Boosting Productivity & Profitability: How AP Automation Empowers Multi-Unit Leaders & Finance Pros
The OneDataSource Editorial Team
We’re excited to bring you our most recent conversation with onePAY Client Success Manager, Anna Anderson. Anna has significant experience implementing and servicing AP automation for our clients.
During this conversation, we cover the value that accounts payable automation delivers to end users, finance leaders, and businesses as a whole.
We hope you find the conversation valuable!
Michael Krieger: Hello everyone. My name is Michael Krieger from OneDataSource. Today, I have the pleasure of introducing Anna Anderson, a Client Success Manager for onePAY. Welcome, Anna.
Anna Anderson: Thank you for having me, Michael.
Benefits of Accounts Payable Automation
Michael Krieger: Today, we’ll be discussing accounts payable software and automation.
As you work with the onePAY team at OneDataSource, I believe your expertise will greatly enhance our understanding of the benefits of accounts payable automation. Let’s dive right in.
When considering software that automates either part or all of a process, like AP automation, what are the key benefits that it brings to an end user such as an AP or accounting manager?
Anna Anderson: At the start of the process, everything boils down to invoice collection and integration into onePAY.
We work closely with our clients to establish an efficient system for invoices to come in, emphasizing emails and less on hard mail. This allows invoices to seamlessly flow into the application. This is the first step. Having a robust process at this stage significantly impacts the remainder of the process, especially in terms of invoice processing. The ability to electronically generate invoices via email pollers, among other things that we set up, initiates a smooth, fully-automated process.
Now, shifting to the processing aspect and various automation options, onePAY offers a plethora of options. As a client, you can choose the degree of automation that suits you, either diving straight into a highly-automated process or gradually easing into it. Automation might be a new concept for some clients, so we can adapt to what your organization is comfortable with.
If you’re ready for full-scale automation, we’re here to help establish it smoothly. If automation is new to you, we can take it slow. It’s really up to the client and their comfort level.
Now, let’s delve into some specific areas of automation. One of the most significant is approval routing. When organizations do not use an accounts payable automation tool, invoices are often left on desks and emails ping-pong back and forth. It’s not a streamlined process. With the onePAY platform, the AP processing side is simplified and directly routes to a user for approval. We can implement custom routing rules to streamline the approval process, commonly based on a GL code or a specific location. This way, your accounts payable team and approvers, whether they’re within the AP team or in operations, can utilize the platform for a more streamlined approval process.
The automation is not just limited to AP invoice processing but extends through to the final step.
In terms of automated GL coding, we have the capability to set up what we call ‘default GLs.’ For your vendors who regularly send straightforward, standard invoices that are consistently coded to the same GL, we can put these default GL codes into place.
For instance, if you have a vendor that always provides landscaping services, we can take that burden off your AP team. We establish these defaults at the vendor level, tailoring them specifically to your needs. So for a particular vendor, we can assign a specific GL code. This not only helps minimize user error, as the code is pre-filled but also allows for flexibility.
If an exception arises requiring a different code, it can be easily adjusted in the system. This automated GL function operates at the vendor level and is highly customizable, further reducing the AP team’s invoice handling.
“If you’re ready for full-scale automation, we help establish it smoothly. If automation is new to you, we can take it slow. It’s really up to the client and their comfort level.”
Implementing AP Workflows & Auto-Approving Invoices with Accounts Payable Automation
Michael Krieger: Now, considering the AP workflow and your experience with numerous customers over the years, when onboarding customers and evaluating their workflow, do you try to steer them towards certain models? Or do you apply underlying principles to create the most efficient and effective workflow possible for the end users? Could you share your experiences in terms of evaluating and perhaps improving the AP workflow?
Anna Anderson: From an onboarding standpoint, I usually inquire about our clients’ existing workflows. Every organization has its unique workflow assignments, and understanding their current process allows us to tailor the custom approver assignment rules to their needs.
If a client is open to altering their workflow—perhaps because they’re losing invoices or payments are delayed—we’re more than ready to offer best practices that have worked for our successful clients.
In my experience, a workflow is more efficient when fewer people need to review an invoice, which expedites approval and payment. It’s also beneficial to keep approvals at a higher level, to avoid overwhelming operational levels, like stores, with approval tasks. Streamlining the workflow to allow for internal approvals up to a certain dollar amount has proven to be extremely helpful.
Moreover, our system allows for workflow adjustments at any time. If an initial workflow based on a current process isn’t working—for instance, if approvals are not being completed because the staff is focused on managing their locations—we can modify the workflow as required. Nothing is set in stone. We’re always ready to revise and adapt. We always offer the best practices to streamline the workflow.
Michael Krieger: That’s a significant value addition. The capacity to customize based on your extensive experience with various scenarios and industry best practices allows for a blend of tailoring to a business’s needs and adjusting any recently implemented changes.
Anna Anderson: I also wanted to bring up our auto-approval functionality. It’s a significant aspect of automation that comes into play, especially during the onboarding phase and any workflow adjustments.
For instance, we often encounter vendors that don’t require approval from multiple parties – they’re always approved because they’re straightforward and consistent, providing things like uniforms or landscaping services. These standard-type invoices are perfect candidates for additional automation.
Our auto-approval functionality sends these invoices straight through the system, maintaining full visibility and customizable parameters based on the client’s interests and the control level they wish to exercise over their vendors. It’s an essential part of the automation process that we typically add post-onboarding.
“From a control standpoint, we can implement certain thresholds, especially with auto-approvals. You can still utilize automation, but it’s not a free-for-all.”
The Value of AP Automation for Finance Leaders
Michael Krieger: The element of control is crucial for AP managers and finance leaders. This provides a good opportunity to segue into the key features of accounts payable automation that delivers significant value for finance leaders at an organization like a CFO, vice president of finance, vice president of accounting, or controller.
Beyond what we’ve discussed for the end user, what are some key features that offer substantial value to these leadership roles?
Anna Anderson: Two significant aspects that come to mind are control and visibility. From a control standpoint, we can implement certain thresholds, especially with auto-approvals. You can still utilize automation, but it’s not a free-for-all.
For example, if a vendor’s invoices are typically $500 and a $1,200 invoice comes in, we treat it as an exception and send it to your AP team for review. This way, nothing just slips through the system unnoticed. So, from a control standpoint, all items are accounted for in onePAY.
Another key aspect under the control category is approval thresholds and custom-routing rules. If an invoice should go to someone specific for approval, we can put those rules in place. We also implement thresholds based on the dollar amount.
For instance, if you include multiple operations levels, one user might be able to approve up to a certain dollar amount, and anything over that has to go up to a different user. So, we can also put those controls in place ensuring that what you’re doing internally is accounted for in onePAY.
Another advantage of onePAY is visibility. onePAY is cloud-based, allowing 24/7 access, which saves a lot of emails and reduces the need to request scanned invoices.
As a user, you can log into onePAY and access those invoices based on the access privileges you’ve been granted. Maybe you’re someone with view-only capabilities. We can give that user exactly the access they need for the locations they’re responsible for.
From a finance leader’s perspective, you can log in anytime, identify bottlenecks, and check who’s not logging in and approving their invoices.
The system provides clean audit trails of who changed data on an invoice or when an invoice was approved. So, as a finance leader, you have control and complete visibility across all of your accounts payable.
The Value of Custom Reporting for AP Leaders
Michael Krieger: With all this data centralized within onePAY, are there custom reports available? Can users monitor spending more closely? What kind of financial reports or visibility is available?
Anna Anderson: Absolutely. We offer standard reports to all our clients, but we find that clients really appreciate custom reports. When you first Go-Live, you have access to a set of standard reports. However, we often find it’s easier to have a call where you, as a client, tell us your specific data needs. The onePAY team can then build out those custom reports for you.
For instance, if you need to see how much was spent on specific vendors or locations, we can work together to create customized reports. These reports can be accessed in the user interface or even emailed out to specific users who need those data points.
“If you ever acquire any new entities, it’s straightforward to incorporate additional locations into onePAY, since you already have a solid process in place.”
Organizational Benefits of AP Automation
Michael Krieger: The last thing we wanted to discuss was the organizational benefits of AP Automation. We’ve talked about the value to the end user and the finance leader, but what are the broader benefits a business can receive from AP Automation?
Anna Anderson: First and foremost, which many people love to hear, there’s a lot of opportunity to improve the bottom line. If you’re managing your vendors effectively and things are flowing seamlessly through the application, you can take advantage of early payment discounts with vendors. Improved vendor management allows you to see these benefits, particularly with the discounts often offered by vendors.
Also, when making payments through us, our supplier enablement team can run spend analyses and identify opportunities to leverage virtual card payments. This, in turn, earns you rebates, which is a great benefit.
Furthermore, thinking about the organization as a whole, you gain a lot of flexibility. If you put this streamlined process in place, you have all these excellent members of an AP team, many of whom might be spending time manually coding invoices. That’s very time-consuming. But if you can implement a robust accounts payable process using the onePAY automation tool, you can reassign these users to other duties within accounts payable.
This also allows you to scale easily. If you ever acquire any new entities, it’s straightforward to incorporate additional locations into onePAY, since you already have a solid process in place. So, it’s really easy to scale when you have a centralized process in place.
Michael Krieger: That’s great. I appreciate all of your time today, Anna, and thanks for filling us in on the benefits of AP automation.
Anna Anderson: Absolutely, thank you for having me.
Discover the latest from our blog.
We explore the value of paying invoices with virtual cards for businesses when making making B2B payments.
We explore the tangible value that intelligent AP automation delivers to each key stakeholder in the AP process.
We examine several examples of how food brands are leveling up with their mobile app offerings.