All About AP Automation Pt.1: What Is It?

Let’s say you’re sitting in front of a big pile of paper bills your small business needs to pay. You’ve got your checkbook, adding machine, and ledger at the ready.

You really should consider doing two things immediately:

  1.         Update your calendar—because we’re a long way past 1999. You might also want to update your wardrobe while you’re at it.
  2.         Seriously consider switching over to an automated accounts payable system.

What’s an automated accounts payable system? It’s an integrated set of software tools that handle your incoming invoices, more or less automatically. Bills are received electronically, evaluated, paid, and tracked—all in one seamless process, without ever leaving the automated system. And you have transparency and control over every step.

If you don’t know that already, what you don’t know is most likely hurting your business. Because in 2016, it doesn’t matter how tiny your business­ is—manual accounts payables will cost you more in time, money, and goodwill than their modern automated counterparts.

Chances are, however, that you’re well aware that such a thing as AP automation exists. If that’s the case, then either you don’t care or you’ve decided it’s not for you.

Now is as good a time as any to re-examine that attitude.

Let’s look at the top reasons you might have for clinging to the old ways—and why they might be holding you back.

  1. You want the intimate knowledge and control you get from looking over every invoice and writing every check by hand.

A valid point. But automated systems give you more control. In fact, they offer total control over every aspect of the process, any time and anywhere. They beat manual systems by a mile, here, because detailed info about every transaction is always available—often even on your phone via a mobile app. And you will never, ever have to deal with a lost piece of paper (or lick a stamp) again.

Actually, strike that last bit. If you’re still licking stamps, your problems are beyond the scope of this article.

  1. You believe an automated AP system is too expensive to justify the investment.

Again, a valid concern. But you don’t need to invest in some big one-size-fits-all solution with a large up-front cost. If you think that’s how these systems work today, you haven’t looked into what’s out there for quite a while.

Modern software-as-a-service (SAAS) systems virtually always have offerings with prices and features geared to even the smallest of businesses. They’re often structured so you pay as you go only for what you actually use. And those costs are designed to compete favorably with the costs of time, paper, postage, mistakes, etc. etc. that your manual system is costing you now.

  1. You stubbornly refuse to climb aboard the “everybody’s doing it” bandwagon. You’re just really, really comfortable with doing things the way you’ve always done them.

This is a tough one. You might just want to think about getting out a little more often. Actually, an automated AP system could help you with that, too. Because it will invariably give you more time—and a whole new way to deal with accounts payable issues when you’re not in the office.

Is AP automation right for you? While there’s a somewhat plausible case to be made for the very tiniest of businesses to stick to the old ways, for everyone else the answer is clearly yes. Complete transparency, anytime-anywhere convenience, fewer errors, better compliance, and less time spent dealing with accounts payable is an unbeatable upgrade package for most businesses. And with SAAS options offering pay-as-you-use options for even the smallest of businesses, AP automation is an easy win—one you’d be smart to consider right away.

What do you think?

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