As an accounts payable (AP) professional, you’re likely familiar with and excited about the possibilities of automation. Maybe you’ve read about AP automation solutions or heard about competitors in your industry that have implemented automation in their business models. No matter how certain you are of AP automation benefits to your organization, however, implementing this solution is likely not your decision — you need to convince your boss.
Maybe your boss is uncertain of the benefits of AP automation, or maybe they’re unaware of the existence of such solutions. Regardless, you can take the initiative to communicate the benefits of accounts payable automation to your boss, showing them how automation can improve efficiency, save money and help your business keep up with the ever-changing landscape of business technology.
Why You Should Care About AP Automation
The accounts payable department plays an essential role in any company, ensuring that all liabilities are paid accurately and on time. However, manual accounts payable takes a great deal of time and relies heavily on fallible human labor. AP automation solutions eliminate these problems by using a software system to process all accounts payable. AP automation offers the following must-have benefits.
- Reduced error: Error-filled, lost, misfiled and duplicate documents cost organizations significant amounts of money, and there are a lot of them. Nearly 88% of manual accounts payable documents contain at least one error. Automation eliminates these errors by automating transcription and minimizing the potential for human error.
- Improved productivity: When asked why they chose automation, many surveyed companies cited improved productivity. In the U.K. alone, 36% of non-automated companies stated that they were concerned about process delays resulting in late payments. Compare that to automated accounts payable departments, which can process many more invoices per full-time employee as their non-automated peers.
- Faster processing: The average invoice is processed in about 20 days, which is unsurprising due to the fact that manual AP consists of at least 15 steps before posting. Automation reduces this time to three days, speeding up your transaction life cycle. This, in turn, can improve your number of on-time payments, improving your relationships with vendors.
- Improved control: AP automation enables organizations to access information any time, anywhere, improving control and visualization. This increases financial and operational control while helping to reduce duplication errors.
- Eliminated fraud: Corporate fraud is a growing concern, especially in the AP department. By speeding up turnaround and introducing automated and preventative controls, AP automation software helps reduce the potential for fraudulent activity.
- Scalable solutions: AP automation solutions are often scalable, growing and changing with your organization, so you don’t need to make drastic internal changes to staff or processes.
- Minimized costs: Automation can reduce the cost of processing dramatically. Speedy automation also increases companies’ chances of being eligible for vendor discounts, which many businesses offer for early payments.
In other words, AP automation helps your business work smarter, not harder. For this reason, it’s worth it to make an AP automation business case to your boss.
How to Present an AP Automation Business Case
While the prospects of AP automation are exciting, you need to prepare before taking it to your boss. Prepare your case properly by following the steps outlined below:
1. Collect Your Facts
The first step of the process is to do your research. Your boss will not take you seriously if you show up to a meeting with no hard facts. For this reason, your first move should be to collect as much information as possible about AP automation — specifically, facts that speak to your boss’ priorities. Some basic information to gather should include:
- Process benefits: Understand how AP automation solutions work and what benefits they offer to general AP processes. You need to understand the direct benefits of AP automation, like reduced error and processing times, and you should also determine secondary benefits, such as protection against fraud and employee burnout.
- Cost savings: Take a look at industry surveys and case studies to determine what costs and savings other companies are experiencing with AP automation. When possible, look into case studies of businesses that are similar to your own. Also, be sure to consider soft costs like the time it takes to research vendor questions, approve bills or pull information for audits.
- Industry statistics: While knowing specific numbers is excellent, also be sure to look at wider statistics in the industry. For each benefit of AP automation, you should have numerical evidence to back it up. When possible, collect statistics from various reliable sources across the industry to find the most accurate figures.
On top of this information, you should also look into the various types of AP automation solutions available, as each type offers unique benefits.
2. Emphasize AP Automation’s Substantial Impact
Using AP automation can be pivotal for any business, but it can be difficult to put into perspective. Your boss will recognize that some industry statistics won’t necessarily apply to your specific business. If you mention a lot of numbers with no concrete statements, you may make your boss even more skeptical of the idea. For this reason, you need to tailor your data.
Tailoring your business case data primarily involves collecting information about your business and completing detailed return-on-investment (ROI) calculations. This introspective approach to your presentation will require that you analyze every corner of your company to add up all the costs your business faces with manual AP. Some key questions to help direct this research are listed below:
- How much does it currently cost to process invoices and payments?
- How long does it take to process one invoice?
- How long does it take to approve one invoice?
- How long does it take to process a payment?
- Are there any additional costs for processing payments?
- How many errors occur each month and how long does it take to catch one?
- How many invoices does your organization process per month?
These questions only scratch the surface of your company’s AP processes, but they serve as a good start for digging deeper into your current costs and processes. Once you collect all this information, you can use those numbers, along with industry statistics, to calculate potential savings and present a comprehensive ROI analysis. When possible, collect data from multiple AP automation ROI calculators to get as accurate an appraisal as possible.
Another key point to remember is to address your company’s specific pain points. For example, if your AP department’s biggest complaint is its auditing process, discuss how AP automation’s digital document management can make it easier. If your AP department has recently seen an uptick in late payments, focus on how automation cuts processing time from weeks to days. Speaking to the specific needs of your company will support your argument and demonstrate that you’ve done your research.
3. See It From Your Boss’s Point of View
Once you’ve done your research and calculations, adjust your mindset to your boss’ point of view. While the information you’ve collected will provide a fantastic background for your argument and will help prepare you for any questions that may arise, not all of the information will be immediately pertinent to your business case. To avoid rebuttal, see the argument from your boss’s point of view.
To get started in this step of the process, ask yourself what your boss’ priorities and goals are. What would your boss consider to be a major success? What areas are they most concerned about in your AP processes? Once you have a firm grasp of their viewpoint, you can tailor your pitch to your boss’ concerns and organize your presentation based on their priorities.
On top of this framing, you should also keep in mind that your presentation will not exist in a vacuum — your boss is going to ask you questions. AP automation represents a substantial investment for your company, so your boss will naturally be curious. While your background research will prepare you for some of the more detailed questions your boss may ask, there are other business-focused questions to prepare for. Some of these include:
- Why should your business do this now? When your boss asks this, emphasize the fact that each day your business processes invoices manually is another day spent wasting valuable time and money on an inefficient system. By switching now, your business can save more in the long run.
- Why fix our process if it’s already working? While your manual processing system may work, there are likely many issues with sticking to it. Paper processes are more prone to fraud and error, both of which can cost your business substantially. Additionally, manual processes take longer than automated ones, costing your business in labor and potentially resulting in late payments. While the current system may work, automation can help it work better.
- How long will it take to see results? ROI-focused executives will be happy to hear that most companies see improvements immediately. While it takes time for systems to become perfectly integrated, AP automation systems instantly start delivering faster processing times after installation.
- Will this grow with us? Executives are future-thinking individuals, so it is important to emphasize that AP automation solutions are scalable and can actually help your business grow. With improved cost savings, AP automation can help boost your company’s profitability then scale up as your company expands.
- Who else is using this solution? Many companies are leveraging automation in their business processes, especially in accounts payable. Be prepared for this question by doing research within your industry.
One key point to remember in preparing for these questions is that you shouldn’t sell AP automation as a way to make your job easier. While bosses should be interested in ways to make their employees’ lives easier, their first concern is supporting the business. Always frame your answers with this in mind.
4. Be Prepared to Take the Lead
When preparing your business case, keep in mind that your interest may result in you taking the lead for implementing AP automation in your company. You need to be prepared for this possibility. Some things to research beforehand in preparation for this possibility include:
- Vendor types: You should already have a general idea of the available vendor types based on your research into the subject. On top of knowing what each vendor type does, assess each type to determine which varieties would be the best fit for your business.
- Specific vendors: Once you’ve narrowed down your options in solution types, you can then look into specific vendors. This way, you can show your boss that you’ve done the research and have options for them to consider.
- General implementation plans: Come into your business case presentation with a general knowledge of what an AP automation solution implementation plan involves. You should know the steps required, which departments would be involved and how long the process should take. If you need assistance, you should be able to reach out to potential vendors for information.
With this information in hand, you will be prepared to answer your boss if they ask you to take the lead on an AP automation implementation project.
5. Consider Making a Presentation
If your business is on the smaller side or you are presenting to one person, you may be able to state your case in a more informal setting. However, if you want to appear as professional as possible or need to present to more than one person, a presentation may be a better choice. You may also be asked to make a presentation after meeting with your boss so that more stakeholders can hear your pitch.
If you make the decision or are asked to present, you can use all of the information you collected for your business case. When creating your presentation, however, it is essential to keep the following in mind:
- Know the stakeholders: Presentations often include more people than your direct boss. If the presentation is specifically for decision-makers, you’ll often be presenting to executive management and IT professionals. Be sure you know who will be involved beforehand, as these groups are very different in their priorities — while executive management will want to hear about AP automation ROI, IT professionals will want to hear about process and maintenance requirements.
- Double-check your numbers: Scaling up your presentation means that the stakes are higher. Your numbers have to be solid and credible. Provide sources for every piece of information you present, double-check your calculations and have a co-worker or supervisor proofread your work.
- Provide resources: Create a visual presentation for formal presentations and develop a resource for your stakeholders to review during and after the presentation. This can be a detailed write-up or a summary overview of your main points and statistics. Regardless, every part of your presentation should be professional in verbiage and appearance.
In all, a presentation helps organize your argument and makes it look as professional as possible.
Choose Vanguard AP Automation Solutions
Presenting a business case is a daunting prospect, but the benefits of AP automation solutions speak for themselves. AP automation ROI on top of the process benefits make it a valuable addition to any company. If you’re looking for a quality AP automation solution for your business, Vanguard can help.
Vanguard Systems software works to protect and maximize the efficiency of any business. Our accounts payable automation system is more than just a paper-free solution — it’s a comprehensive program designed to eliminate inefficiencies. See our program in action for yourself with a free, no-risk, no-obligation demonstration. To schedule your demo or discuss Vanguard’s software solutions, call 800-445-1418 or contact us online today.