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What to Look for in Accounts Payable Automation Software

Finding the best accounts payable automation software for your company or organization can be a challenge.

AP automation that misses a single decimal point on an invoice can result in an underpayment or overpayment of thousands of dollars. So you need to do your due diligence and choose the right AP automation solution.

You want to partner with an accounts payable automation software provider that you can trust to accurately and efficiently automate your AP.

But what does that really mean? And what should you be looking for in an AP automation software company and their solutions?

We’ve got some suggestions.

Based on our 20 years experience in the AP automation software business, here is what we recommend you look for when you are considering accounts payable automation software:

And these considerations are the same whether you are coming to AP automation from the perspective of manual processing or from the perspective of upgrading or replacing your current AP automation solution.

But let’s talk about those perspectives before jumping into our recommendations.

Looking at Accounts Payable Automation Software from Scratch

Is your company or organization still operating in a paradigm of completely manual invoice management and payments processes? You may be shocked to learn how much time and effort AP automation will save your company or organization.

AP automation can make your AP department up to 500 times more efficient than manual processing of accounts payable invoices!

Don’t believe it?

This video explains exactly how:

How AP Automation Makes Your AP Department 500 Times More Efficient

But full AP automation that achieves this level of efficiency only happens when you find a software provider and solution that meets all of our recommendations of what to look for when you are considering accounts payable automation software.

So read on!

What to Look for When Upgrading Your Accounts Payable Automation Software

Many businesses already have AP automation tools in place.

Even small and mid-size companies and organizations have started adopting some form of AP automation over the last few years.

But many of those companies and organizations are not happy with their AP automation solution. According to the Levvel 2020 Payables Insight Report, over 40% of organizations already using automation software say they are at least somewhat likely to switch AP automation platforms in the next year.

We will address many of the reasons for this dissatisfaction in this article. They include poor data capture accuracy, difficult-to-manage approval workflows, clunky invoice approval apps and poor integrations with accounting software.

But whether your company or organization is looking at AP automation from the perspective of a manual process or a poorly automated process, we have advice that will help you achieve true AP automation efficiency.

So let’s get started!

Trust

Trust is the most important aspect of any business relationship. And it’s especially important in the world of AP automation software.

Done poorly, AP automation causes more problems than it solves. It can result in embarrassing mis-payments that are harmful to your reputation and your bottom line. And then there’s the time suck of cleaning up those mis-payments. Not to mention the mess it makes of your general ledger.

You need to make sure you choose a provider and solution that you can trust to process your AP data correctly the first time, and every time.

To find providers and solutions like that, look for testimonials from other companies that have used the system you are considering.

Many providers, including CoreIntegrator, publish customer success stories. Another source of reviews are software review sites like TrustRadius and Capterra.

When looking at success stories or software reviews it’s important to read with a critical eye. When reading AP software reviews keep an eye out for these key points to know if you can trust the company or not:

  • Make sure that the reviews are by verified users. Do the customer success stories on provider websites include the name of the software customer and their employees? Trust starts with transparency, so you shouldn’t trust anonymous or blind reviews.
  • Trust also starts with open lines of communication. Do the reviews and success stories mention that the provider listens to issues and suggestions for improvement and acts on them? Does the provider charge customers to make software improvements? Is communication between the software provider and customer a two-way street?
  • Does the software provider stay on top of the latest tech advancements in AP automation like robotic process automation (RPA) and verified data capture?

Ultimately, trust is something that is earned. But there is plenty you can do to increase the odds of finding a trustworthy AP automation software system and provider.

So carefully read success stories and software reviews with a sharp and critical eye asking yourself the above questions.

OCR reinventing itself

Experience

Again, AP automation software handles one of your most important business processes – the money you spend!

You definitely don’t want to entrust it with a fly-by-night software provider or a new bleeding-edge entrant to the market.

CFOs and accountants are, by nature, careful and meticulous people. Risk is something to be mitigated. And when it comes to AP automation software, the greatest hedge against risk is experience.

So carefully consider the track record of the companies you consider entrusting with your AP automation.

It’s easy to say that the longer a company has been around the better. As with anything in life, AP automation companies that have been around for a while have not just knowledge, but wisdom. Time in business means lessons learned and experience gained.

But experience without innovation equals stagnation. And that can be as bad as inexperience.

So the goal is to find a balance between experience and innovation. Sound like a contradiction?

It’s not.

For example, at CoreIntegrator we have been automating AP processes for over 20 years. But we have never, ever stopped innovating.

20 years ago we were one of the first companies to bring automated AP processing to market. And when early OCR like ReadSoft came along, CoreIntegrator led in that technology. When Ancora brought OCR AP automation to the next level with ‘intelligent capture’, we led on that tech too.

But today OCR has been surpassed in AP invoice data capture accuracy with technologies like ‘Verified Data Capture’. And cutting-edge AP automation companies like CoreIntegrator continue to innovate.

So the lesson is: when considering AP automation software, look for companies that have experience and wisdom but that constantly innovate.

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Accuracy of Invoice Data Capture by Accounts Payable Automation Software

Which brings us to the issue of data capture automation.

Data capture is the single most important aspect of creating efficiency in AP automation. Keystrokes are expensive when performed by full time salaried staff. And if your company is processing over 3,000 invoices per year that’s a lot of expensive keystrokes.

We’ve done some case studies on how much money AP automation saves by reducing manual data entry. But automated data entry needs to be accurate in order to truly deliver on time and money savings.

As innovators in OCR AP automation technology, we seen the good, the bad and the ugly of OCR.

And the reality is that OCR was cutting edge AP automation technology 15 years ago. But even using today’s modern best practices, most OCR software AP automation solutions only advertise an accuracy rate of up to 90%. In our experience with AP invoice data, that number is more like 70% on average. Which means 10 to 30 out of 100 characters will be wrong after OCR data capture.

And since a single missed decimal point on an AP invoice can translate to thousands of dollars in overpayments or underpayments, this level of accuracy is simply unacceptable when an organization is processing thousands of invoices.

So even the best OCR-based invoice data capture still requires detailed manual review and verification by your AP staff to achieve 99% or 100% accuracy. With OCR data capture, someone will still need to read through the whole invoice to double check every field for accuracy and correct between 10 to 30 data fields out of every 100.

That’s a lot more efficient than manual entry. But not total efficiency.

And that’s why today OCR is being eclipsed by verified automation for data capture. And industry-leading AP automation providers like CoreIntegrator continue to innovate as technology evolves.

CoreIntegrator Data Capture Service, for example, combines technology with human review to achieve nearly 100% accuracy for AP invoice data capture.

Using CoreIntegrator Data Capture Service, no expensive OCR software or hardware is required. Instead, your AP staff or your vendors upload or email invoices to our system. Invoice data then appears in your AP clerk’s work queue within 1 business day with important data automatically entered in your system ready to be processed.

And best of all, at least two humans verify the accuracy of that invoice data by the time it is loaded to your company’s AP work queue. And if there are any discrepancies then up to four humans will check, re-check and verify that your AP invoice data is accurate.

So CoreIntegrator Data Capture Service not only automates the data capture, it automates data verification!

Easy and Convenient Invoice Approvals

Making invoice approvals convenient and easy for approvers is vital to any AP automation solution. Approvers tend to be busy managers and executives with lots to do. Wasting time on invoice approvals is not an option for them.

And the ability of your accounting department to create, edit and manage invoice approval workflows is equally important. Personnel and processes change over time. So being able to easily reconfigure AP invoice approval workflows is critical.

So when you are looking at accounts payable automation software look for simple and easily configurable AP invoice approval and workflow tools.

From the approver’s perspective, look for AP automation systems that allow users to see and approve an AP invoice with a single click on any device no matter where they are in the world.

From an accounting admin perspective, look for AP automation systems that make creating invoice approval workflows simple and intuitive. Drag and drop workflow tools provide the most intuitive and visual approach to the “flow” of process creation. They allow you to easily determine where routing begins and ends or branch to specific activities based on certain conditions such as vendor, invoice type and/or invoice amount.

With CoreIntegrator’s AP automation solutions, approvers can see, review and approve invoices with a single click on any device.

And for accounting admins, we have out of the box pre-configured drag and drop workflow tools so that non-technical administrators can customize their company’s workflow rules for AP invoice approvals. With an easy to use interface, new invoice approval workflows are fully designed in a matter of a few clicks, not weeks or months of programming.

Ability to Track AP Invoices Through the Entire Process

One of the most frustrating aspects of manual or poorly implemented AP process automation is the lack of insight into the status of an invoice.

From an accounting perspective, you need to be able to know where any particular invoice is at any given time.

This is critical not just to make sure invoices are never lost, but to make sure that you pay bills on time.

And when they ask, you want to be able to tell vendors – or your boss – what the status is of a given invoice.

So in evaluating AP automation software you should be looking for systems that provide real-time information on the status of any invoice at any time from anywhere in the world.

Is an invoice in data capture? Is it pending approval? If so, which approver?

No matter how complex your company’s approval workflow is, your AP automation software needs to be able to answer these questions quickly and easily.

Here is an example of how simple it should be to gain insight into the status of an AP invoice:

invoice approval process transparency

In this example taken from CoreIntegrator’s A/P One AP automation solution, it’s easy to see that this invoice is currently awaiting Steve’s approval in this long and complex approval process.

So now I can ask Steve if there is an issue with the invoice. And if not, could he please approve it so we don’t incur late fees for this invoice.

If the AP automation solution you are looking at does not provide this level of simplicity in tracking invoices through your AP process then keep looking for one that does.

Solid Integrations With Your Accounting System

Our final recommendation is to make sure that the AP automation solutions that you are considering have solid integrations with your account system.

Your AP automation software should capture invoice data, facilite and document invoice approvals and file an electronic copy of the invoice.

The last job it has is to push the invoice to your accounting system for payment. And it should have integrations that do that seamlessly.

At CoreIntegrator, for example, we pioneered accounting system integrations with AP automation software 20 years ago. In fact, we created one of the first AP automation integrations with Great Plains accounting software.

And today, CoreIntegrator continues to lead AP and other workflow automation for businesses and organizations that run their accounting on Great Plains’ successor, Microsoft Dynamics. And we have seamless integrations with all the other popular top-selling mass market accounting systems as well.

We’ve even managed AP automation integrations with large government agency custom accounting systems as well as legacy systems like Lawson. So if you think your accounting system won’t be compatible with AP automation, think again!

Be sure that the AP automation software you are considering can do the same. Because solid integrations between AP automation software and accounting systems are the final critical piece of the AP automation puzzle.

Bottom Line – What to Look for in Accounts Payable Automation Software

Implementing accounts payable automation software is the smartest decision any accounting department can make. It saves time and money. And it also makes the lives of your accounting staff as well as your invoice approvers better.

But it’s important to choose AP automation software that achieves maximum potential efficiency and return on investment. And to choose an AP automation software provider that you can trust and that has experience in maximizing data capture accuracy.

One that makes approvals easy and convenient for both approvers and accounting admin staff. And that seamlessly integrates with your accounting system, no matter what system you are running.

If you follow these guidelines you’ll be choosing a best in class AP automation system.

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