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PayStream Advisors Reveals How Manual Payments Damage AP Efficiency

Lauren Ruef

It’s no secret that most companies struggle with legacy processes and inefficient workflows. But in many cases, the C-suite doesn’t know about it. Routine inefficiencies of this nature are pushed under the rug or considered “business as usual.” But simple, cloud-based automation is helping the back office cut out busy work and waste less time by replacing manual processes with a few clicks.

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Issues with poor data visibility, duplicate workflows, and backlogged payment approvals disappear with digital tools that lend greater control and accuracy to AP professionals. This new status quo in payments is shifting expectations for AP teams as revealed in the Paystream Advisors 2018 Payables Insight Report.

Money left on the table

In the 400 interviews conducted with employees across industries and markets, new PayStream Advisors’ data reveals the pain points of modern back offices operating with outdated, manual workflows. The report found “lengthy approval cycles are 47 percent of the reason early payment discounts are missed.”

This is just one of the many reasons why manual payments deserve a second look for mid- to enterprise-level companies. Money is left on the table when superior alternatives for cash flow and efficiency exist but aren't utilized. At a time when paper and email still top the charts as popular invoice delivery methods, there are much better ways to spare staff the frustration of manual data entry or from making highly preventable mistakes.

Companies have an opportunity to grasp automation in its early stages, beginning with the easiest place to start with electronic capabilities: payments. Electronic payments provide companies a high-performance competitive advantage. Instead of cutting and mailing checks or chasing down reconciliation issues, AP staff can focus on more strategic tasks such as reporting and analysis for finance.

What is a truly automated AP solution?

When polled by PayStream, AP staff voiced its biggest pain points:

  • Manual data entry and inefficient processes—48%
  • Lost or missing invoices—34%
  • Invoices received in paper format—32%

Companies are missing the opportunity to transform the AP department from a cost center to a revenue-generating one. Electronic payments means that invoices are processed in a timely manner, eliminating late payments and taking advantage of payment discounting opportunities.

PayStream Advisors breaks down payables automation into five categories:

  1. Electronic payments
  2. Data capture functionality
  3. Invoice workflow automation
  4. eInvoicing
  5. Supplier management tools

If an organization possesses a cohesive electronic solution for each one of these steps, it is considered a fully automated payables process. But chances are, your organization has only one of these if any.

Filling in the gaps

According to the report, most organizations (63 percent) have a centralized invoice receipt process. Unfortunately, over half (55 percent) of this group defines that process as inputting invoice data into accounting systems manually. This is a huge unaddressed gap to close to reap the financial and process benefits of AP automation.

With the top pain points of AP reported as hand-keying invoice information, lost invoices, and receiving paper invoices, it’s clear that what’s missing is more efficiently managed financial data and streamlined electronic processes.

As companies embrace the digital world with increasing enthusiasm, there are little obstacles in the way of bringing more automation into daily processes. Increasing the convenience of employees’ daily tasks and lowering the costs and repetition involved in processes is a win-win for businesses.

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