Accounts Payable Workflow Automation: Getting Started

An Introduction to Accounts Payable Workflow Automation


It doesn't even need to be said at this point, but we love automated workflows here at Zahara! Automated accounts payable (AP) workflows are one of the most effective tools you can put in place to speed up and consolidate your process. You'll easily gain control of any accounts payable problems at the source by gaining full insight over who controls what, and when. You can rest assured there's a workflow and solution for every situation your team finds itself in. Making sure your workflows are pristine from the start means you'll optimise those crucial first steps, and who doesn't want that?!  

 3 Benefits of an Automated Accounts Payable Workflow

It’s time to make the most out of your software’s functionality. Worthwhile AP software will allow you to have complex but effective approval workflows in app. Instead of emailing POs and invoices to higher-ups and having to wait for them to approve them, with software they will be sent for approval automatically to the right people. There’s no lengthy sign-off process, they’ll be able to ‘approve’ or ‘reject’ with the press of a button. Some software will even reward users for having super-fast approval times, utilising our competitive nature speed the whole process up.  

Time Savings

Do you really need to get approval to buy a pint of milk for the office fridge? By customising your workflows, you can set specific budgets for certain departments and expenses. Purchases under an amount of your choosing can skip certain approvers in your regular workflow, meaning that small (yet important) purchases get approved that much quicker. Luckily, when you do this in-app you’ll get a full audit trail so even though you don’t need approval for these purchases, you can still monitor your spend. A good workflow automation tool will also allow you to modify your workflows to cover all scenarios, such as when your approver goes on holiday. The workflow will automatically select a different person of your choosing to be an approver in their absence. This means there won't be a massive pile up of work when they get back!

Reduced Errors & Fraud Risk

With workflow automation comes a new level of control. If there are errors on a purchase order, or an invoice that doesn't seem legit they will automatically be flagged for the attention of the appropriate person to sort them. This greatly lowers the risk of fraud.

Improved Visibility

With the mobile app there’s no excuse for super late approvals! This is especially useful for those of us who work away from the office or onsite, as we can approve from the comfort of a mobile app, no longer having to wait until we’re back in the office. You'll be able to get full visibility of spend from anywhere in the world, even if that just means in the office or your home. Just remember to keep your notifications on!  


Implementing Accounts Payable Workflow Automation: Where to Begin?


  1. Assess Current Workflow

The first step towards moving forward is analysing what you’re currently doing. This allows you to both be critical and identify your pain points, as well as making note of the aspects of your process that you do like.   

Do you worry about security? Are you concerned about your lack of control in your current process? Have your colleagues made significant or costly errors that could have been avoided? When your AP Manager goes on holiday does chaos ensue?

Make note of everything you’re feeling. Work out which features are non-negotiable, and which elements of your existing system that you want to take with you going forward.  


  1. Choose a Workflow Automation Solution

Once you know what you would like from your perfect workflow software, it’s time to see what’s out there. You will likely find that good workflow software comes with a whole host of other features. If you want to keep your existing accounting software, such as Sage, Xero, or QuickBooks, it’s essential to find a bolt-on that seamlessly integrates with it.   

It's also important to read customer reviews. Find out if your front-runner has a reputation for terrible customer support, or if there’s a feature you hadn’t considered but users rave about. Once you have a rough idea, you can draw up a shortlist of your favourites.   


  1. Train Employees

It can’t be emphasised enough how important this is, and how many well-meaning finance teams skip this step. You can set yourself up for success by making sure everyone understands the premise of workflows and the software in–and-out. It can be understandably difficult, because members of the team will join in the implementation process at different points, meaning that you’re working with varying levels of knowledge. Providing thorough training, and budgeting for professional training if needs be, will ensure a smooth transition.


  1. Monitor and Evaluate

Optimising your process is an ongoing journey! Taking time to get to grips and understanding your new software is so important, and regular reviews help you make sure you’re consistently getting the most out of it. A worthwhile workflow automation provider will help you adjust to the changes and rejig your package for you when your needs change.   

Making changes can feel daunting, especially when you’re moving away from a process you’ve followed for years and will have such a big impact. However, it can’t be stressed enough that this is a positive change and, if you follow these steps, you can’t really go wrong. Careful consideration of these steps will lead to a successful transition, and your process will be streamlined in no time at all.  

Success Stories



Since adopting Zahara, Lush have improved their on-time supplier payments from 80% to 95%. As a result, they have been accredited by HMRC as a Prompt Payer.

Zahara has enabled Lush retail to transform an inefficient and error prone accounts payable process into a fully optimised, fast and compliant paperless workflow. 

Shift Media

Shift Media are a marketing agency dedicated to cycling. When they came to us needing advanced control over the AP process we knew our workflows would be a game-changer. 

 Shift found the sophisticated multi-level approvals workflow provided the flexibility and controls needed for their requirements.


Pricing and Reviews


Pricing Information

"How much is accounts payable workflow automation software?"

This is an excellent question, and one that’s not so straightforward to answer. The price of an AP workflow tool depends largely on the functionality and size of the package you need. If you're wanting workflows you will typically buy them as part of a wider AP package. Generally, accounts payable automation software starts from around £120 per month if you’re starting with a provider’s smallest package, but with 4-in-1 functionality. There are cheaper solutions if you just need one feature like receipt capture or payments, but you then have the inconvenience of using a different app for each element in the process.

If you’re a large enterprise it could be £500-700+ per month, which sounds like a lot but is minuscule when you consider the impact it has on efficiency, and the amount of people you’d need to hire to get the same results. You can embrace a true 4-in-1 system with Zahara for £119 per month, or as little as £99 per month if you pay annually.


Reviews & Comparisons


Zahara Vs Lightyear

Lightyear is a more comprehensive system than apps like Dext, with invoice scanning, approvals, and a variety of integrations. It includes workflows, but there are some features that Lightyear doesn’t offer which would (quite rightly) be a dealbreaker for most teams. For example, Lightyear doesn’t offer budgets as part of any of their packages, and you’ll only get access to purchase orders once you move up to their Business package, starting at £129 per month.  

Zahara Vs Tipalti

Tipalti is an extensive system that comes with a hefty price tag. There’s not much that Tipalti can’t do, but that often leaves teams paying for features they don’t get any value from. Tipalti’s strengths work well for large corporations who need one system for the entire finance function and have the money to spend on it. The pricing is worth it for big companies, but for SMEs the price range understandably takes Tipalti out of the running. 

They don’t offer a free trial, but you can pay £129 to start using the platform with limited functionality to get a feel for it. You can then pay extra for more functionality.  


Accounts Payable Workflow Automation Platform: Next Steps

With new technology, there’s an abundance of ways to make your accounts payable workflows as efficient as possible. Just remember to automate and keep those notifications on and you can’t go far wrong. If you need more advice, our friendly team are always on hand for a call to talk you through it! 


De-duplicate rows in PowerBI – but keep the summary


Invoice Approval Automation: Best Solutions For 2024

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