Integration: The Next Step of Automation.
By now, you’ve heard how automation can help businesses of all sizes save time and money. Automation can speed up processes, reduce errors, improve progress tracking and provide reporting that is nearly impossible to accomplish by hand. As a result, business leaders know to look to automation to reduce business costs and, in many cases, provide new revenue.1
Within accounts payable (AP), automation takes the daily grind it takes to pay suppliers and transforms it into a streamlined process. In accounts receivable (AR), a simple solution makes it easier to get your incoming payments into your account quicker.
Automation can be more than just a product or piece of technology. “Integrated” payables and receivables impact your AP and AR departments on a larger scale, bringing a new level of efficiency to each area. This creates more opportunities for back office improvements, ultimately leading to a stronger bottom line.
Automating AP and AR
Both AP and AR departments present big opportunities for businesses to cut expenses. They are home to some of the most tedious tasks, as many companies still rely on employees to manually sort and open mail, seek out approvals, facilitate payments, make trips to the bank, call suppliers, track paper invoices/payments, etc.
These departments provide unique environments to gain significant benefits from just one or two solutions. But before we get too far into integrating, let’s reacquaint ourselves with the basics of AP and AR automation:
AP: Put most simply, “AP Automation” or “payment automation” typically refers to a business’ ability to make electronic (credit card, wire, ACH) payments to their suppliers in bulk. It usually allows businesses to upload “payment files” to their solution provider, who then facilitates those payments on the company’s behalf.
AR: “AR Automation” is when a business applies technology to the payments they receive, whether through payment collection onsite, online, or through the bank. It may require a bank’s intervention to collect mail and make deposits on a company’s behalf, or it may include an online payment solution that streamlines the fund collection process.
How integration elevates automation
Rather than simplifying individual tasks, integration looks at processes on a larger scale and uses APIs to connect or integrate automation technology and its data into your enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. This quickly puts data at your employees’ fingertips, providing previously untapped potential for efficiency. Not only that, but adoption rates for automation technology increase when processes are done within systems that employees are already familiar with and work with frequently.
Integration can have some truly astonishing effects on AP and AR departments. For example, CommercePayments® AP Invoice Automation deals with the actual disbursement of funds, whereas CommercePayments® Payment Hub, an integrated payables solution, looks at the tasks that surround those payments as well. It’s one solution that improves several different tasks, like:
- Payment files can be consolidated into a single file – saving a significant amount of time and energy for AP staff.
- Supplier information is managed in a central source, no matter what the payment type.
- Reconciliation is simplified, since all supplier and payment information are housed in a single location.
- Reporting and analytics capabilities are improved due to the availability of data.
On the AR side, CommercePayments® Integrated Receivables allow back-end work to be completed quicker with practically no room for error, while payments are reconciled directing into the corporate AR. Companies also see:
- Remittance captured and processed directly from emails.
- Payment and remittance information linked automatically.
- An Optical Character Recognition (OCR) engine automatically captures data from check remittances without templates or standard formats.
These capabilities can significantly reduce the work involved in paying suppliers and receiving payments.
Achieving maximum efficiency
Integrating payment automation solutions to reduce time, money and effort involved in AP and AR is an important step toward ideal efficiency. It affects much more than just the payments by creating simplified processes and providing access to real-time data. True integration gives attention to remittance, reconciliation, information management, data, reporting and employee adoption. With so many tasks and data imports streamlined, businesses can see a significant reduction in operating costs and improve their ability to be more strategic within the AP and AR departments and beyond.
1: B2B Payments Automation Innovation Playbook, PYMNTS.com, 2019. https://www.pymnts.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2019-05-Playbook-Automation_Playbook.pdf
- What AP Automation Means for Your Suppliers
- 10 Reasons to Consider Automated Invoices at Your Company