January 8, 2013 The Growth of Payables Automation Systems
I recently read an article discussing the growth of Payables Automation Systems. The article suggested the use of payables automation systems would grow 32% by 2016.
Research firms have been predicting rapid growth of payables automation for quite some time now, but the scale of the growth now seems to be hitting the mainstream accounts payable department. That’s good news for payables departments that are usually a bit more conservative than other groups. Although it’s still looked at as new technology, iPayables has been offering payables automation solutions since 1999 with large customers like American Airlines using the technology for more than a decade now. So the payables department that is considering AP automation can feel a bit more comfortable that many of these solutions have been around for a long time now and have a good track record with reference-able clients.
Payables automation suppliers are becoming more popular and more competitive. Providers who once offered only a small portion of functionality have a more complete offering than before. The pioneers of payables automation are creating functionality that goes beyond the basics and have some really fun aspects of their solutions. All in all, it’s an exciting time to be implementing payables automation.
If you’re ready to start researching an AP automation project, I would suggest a few guiding principles:
- Talk to a few providers (include iPayables, of course) to understand their payables automation solution before you start listing what you’re looking for. We have many people who will build a project around a couple of requirements, form a project, and then discover that there is a lot more to payables automation than they anticipated. It is very common to have a payables automation project that is looking for only scanning and workflow. When they discover the electronic invoicing, matching, dynamic discounting and comprehensive nature of a true payables automation solution, they sometimes feel like they need to start the project from scratch.
- Look for an enterprise-wide solution (and prepare others for it). You might be tempted to go with a solution that doesn’t impact the organization, something you can quietly implement without disturbing anyone. However, payables automation does change how the entire business does payables. You can’t truly change how the entire business does payables without impacting the entire organization. Yes, you will have people who like signing their name to approve an invoice and they might complain about change, but automation is change. Change is the goal.
- Be prepared to check references. Some solutions are a better fit for your organization than others. Talk to a couple of their clients to see how they use the payables automation solution. Ask what the payables clerks they had before they implemented are doing now. (If they still have the same clerks doing similar work, then they really didn’t automate anything). Talking to a solution provider’s clients might be difficult, but it is really important. Don’t skip this step!
There are other items to consider, but the above bullet points are things that I’ve frequently seen missed. If you have payables automation on your list of new year’s resolutions, then be excited about it. It’s a great time to automate your payables department!