Welcome back to your office (hopefully!)!
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.
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.
So let’s look at some of the lessons we learned from the COVID-19 related stay-at-home and quarantine orders and what they mean for the future of processing accounts payable.
Lesson 1: The Ability to Process AP Remotely is Now a Requirement
In December of 2019 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.
No one knows if there will be a second wave of COVID-19. Or if some other disaster will 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.
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
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, a leading provider of mortgage insurance in the United States, 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 functionality or workflows. Others had to train users on the remote functionality of the solutions. But all of our AP automation customers were all 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 who had to go into the office to write or cut paper checks – and then drive to managers’ homes to get the checks signed!
One of the biggest accounts payable invoice processing lessons learned from COVID-19 is that there’s absolutely no reason for this to happen ever again.
Any organization not receiving invoices 100% electronically should push their vendors – hard! – to send electronic invoices.
But moving to e-invocies is just the first step into the post-COVID world of AP.
Once your vendors are sending all electronic invoices – in whatever format – moving to an AP automation solution such as CoreIntegrator’s Verified Invoice Data Capture Service not only eliminates the paper, it eliminates the need to manually enter data from the electronic invoice to your AP system.
With our Data Capture Service, you (or better yet, your vendor) simply email a copy of the electronic invoice to an email address assigned to your company. And then within one business day the invoice data appears in your AP automation work queue along with an image of the invoice!
Best of all, the data loaded in your system will have been checked and verified by at least 2 and as many as 4 human beings to ensure 100% data accuracy. It’s automated data capture with human data verification!
And once your invoices are approved, you can use CoreIntegrator’s OnPay Solution to 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!?
With innovations like Verified Invoice Data Capture Service and CoreIntegrator’s OnPay automated payments available, there has never been a better time to invest in AP automation. And you will shocked at how affordable our AP automation solutions are!
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
Whether your accounting team is still working fully or partially from home or you are phasing back into the office, every accounting team’s work environment will likely look and feel much different.
We all slowly adjusted to new ways of working during COVID-19. We had limited access to the people, tools, data and processes we took for granted before COVID.
Coming back into the office will create another wave of culture shock for AP processing teams. Social distancing measures may linger for some time, so the physical office space may be permanently reconfigured.
And teams may have to phase back into the office in shifts, requiring many staff to have to continue to work from home part-time.
The other side of that coin is that employees may have become accustomed to working from home and 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 every company and organization suffered financially.
Coming back from COVID-19 will require every company to not just work harder to make up for lost revenue and opportunities, but work smarter too.
And while your AP department will never be a profit center, it almost certainly will be asked to do more with less.
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 – Processing Accounts Payable Lessons Learned from COVID-19
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 in terms of a business continuity and disaster recovery plan.
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 to take the next step of implementing AP automation.
You will save time and money, be more efficient and be prepared for the next unforeseen calamity.