The move away from manual

Over the past 5 - 8 years, organisations have become more aware of the benefits of automating their accounts payable (AP) transactions. Driven in the first instance by promises of reduced costs, organisations have found that moving away from a more manual process can drive several layers of business benefits. These include faster processing time, vastly improved auto-match rates and a reduction in fraud and error, which together with reporting metrics, can be used to highlight the health of the organisation.

Adopting Cloud
The ability to generate insightful analytics comes as a result of the increased visibility and accountability that automation brings. Existing workflow processes can be mapped, changed if necessary, and fed into the new automation platform, increasing compliance and reducing risk as a result.  Alongside the growth in automation, organisations have become more comfortable with the idea of cloud-based transactions. As our private lives and B2C worlds blend with our B2B working environment, our expectations have changed. Just as we no longer expect to have to wait to watch the next episode of our favourite TV show, we've come to expect that same level of flexibility from our business partners.

Moving the cost model
And that's one of the reasons why conversations are moving away from the large scale end-to-end implementations of the past, and towards a more collaborative, jigsaw approach. Working in partnership with a solution provider, organisations select the solution that's right for them and their needs. And that goes for pricing too. In the past, organisations that wanted to take advantage of AP automation, had to pay hundreds of thousands of pounds in upfront license fees, usually with an annual maintenance charge. It's true that the large ERP providers do still operate like that, but the move away from on-premise to the cloud-based Software-as-a-Service model has led to a move in the pricing model too. 

Pay as you consume

Instead of making a large upfront payment, organisations can choose to move towards a transaction-based pricing model, which means that they only have to pay for the transactions that they process through the solution. This has obvious benefits to the business, especially in establishing the business case in the first instance. It's far easier to get budgetary approval and understand the ROI if you know exactly what you're going to be paying, and then compare that to your existing processing costs.

Moving with your business

But one of the biggest benefits of moving to transaction-based processing is in its scalability and flexibility. No organisation is static and it exists and reacts to the environment at the time –for example it may acquire a new business or it may go through a consolidation exercise or divestment. In each case, the number of transactions will change. In a traditional license model, that change could introduce complexity just at a time when the business needs reliability and simplicity. With a transaction model, the solution can flex and accommodate the change easily.

The normalising of automation

And then of course, while it's in our interest to make sure as many of your suppliers are onboard as possible, ultimately being able to achieve a good supplier onboarding ratio, provides organisations with the opportunity to maximise data capture.  The visibility that brings increases the chances of being able to take any early settlement discounts that are on offer and take advantage of enhanced reporting functionality. As the business world moves on and looks for more autonomy, both in terms of control and flexibility, "automation on-demand" is likely to become the norm.  Organisations that want to be at the forefront of processing excellence, need to be sure that they are taking advantage of the changes to automation solutions to stay ahead of the curve. 

Andrew Stinchcombe-Gillies

Director United Kingdom & Ireland

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