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7 reasons to adopt Accounts Payable automation in 2023

Niek Dekker
6 Min

Automation is radically transforming accounting in Australia, according to Chartered Accountants ANZ. New accounting tools and technologies are helping organisations drive new efficiencies – but are these fancy new tools exclusive to the biggest organisations? And do they require significant investment or specialised IT skills?

Spoiler: no, not always. It’s never been easier for accounting teams of all sizes to leverage accounts payable automation. And there are major benefits for the organisations who do.

There are seven different ways that accounting automation is helping teams work smarter and more securely. Here’s how automation can help out in 2023.

1. Saving time

We don’t need to tell accountants that time equals money. So how exactly can leaders find new ways to cut down on time-consuming tasks – without compromising security?

First, think about what your team spends the most time doing. Are there any processes or tasks that require more manual work? Finding new efficiencies tends to depend on sussing out exactly what’s eating up most of your team’s time, and then ruthlessly automating whatever you can.

By saving time that’s currently spent on manual accounting tasks, you’ll be able to focus energy and resources on more productive tasks. For example, rather than spending significant amounts of time on manual tasks, your accounting team can focus on other important objectives – like improving processes or strengthening relationships with suppliers and customers.

Here are just a few of the ways that Accounts Payable (AP) teams can use automation to save time:

  • Invoice processing: automating processes around receiving, coding and approving doesn’t just save time – it usually ensures greater accuracy, too
  • Vendor management: tasks like vendor onboarding, updating details and reconciling vendor statements can be time consuming if they’re entirely manual, and it also open your organisation to cyber threats like business email compromise (BEC) scams
  • Auditing and compliance: automated AP systems can provide deeper visibility across the entire invoice-to-payment process, making it easier to meeting audit and compliance requirements
  • Reporting: automated reporting saves times by eliminating manual data entry and enabling real-time across to data for faster decision-making

There’s a good chance you’re already using a few of these, but ask yourself: are there any similar activities your team is still doing that could benefit from automation?

2. Reducing labour costs

This one’s directly related to the time you’re investing in manual tasks, because ultimately you’re paying for your staff’s time. And overly manual processes can mean you’re not getting the most out of your investment.

After all, labour costs are much higher than just the direct expense of salaries. There are costs associated with annual leave, sick or compassionate leave, payroll taxes and superannuation contributions. All these expenses factor into your overall labour cost.

And it’s becoming more and more expensive to run an AP department. Cutting headcount can be even more costly in the long run, though – when teams are understaffed, the risk of cutting corners will grow. Instead, look for ways to equip existing staff with automation-enabled solutions.

3. Achieving greater efficiency

Across all types of organisations and functions, manual tasks are often a major drag on efficiency. Manual accounting tasks are no exception.

Business efficiency is all about getting the most out of your limited resources – doing more with less. When your accounting department is engaged in repetitive, time-consuming manual tasks, you really need to question whether you’re getting the most out of your resources.

Automating accounting tasks enables you to achieve the same business outcomes in less time, driving significant efficiency dividends for your organisation.

4. Improving supplier relations

Many organisations rely on just-in-time supply chains, with careful scheduling helping to ensure critical deliveries happen according to business requirements. But COVID-19 sparked widespread havoc with global supply chains, and we’re still feeling the ripple effects today. Supply chain constraints are resulting in serious operational disruptions for many businesses.

In these types of circumstances, strong relationships with your suppliers have never been more important. Close cooperation and coordination with suppliers can help minimise disruption and ensure you have access to the inputs your business relies upon, exactly when you need them.

AP staff play a critical role in maintaining strong supplier relations. Nothing undermines supplier relations like unpaid invoices. By embracing automation, it gets easier to ensure supplier invoices are processed accurately and expeditiously. This will put you in good stead the next time you need a supplier to go the extra mile in delivering the inputs you need.

5. Boosting motivation

It’s not easy to find the right talent, which means employers need to hang on to employees who are a good fit. But the feeling of being stuck doing repetitive, mundane work can undermine morale – and your ability to retain high-quality staff.

That’s crucial because the demand for accounting staff in Australia is rising. So it makes sense to find ways to ensure your AP team is engaged in interesting and challenging work.

Automating many routine accounting tasks is one of the best ways to achieve that.

When your AP staff are motivated, they’re often more likely to want to stay with your organisation for the long haul. It can even help reduce staff absenteeism and the high costs of staff turnover.

6. Reducing risks of error

Human error can end up being a major headache for any AP department.

When busy staff manually enter supplier data into ERP systems, the risk of error is a lot higher – we’re only human, and our chances of slipping up tend to increase as we do more manual data entry. The errors are understandable but they can result in overpayments or underpayments to suppliers, or paying duplicate invoices. In some cases, they may even result in payments going to incorrect bank accounts.

Such errors can be notoriously difficult to correct. And retrieving funds sent to an incorrect bank account may be impossible. Even in a best-case scenario, errors almost always result in time-consuming back-and-forth communications with suppliers.

By automating more manual accounting tasks, AP departments can reduce instances of human error and run more effectively.

7. Strengthening security and compliance

Fraudsters and scammers are out in full force trying to deceive AP staff into inadvertently transferring funds to the wrong bank accounts.

One of the most common tactics they use is Business Email Compromise (BEC). This tactic involves cyber-criminals intercepting the invoices suppliers send to AP departments. Once intercepted, they manipulate the BSB and Account Number listed on the invoice. When the AP team processes the invoice, they unknowingly end up sending the money to the scammer instead of the right recipient – the supplier.

Cyber-criminals’ tactics are always evolving, too. Even if you implement extra manual controls, those controls rely on human-driven processes, which makes it easier for fraudsters to bypass them. Many organisations have sensible controls written up on paper but, in practice, they aren’t always followed. Those responsible for sign-off go on leave, or things get busy and review processes fall by the wayside.

Automation – like Eftsure’s solution – ensures that the control process is always followed. It enforces centralised processes where they’re needed, while freeing humans to spend more time on the areas where machines often fall short, like contextual reasoning or relationship building.

Want to see how other teams are working smarter and boosting security?
Organisations like Lewis Land are using automation to support decentralised models, cut down on unnecessarily manual tasks, and – best of all, in our opinion – stop fraudsters in their tracks.

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