Handling your accounts payable process has traditionally been a laborious and error-prone ordeal, typically burdened with manual data entry. However, the future of AP is now! Advancements in automation software are happening every day, and more and more people are jumping on board. There are endless benefits to automating, but with more and more systems cropping up on the market all the time it can feel like an overwhelming leap of faith.
This step-by-step article is for those who are curious about automating AP, but don’t know where to begin or want to ensure they’re picking the right solution. Every organisation is unique, and no one system works for everyone, but following this guidance will set you up for success!
Step 1: Assess Your Current Process
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 you do like.
Are you tired of keying in invoices? Do you worry about security? Do you want to enhance your accounting system, or move to a new one before automating? 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?
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.
Step 2: Find Best Software for Your Needs
Once you know what you would like from your perfect software, it’s time to see what’s out there. Some key features people find most helpful are optical character recognition (OCR) for invoice scanning, automated approval workflows. 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.
Step 3: Sign Up for Demonstrations
There’s nothing more helpful than seeing the software in action! In a good demo, an expert in the system will walk you through the software, tailoring it to the way you intend to use it. They should also be transparent about pricing, and open to talking about any reservations you may have.
Once you’ve had a few different chats, go away and think about what you’ve seen. It’s an exciting experience, and you’ll likely want to get up and running ASAP, but take the time to reflect and make sure you’re choosing the right software from your shortlist!
Step 4: Prepare for Implementation
You’ve just signed the proposal, congrats! Before implementation, it's crucial to prepare both your data, and your team, for the transition. Clean up your records, and ensure data accuracy.
Talk with the implementation team at your chosen provider, and create a transition plan with realistic timescales and responsibilities. Consider if you need professional services to get your team up to scratch, or if you feel confident setting up on your own.
Step 5: Implementation!
Now comes the exciting part—implementing the automation software. Collaborate with the software provider to migrate your data seamlessly. Set up the system according to your requirements, configure workflows, and customise settings. Ensure that the software integrates smoothly with your existing accounting systems or ERPs for a seamless data flow. Train your team on how to use the software effectively and address any concerns or questions they may have during the transition.
Step 6: Refine Your Automated Process
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 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.
If you’re still unsure, feel free to get in touch with one of our AP experts who would be happy to evaluate your current process and help you work on your unique pain points.