In 2006, there was a popular movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Sarah Jessica Parkercalled Failure to Launch. The film focuses on a 35-year-old man who lives in the home of his parents and shows no interest in leaving the comfortable life his parents, especially his mother, have made for him there. The Sarah Jessica Parker character is a consultant specializing in establishing relationships with a variety of these live at home characters, in the hopes of building their confidence and getting them to “launch.”
Truth be told, after 20+ years in the document management space, I sometimes get the “failure to launch” feeling when it comes to invoice automation. The reasons for this “not now” position vary a lot from company to company. Here are four of my favorites:
- I don’t understand what kinds of invoice automation solutions are out there.
- Current invoice processes work just fine.
- We don’t have the IT staff to manage an office automation solution.
- I’m not so sure about the ROI of office automation.
Let’s unpack each of these in a bit more detail.
1. I don’t understand what kinds of invoice automation solutions are out there.
I know the search for the right vendor can be daunting, and this often leads to analysis paralysis. But truth be told, invoice automation is a mature technology, and there are lots of vendors out there who can meet your needs. But here are some of the requirements that would be on my shortlist:
Both cloud and on-premises deployment options with consistent capabilities across both platforms. Even if your organization feels it is not ready for the cloud,you want that option. In a recent AIIM survey, more than 80% of respondents said that over the next two years, their deployment strategies would focus on either the cloud or hybrid cloud/on-premises environments.
Clear capabilities for converting manual, paper-centric processes into fast digital workflows. This sounds obvious, but it’s not. Much as you might wish that you could magically just jump into the land of paperless invoice processing, the reality for the immediate future is that this is simply not going to happen. So, you need strong capabilities for digitizing all that paper.
Ease of use and ease of adoption are critical. The days of putting your employees through a long training course to learn to use any solution are gone, as are the days in which mobile solutions operate as second-class citizens to their desktop cousins. No matter what the vendor says, repeat the mantra, “Any device, Anytime, Anywhere, Anybody.”
2. Current invoice processes work just fine.
Here’s why manual and paper processes are such a disadvantage. When an invoice arrives in your accounts payable department, it needs to be approved by the person who ordered the goods and services before you pay the invoice. When you’re routing paper invoices, it’s easy for an invoice to sit in an approver’s inbox for a week, or go missing altogether, resulting in additional employee hours spent and eliminating early payment discounts.
With the digital workflows available through an automated system, documents move through your organization as efficiently as possible, enabling an automatic response to obstacles that arise. In addition, the rising tide of information security and information privacy concerns (like GDPR, for example) – coupled with exploding volumes of incoming documents and information – mean that traditional manual processes are doomed to failure.
3. We don’t have the IT staff to manage an office automation solution.
Yes, this used to be complicated stuff. And it was not unusual for implementation cycles to be quite long. But the cloud has changed that. Implementation plans for modern solutions should be measured in days and weeks, not months and quarters, and with a minimum of IT resources. In addition, the cloud has changed the entire model of how software solutions are kept up to date – the burden for this now rests with the vendor.
4. I’m not so sure about the ROI of office automation.
According to this American Productivity & Quality Center (APQC) data, there is a wide gap between the way top organizations perform relative to those on the bottom. Consider the day-in and day-out impact this has on overall business efficiency, costs, and productivity.
Solutions to automate all of this (the route the top performers take) typically have paybacks of well less than 12 months. And after that, the annual savings drop straight through to the bottom line.
When an approval process is rapid, organizations with a strong cash position are able to take advantage of early payment discounts, a savings of perhaps 2 to 3 percent. The Aberdeen Group notes that bottom performing organizations capture only 18 percent of early payment discounts. Top performing organizations, on the other hand, capture 90 percent of early payment discounts – nearly twice the industry average.
A last word on ROI – look for solutions with cloud-based subscription models. This eliminates upfront investment and pushes ROI squarely to the front of the queue -- both for your organization and for the vendor.
So, get moving. A “failure to launch” mentality when it comes to invoice automation is not just short-sighted when it comes to your invoicing process. It will handicap all sorts of other upstream digital transformation efforts that rely on automated, modern and digital financial processes.
Ready for a better solution for Invoice Processing?