How to Reduce the Paper Load in Accounts Payable

 

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By  Beth Mongold - Content Manager
January 5, 2022                       

At a recent event, I asked the accounting manager of a commercial real estate firm about her most pressing challenges in accounts payable. She paused and said in a frustrated and somewhat embarrassed tone, “Just too much paper!”

Even two years deep into the pandemic, AP teams continue to struggle with processes that rely on a lot of paper pushing. And we know that with all that paper moving around, there are plenty of opportunities for losing information, duplicating efforts, or making small but impactful mistakes.

Even if you want to wade out from under the endless stacks of invoices or check stock, it can be challenging to find the best solutions for your business. And faced with change, we often cling to familiar ways, even if they’re not ideal!

In this blog, we’ll look at ways to reduce — or even eliminate — the amount of paper you’re using throughout the payment cycle.

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Invoice Management: Digitization Leads to Automation

Let’s start where the paper begins: receiving invoices and getting the data into your ERP or accounting system.

If you’re in the “too much paper” camp, you’re most likely receiving paper invoices in the mail, passing them around for approvals, matching them with physical purchase order documents, manually entering the data into your ERP or accounting system, and finally filing the documents.

Ouch.

As an alternative, digitizing your invoices can make a big dent in paper volume and ease your workload. Invoice “digitization” refers to a process that converts and stores paper documents in a digital format. This also lays the foundation for an AP automation strategy. Once the documents are digital, you can apply workflows and automation to move them through the payment cycle.

How to digitize? The best way will depend on your business requirements, the volume of invoices your team handles, and what kind of integration you want with your accounting system.

Here are some steps for digitizing, from simple to more complex:

  1. If you still receive invoices by snail mail, scan the paper documents into a shared folder. This will still require manual entry of the data into your ERP.

  2. Encourage suppliers to send electronic invoices via email and save them to a shared folder — this also requires manual entry of the data, but once payment vouchers have been created, you can attach the digital invoices to associated vouchers for further processing, including approval workflows.

  3. Purchase a document management software that uses optical character recognition (OCR) or artificial intelligence (AI) to automatically capture and read the data once the invoices are in a digital format. Some solutions have portals where a vendor can upload invoices on their end, so your team never has to touch the paper invoice.

Payments: Go Electronic

Once you’ve received invoices and gone through data capture, verification and approvals, it’s time for the output — vendors need to get paid. This step is also paper-intensive if your primary method of payment is paper check.

Although on the decline, checks are still the most common form of payment in the B2B space. According to a PYMNTS 2018 report, usage doesn’t equal satisfaction. For many organizations, especially as they increase in size and spend, checks become a time-consuming and inefficient way to pay.

With the ongoing need for remote work solutions, accounts payable departments are being pressured to offer multiple payment types, and the trend is increasingly electronic.

Here are ways to minimize paper in your payment process:

  1. If you continue to print checks, stop using pre-printed check stock and transition to blank stock in combination with an MICR printing software. This reduces the amount of paper waste due to inevitable printing errors or changes in banking information.

  2. Convert vendors to electronic payment types. ACH / EFT are common, but this can also include credit card or virtual card payment types. You will have to manage these additional payment types within your ERP.

  3. Work with an automation or outsource provider to relieve your AP department from in-house payment processing. Providers will manage the various payment types so you don’t have to.

Solutions for Dynamics GP users

At Mekorma, we know Dynamics GP inside and out. Here are our recommendations:

Invoice Management

  • Smaller companies that don’t process a large volume of invoices in Microsoft Dynamics GP can digitize with Document Attach. “DocAttach” is a simple, built-in tool that allows you to save scanned or electronic documents in GP and attach them to records within the ERP.

  • Mekorma will release an AI-based invoice capture tool in early 2022.

  • For larger organizations, there are numerous document management systems that integrate with Dynamics GP (either partially or fully) and allow for an automated invoice-to-pay process.

Payment Optimization

  • Dynamics GP can be configured for EFT processing. If you haven’t set it up, you may be doing extra work by entering payments into a bank portal and then entering the information AGAIN into GP.

  • Mekorma offers AP software for MICR check printing on blank check stock and EFT processing. Additionally, our Remote Payment Services means you don’t have to print checks in-house anymore. With this solution, your vendors use a portal to safely choose either checks or electronic payments without you having to manage it.

Reducing the amount of paper you handle in your day-to-day operations will generate efficiencies, reduce errors, save you money — and reduce frustration!