Accounts Payable (AP) depts are under huge pressure to strengthen controls, save space, and increase efficiencies of manual and time-consuming processes. This can be difficult to achieve when considering the distributed nature of accounting processes. For instance, invoice approval typically takes place on several levels and generates large volumes of photocopies that are difficult to manage effectively. Also, divisions face growing pressure for legal compliance issues.

As these issues continue to progress, the case for purchase invoice automation grows. By automating paper-intensive processing, finance departments are able to optimise the invoice approval and payment process. Find out more innovative companies who are achieving this automation is by utilizing scanning and workflow solutions.

With a typical scanning and workflow solution, finance people are able to access invoices pictures as part of an automated workflow system. All of them from the receipt of an invoice and approval to supplier payment is recorded in the system. This process begins when a supplier invoice arrives. The hard copy invoices and other documentation are scanned into images which can then be reviewed by authorised employees in the accounting system. The invoices are then sent using specific notes and conditions to underpin the workflow. This simple, step-by-step processing of finance documentation is the easiest way to keep the tide of documentation continuously moving.

By cutting out the actual movement of hard copy invoices, the time spent trying to access documents is greatly reduced, leading to increased people productivity. The system enables customized internal controls to be created for each business process, resulting in immediate access to documents, faster approval time and reduced cycle time.

There are a lot of advantages associated with the use of scanning and workflow in terms of supporting finance divisions grow efficiencies. The workflow management solution offers a significant reduction of costs, stronger internal controls, and the overall streamlining of the accounts payable invoice review and approval process. In addition, the automated internal controls and instant access to invoices removes the possibility of losing a document, paying invoices more than once, or making late payments attracting late payment fees or interest charges.

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Another vital advantage of a comprehensive workflow management solution is that it allows numerous employees of a business to securely work together in real time. Since the invoices are archived in a centralized archive, other employees can be given quick access as well, reducing copying, shipping, and faxing expenditure. The improved digital audit trails can also be vitally valuable, especially during audit reviews.

AP invoice processing can actually be transformed into a “zero touch” environment with the right imaging and workflow automation solution. This means that AP is able to enter the paperless world everyone dreams about no one in the department has to touch paper.

In order to create a “zero touch” process, vendors are directed by the AP department to remit all invoices to a central Post Office Box location, which is received by the accounting department. Staff then scan and index all invoices using batch scanners into a document management system, capturing important data elements automatically such as point of contact, vendor name, invoice number and more into the company’s finance system.

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As soon as the invoice enters the system, the internal controls set up by the AP department go into action. An automated e-mail notification is sent to each approver informing the person that an invoice is awaiting review. The point of contact then has several options such as approving the invoice, routing it to another approver, declining, or pending invoices for later approval.

Once an invoice is approved, it is routed to a higher approval level or to accounts payable for a final review and payment.