If you're reading this article, chances are you've been hearing people bang on about AP automation and are wondering if it's worth the hype.
If you're reading this article, chances are you've been hearing people bang on about AP automation and are wondering if it's worth the hype. Alternatively, you could be all on-board with the concept of automating, but you're overwhelmed by the choice of invoice processing software available on the market. Whichever camp you fall into, it's important to choose your future AP software carefully to avoid disappointment down the line. We're here to help you pick the perfect automated AP invoice processing software for your company's unique needs, so you can get it right the first time.
The first thing you're going to want to consider are the integration capabilities of any given AP software, unless you're looking for a complete system overhaul. Your new bolt-on must be compatible with your existing finance system or Enterprise Resource Planning software (ERP). Otherwise, you aren't going to even get off the ground and those workflows won't exactly... flow. This is especially important if you're using industry specific accounting software because it could be too niche for certain software providers. Luckily, there are systems that can be bespoke to your needs. You should be aware though that if your software is super niche or isn't in the cloud you may have to pay extra to sync your data between apps, so that will need to be factored into the costs.
Your business isn't going to stay the same forever, and hopefully that means growth in the near future! The company will evolve over time, and that means you'll need a software that can do the same. Look for softwares that are marketed as scalable solutions and can handle increased volumes of invoices and POs, and additional users, as you don't want to have to switch providers every time you experience growth. This is key to loving your new software for a long time.
The usability of software is something that's often overlooked, but its importance can't be overstated. Simply put, if your swanky new software is too difficult to use then your team won't want to use it. This greatly impacts your return on investment, as you want your employees to get the absolute most out of the new tool you're paying for. It should be easy to navigate around the system, compatible for mobile, and shouldn't be an eye-sore. Make sure to take part in an online or in-person demonstration so you can experience the software yourself before you commit to buying anything. If providers aren't offering immersive demos then this should be a red flag!
There are certain features which are non-negotiable, no matter your business make up. Here's some you need to look out for.
Accurate data extraction is the foundation of invoice processing software. Choose software with Advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology. OCR is what ensures precise extraction of information from invoices, reducing errors and taking that manual labour off your hands. A robust OCR system accelerates data processing and enhances overall accuracy.
Stay ahead of the curve by opting for software that also incorporates machine learning and artificial intelligence. These advanced features automate decision-making processes, streamline approval workflows, and continuously improve the system's performance. Machine learning capabilities also mean the software can adapt to changing patterns, optimising efficiency and reducing the need for manual oversight.
Embrace the flexibility and accessibility offered by cloud-based deployment. Look for automated AP invoice processing software that provides secure and reliable cloud options. This not only enables your team to access the system from anywhere but also ensures data integrity, confidentiality, and automatic updates without the need for on-premises maintenance.
It's important to start off your AP software journey by considering lots of different options so you can find the one that best suits your unique needs. Don't get tunnel vision on one particular software in the beginning of your search.
Dext is a good option for very small businesses who only need receipt scanning functionality.
Pricing starts at £27 a month, which is considerably cheaper than most other options on the market. This makes it a great solution for one-man-bands who only need to be able to capture invoices. Most other businesses will require more functionality, like a purchase order system, setting budgets, and approval workflows, which takes Dext out of the running, unless you want a separate app for each feature.
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.
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. For this, you'll be able to create purchase orders, process invoices, set budgets and customisable workflows, and have flexible approvals.
No business has the exact same requirements so it's important to do your research so you can find the best fit.
Before jumping head first into any solution, check what other people are saying about it. The best critics will be people who gave your software of choice a fair shot, so listen to what they have to say.
Assess the software's performance based on speed and accuracy metrics. A reliable system should efficiently handle invoice processing tasks while maintaining a high level of accuracy. Balancing speed with precision is crucial for seamless financial operations.
Consider user reviews and ratings so you can gauge overall satisfaction. Real-world experiences from other businesses provide valuable insights into the software's reliability. See if there are any patterns in the reviews that you're reading, and that should give you an indication of which elements of the software aren't up to scratch. However, it's also important to think critically when reading reviews. If someone is saying that a particular software didn't work out for their company of 1000 employees but you only have 50, then you can evaluate whether you would have the same problems.
Ensuring that the automated invoice processing software is user-friendly is integral to successful implementation and adoption.
Assess the navigability and ease of use of each of your shortlisted softwares. A user-friendly interface ensures that your team can quickly adapt to the new system, reducing training time and enhancing overall productivity. A system that's easy to use means your staff will have a much more positive experience, and you'll get a better return on investment because people will want to use it more.
Look for software providers that offer comprehensive training and support services. Appropriate training ensures that your team maximises the software's potential, while reliable support minimises downtime in case of issues. A strong support system is crucial for the smooth and continuous operation of the automated invoice processing solution.
There will be an initial cost when you sign up for AP software, but after that you'll see savings in the long term.
You'll need to conduct a thorough cost-benefit analysis to understand the initial investment required and the long-term savings achievable through the implementation of automated invoice processing software. Consider factors such as reduced labor costs, minimised errors, and increased efficiency when evaluating the overall financial impact. There are also unexpected savings apart from simply the time and money from a more efficient process. Lots of Zahara customers found that they made back the money invested in the software purely from the duplicate invoice detection, let alone all the other savings.
Calculate the expected Return on Investment (ROI) to determine the financial benefits of the software. A positive ROI justifies the initial investment and showcases the tangible financial improvements that can result from embracing automated accounts payable solutions.
Protecting sensitive financial information and ensuring compliance with regulatory standards are non-negotiable aspects of automated invoice processing software. You need to know your data is safe, so you can spend without worry.
Prioritise software with robust data security measures to safeguard sensitive financial information. Encryption, access controls, and regular security audits are crucial components for a secure system. Businesses must ensure that their chosen solution complies with industry-standard security practices. If it's between a standard and secure software you should choose that over a more unreliable software with fancy features.
Make sure that the software you choose complies with relevant regulatory standards in your industry. Compliance is essential to avoid legal issues and maintain the integrity of your financial processes. A solution that aligns with industry regulations helps businesses operate securely and ethically, which is non-negotiable.
Ensuring seamless integration with existing software systems is essential for a cohesive and efficient workflow.
Evaluate compatibility with your existing software ecosystem. Seamless integration with other business systems, such as ERP and accounting software, enhances overall operational efficiency. A solution that can effortlessly connect with your current technology stack ensures a streamlined and interconnected business environment.
Check for the availability of Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) and integration options. These features allow you to connect the automated invoice processing software with other tools and platforms, further optimising your workflow. A solution with robust integration options provides the flexibility to adapt to changing business needs and technology trends.
Bringing on invoice approval automation into your operations isn't just about efficiency; it's about future-proofing your business. By embracing this technology, companies, just like yours, can position themselves to thrive in an increasingly competitive landscape.
For forward-thinking finance teams wanting to stay ahead of the curve, invoice approval automation is a no-brainer. There's no other way (besides dedicating a huge amount of time, resources, and mental energy) to have such a concise and reliable AP function.
Zahara makes it easy for you to take that next step. You can get in touch with our AP specialists any time to chat about how invoice approval automation could be a game-changer for your team here.
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