It takes a significant amount of time and effort to roll out a financial system or ERP like NetSuite, but for the accounts payable department, sometimes this is only just the beginning of a new journey.
Certain executive-level expectations accompany new software deployments, whether based in truth or not, and oftentimes the AP process remains a challenge.
1. Chasing bills around the office
The number one struggle that remains, even after a new financial system rolls out, is the bill chase. The problem is twofold: ensuring receipt of an invoice (and therefore recording the liability), and then figuring out where it is in the approvals or exception process (while trying to get it paid on time and within terms).
Even for the most organized accounts payable department with a strong purchasing process, manual bill processing means invoices still get lost somewhere along the line.
Since the buck stops with AP, it’s the AP clerk’s responsibility to know which invoices should have arrived at the organization, and who might have received them, and then to best attempt (read: harass) to procure the invoice from the desk or email inbox of whomever in the organization may have received it. Or call or email the vendor to try to get a copy. It’s not pretty.
Not only does AP become the nagging little brother of the organization, the work of chasing down a bill is a huge productivity killer. Instead of focusing on making timely smart cash flow decisions, the AP clerk is chasing down information just to get it into NetSuite.
2. The late bill payment blame game
So the bill has been located, but probably still has to go through a process for approval based on total amount or hierarchies, or on exception handling if any information is missing or inaccurate.
Even with a smart financial system like NetSuite, companies often still find themselves printing emailed invoices, and routing them around desks or interoffice mail for signatures or notes, gathering accompanying information along the way. This all takes time and continues to limit visibility into potential liability.
But the real blame game comes to AP when that invoice then ends up past due, a common occurrence due to the time it takes to track the bill down, get it approved, and then manually key the data into NetSuite.
3. Undocumented AP processes
AP has to know where the bodies (aka bills) are buried. Once an AP team member is trained to work within the company’s manual processes, maybe based on a set of vendors he or she is responsible for or a subset of all PO-based bills, that person becomes a necessary part of those processes.
By necessary, we mean that those processes cannot function without that person. In a manual environment, this process knowledge learned on the job usually exists only in the mind of the trained individual.
Enter a pandemic, maternity leave, a death in the family—an extended absence of any kind can now cause an entire subset of the AP process to collapse on itself. Without working knowledge of any one process, the rest of the AP department is left to pick up the pieces, which usually translates to begging for late payment forgiveness or apologizing for going to the wrong person for approvals.
In essence, they’re left to tread water until the employee with the process knowledge [hopefully] returns.
Though it may seem to be limited to the AP clerk’s day-to-day hassles, manual processes have impact all the way to the top of the organization. These standardization challenges limit visibility into outstanding liabilities, create cash flow or supply chain hiccups and introduce controls and compliance risks that all matter to the executive team—and the bottom line.
Give AP clerks the NetSuite invoice processing tools they deserve
Help is just around the proverbial corner, however. The cost of manual bill processing challenges in NetSuite are well documented, and smart software suppliers have built upon years of invoice processing experience to provide just the tools needed to help your AP team. Here’s what you should look for in a solution:
- Proven integration with NetSuite for non-duplication of accounting controls
- Ability to act as a single incoming point of receipt for all bills to ensure visibility
- Invoice data capture to reduce manual keying
- Automated approvals and exception handling workflow to expedite bill processing and provide audit trails
- Integration of documents beyond accounts payable (for eventual cross-departmental use)
Not only will you improve the AP team’s day-to-day work, but their standing in the organization, too.
Solutions like Webiplex’s DocuPeak Accounts Payable Automation offer all of the above and more for the NetSuite user. Visit our SuiteApp listing for more information and to hear firsthand about the AP automation solution from other NetSuite users.