Canon Digital Imaging Solutions Guest Blog Post
Adapting accounts payable (AP) to a remote working environment has been tough. It’s required new processes and procedures, new risks, and new reporting demands.
The migration to remote working has been especially tough for accounts payable departments that rely on manual or semi-automated approaches to receiving, approving, and posting supplier invoices.
Paper-based processes are not easy to adapt to a remote work environment. No one wants to drive invoices across town for approval. And no one wants to be part of a skeleton crew that goes into an otherwise deserted office periodically to open the mail and fetch supplier invoices for processing.
E-mailing invoices for approval also is not sustainable and it opens the door to fraud.
With remote working likely here to stay, AP departments must find ways to automate their operations to support work from home while setting themselves up for long-term success.
How to Optimize Work from Home
Here are six best practices for achieving sustainable improvements from Work from Home:
1. Quit the paper chase. Now is the time to ask suppliers to submit invoices via e-mail, a supplier portal, File Transfer Protocol (FTP), or another electronic format. Many suppliers are struggling to get staff into the office to generate paper invoices and put them in the mail in a timely manner. Cloud-based accounts payable solutions aggregate all invoices that arrive in any electronic format onto a single platform for standardized processing. And some solutions providers will even digitize invoices sent by suppliers via the mail.
With all invoices digitized on a single platform, staff no longer need to go into the office to open the mail, there is less chance of lost or delayed invoices, there is no need to maintain multiple systems and processes for different types of invoices, accounts payable staff can see all their invoices in a single location to better manage their work, and suppliers can get paid faster.
2. Stop routing invoices via e-mail. Many accounts payable departments have leaned heavily on e-mail to route invoices for approval when staff work remotely. But e-mailing invoices for approval is a workaround that really doesn’t work in most cases. E-mailing invoices doesn’t provide chain of custody or segregation of duties assurance, approval workflow rules cannot be established for how an invoice should be handled, and there is no way to see where an invoice stands in the approval process.
E-mail also doesn’t provide notifications, alerts or escalation procedures, there is no logging of actions taken on an invoice that is sent via e-mail, it is hard to audit e-mail actions, and e-mails can be inadvertently deleted. Cloud-based accounts payable solutions address all of these issues. And mobile capabilities make it easy for busy staff to review invoices whether they are working in the office, at home, or on-the-go.
3. Facilitate online collaboration. Before the shift to remote working, a single invoice exception could result in weeks of back-and-forth e-mails and phone calls between accounts payable, internal stakeholders, and suppliers trying to sort things out. With everyone working remotely, frontline accounts payable staff are spending even more time chasing down information. It is harder to lay their hands on the information they need or to get in touch with the person who has the necessary details.
Cloud-based accounts payable solutions put critical information at the fingertips of accounts payable staff and other authorized personnel who need it, no matter where they work. Exceptions can instantly be sent to suppliers to provide missing or corrected information. Online tools also facilitate electronic collaboration between parties to keep invoice approval processes moving and avoid costly payment delays.
4. Empower suppliers. The last thing your accounts payable staff needs as they struggle to adapt to a remote working environment are lots of phone calls and e-mails from suppliers about the status of their invoices and payments. However, in tough economic times like these, that is exactly what many AP departments are experiencing.
Suppliers need to know where things stand, and paper-based invoice processes keep them in the dark. The self-service supplier portals built into automated accounts payable solutions drastically reduce inquiries by providing suppliers with acknowledgement that their electronic invoices were received and by enabling suppliers to check on the status of invoices and payments 24/7/365.
5. Strive for transparency. The days of passing paper spreadsheet reports around in a manilla inter-office envelope are over. Cloud-based accounts payable solutions provide the real-time visibility into operational performance, cashflow, and corporate spending that organizations need.
Graphical dashboards instantly show where things stand. Accounts payable managers can see invoice status, no matter where staff work, so they can act on potential bottlenecks. Mobile access offers anywhere anytime insights. Drill-down capabilities provide the details users need to get to the root cause of trends. Ad hoc reporting ensures that all stakeholders get the insights they need, and exports quickly put data into a decision-maker’s hands.
6. Mitigate risks. The sudden shift to remote working has disrupted long-established processes and procedures. In many cases, accounts payable departments that rely on manual and semi-automated invoice approval processes have been forced to choose between checks and balances and getting critical suppliers paid.
Not surprisingly, fraud attacks are on the rise. From role-based access and multi-factor authentication to audit logging and data encryption, cloud-based accounts payable solutions provide ironclad security no matter staff work.
The migration to remote working has been tough for many accounts payable departments, but that doesn’t mean that processing invoices needs to be tough over the long haul. Following the practices described above will keep your AP operations running smoothly, no matter where staff work – in the office, from home, or on-the-go.
Ready to revamp your AP processes for remote working? Contact Canon Digital Imaging Solutions to schedule an online demonstration or to chat about your needs.
Want to learn more about AP Business Process Optimization? Visit Elire’s Management Advisory Services to learn more about AP and download our informational one sheet.