There are only a few certain things in life. Benjamin Franklin said those were death and taxes. Another old proverb lists birth, death and change. And anyone who has ever called a helpline knows being on hold belongs on the list.
Here’s a new one that I believe is as timeless as those above: Every industry needs accounts payable automation.
In a previous article, I discussed how predictions of accelerating accounts payable automation and digitization of processes have been around forever. Those predictions didn’t really go anywhere until the pandemic emerged, forcing rapid business process evolution to handle remote employees and new fraud risks. That hasn’t impacted every business and every industry in the same way, but crucially, it has impacted all of us in similar ways.
To get at why, let’s look at another popular saying: We’re more the same than we are different.
Recently, I spoke to a commercial real estate industry group about the benefits of AP automation, which are considerable. In real estate, you often have decentralized AP departments, a dizzying number of vendors to make payments to, tenants to reimburse and an almost ritual devotion to doing things the way they’ve always been done. The main point I wanted to get across is that when you work with the right partner and throw yourself into the project with the right level of enthusiasm, you can solve all those issues at once.
During the ride home—okay, I turned off my webcam and wheeled my chair backward, but it counts—I found myself thinking about challenges in other industries. The thing that I’ve realized more and moreover the past year as I’ve talked to clients and my team is that while every business has unique invoice and payments challenges, the solution to those challenges is more or less universal.
Rich Drury, a solution engineer with Paymode-X, talks about a common objection in real estate when he’s first discussing automated payments with AP teams. Quite often, there is a single approver for scores of checks who is overwhelmed by day-to-day demands. The common opener is “I don’t know if anyone understands the challenges we’re facing.”
While that’s true to an extent, usually after a short conversation they realize we do understand those challenges. The common elements, always, are concerns about efficiency, security, cost and scalability. While those obstacles trip businesses up in different ways depending on whether you’re in higher education, health care, or government, they boil down to those basics.
When the problems are broad, it becomes easier to understand how an AP automation solution addresses them. Automating invoice receipt and capture takes a lot of manual, slow processing out of the equation. Automating and securing payments cuts the risk of fraud and greatly streamlines approvals. Digitizing payments end-to-end makes it easier to house all your data in one spot for better reporting and visibility. The truth, simply, is that there isn’t a single industry that wouldn’t benefit from streamlining and digitizing accounts payable.
We recently surveyed our Paymode-X customers and found that by changing over to automated AP or switching to Paymode-X, 100% of them were able to digitize processes and achieve better reporting. We surveyed customers across a wide variety of industries, accounts payable teams of all sizes, and getting 100% of respondents to agree on anything isn’t easy.
That’s something I’ll stress in all my conversations going forward. We live in a world where digitization and automation is becoming a must. If you think the challenges of your industry and your business make you exempt from that, you’re delaying the inevitable and prolonging your misery.
If you come away from reading this certain of one certainty, make it this: Your challenges are no doubt tough and unique to your business, but a smart AP automation solution can solve them.
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