and processing paper invoices or paying by paper check.
Despite all of the AP automation that took place over the past two decades, many invoices are still coming through the mail. We’ve spoken with accounting managers who had to go into the office during COVID-19 to go through the mail and find invoices so they could avoid late fees and missed payments.
And others went into the office to write or cut paper checks. And then had to drive to their managers’ homes to get the checks signed! All while trying to maintain social distancing.
One of the biggest accounts payable invoice processing lessons learned from COVID-19 is: the era of paper is over.
Move Beyond Paper – Now!
Any organization not receiving invoices 100% electronically should push their vendors – hard! – to send electronic invoices.
But getting vendors to send electronic invoices (typically in pdf format) is just the first step!
AP automation solutions such as CoreIntegrator’s Verified Invoice Data Capture Service will not only eliminate the paper. It eliminates the need to manually enter data from the invoice pdf to your AP system. And unlike clunky OCR technology, up to four humans review Verified Data Capture. Meaning you get near-100% data accuracy!
From there, automated invoice approval work flows mean managers can approve invoices on any device from anywhere in the world.
And once your invoices are approved, you can automatically make electronic payments by check, ACH or wire transfer. Or why not use virtual credit cards and receive a 1% rebate on every payment you make!?
Today innovations like Verified Invoice Data Capture Service and CoreIntegrator’s OnPay automated payments are available. So there has never been a better time to invest in AP automation. And you will be shocked at how affordable our AP automation solutions are – typically between $1 and $2 per invoice processed!
Not only will you hedge against future remote work requirements, you’ll save time and money and effectively manage accounts payable!
Lesson 4: The AP Workplace – Like All Workplaces – Will Look and Feel Different
At CoreIntegrator, we are considering whether to reduce the size of our office space – or perhaps close it altogether. We learned that not only can our teams work well from home – they prefer it!
We are like many organizations that learned that remote work is not only possible, but can be more efficient than commuting into and working at a busy, distracting office. And remote work certainly consumes far less overhead!
So some organizations are going to remain fully remote. Others are adopting part-time remote work. And others are anxious to phase back into the office. No matter the case, every accounting team’s work environment will likely look and feel much different than it did pre-COVID.
Culture Shock, Part II – the Re-Opened Office
When the COVID-19 shut-downs hit we were all shocked. But then we all slowly adjusted to new ways of working. We had limited access to the people, tools, data and processes we took for granted before COVID. But with Zoom, IM, workflow automation, and other remote work tools we all adapted.
But a second culture shock will come because employees have become accustomed to working from home. They may want to continue to do so full time or part time even after the threat of COVID-19 has passed.
Leaders and managers who want to retain talent will have to make accommodations for the new reality of a post COVID-19 workplace.
And that includes implementing and utilizing technology that allows for working remotely.
Once again, if you have invested in technology to allow remote work, now is the time to fully implement it.
If you have not made the investment in remote work tools, now is the time to do so.
Lesson 5: AP Departments Will Be Expected to Do More With Less
One sad fact of the COVID-19 pandemic is that nearly every company and organization suffered financially.
Coming back from COVID-19 will require every company to work harder to make up for lost revenue and opportunities.
So it’s critical that accounting managers start looking at ways to not just be more efficient, but to reduce actual expenses.
Automating AP processes can help you meet this critical need.
AP automation can eliminate your need to hire additional AP staff – or even reduce headcount.
But more critically, AP automation can free up your AP staff to take on new duties and responsibilities. They can add value to your organization without adding any expense.
For example, your AP staff can spend time identifying trends in AP. They can examine vendor pricing trends to see where cost savings might be available. And they can look for anomalies in pricing across different divisions or locations of your organization from the same vendor.
At the same time, your AP staff will be freed to spend time on vendor relations. Since your AP department will be so efficient you’ll be able to pay invoices incredibly quickly. So why not have your AP staff spend the time they used to waste on data entry contacting vendors to inquire about the possibility of early payment discounts? Or shopping for less expensive vendors?
The possibilities are endless.
Bottom Line – Considerations for Re-Opening the Office
Knowledge plus experience equals wisdom.
We all knew that automating workflows and acquiring tools that allow for remote work was the smart thing to do.
And through the experience of COVID-19 we have seen why.
Now is the time for accounting and finance managers to use this newly gained wisdom.
You will save time and money, be more efficient and be prepared for the next unforeseen calamity.