How to Get Executive Buy-In to Overhaul Your AP Department

by Shan Haq

The need for an accounts payable (AP) automation is paramount. Despite the many obvious reasons for one, getting your CEO to sign off on your idea might take some thought.

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If you’re the head of an accounting department or a CFO, the need for accounts payable (AP) automation is obvious.

Relying on paper-based workflows is both error-prone and gobbles up significant chunks of time needlessly. It’s impossible for your AP team to work efficiently and produce at their highest levels. Rather than focusing effort on the most important things, your team ends up spending countless hours pushing paper, handling invoices, looking for supporting documents to fix invoice exceptions and getting approvals.

While cutting wasted labor by adding automation to your department might seem like a no-brainer to you, that initiative has to compete against a number of other projects, which can make it difficult to get your CEO on board.

When you’re looking to automate AP, you first need to demonstrate that there will be a strong return on investment that will save you money. To get your CEO to sign off on your idea, you’ll also have to differentiate your project. Keep reading for three easy ways to make the case for AP automation.

  1. AP automation puts your department in a position to succeed — in any economy.

When you invest in AP automation solutions, you put your department in a position to succeed whether the economy is booming or busting. At a core level, AP automation enables you to trim the fat off of your department, meaning you’ll only have as many people as you need to run the show — no more, no less.

In a booming economy where you’re processing more and more invoices, the technology will be able to handle the increased throughput without you needing to hire more people. On the flip side, when the economy goes south, you won’t have to let go of people; you'll always have the exact number of people you need.

Add it all up, and AP automation gives you a flexible way to move forward and respond to whatever economy comes your way.

  1. AP automation gives you a lot of bang for your buck.

Compared to other software implementations, AP automation is not a significant investment in terms of money or human resources. Since the best AP automation platforms are delivered via the cloud as software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions, you get a lot of bang for your back.

In other words, AP automation solutions don’t make life harder for existing IT employees; it’s not a big ask in terms of implementation and maintenance. Plus, it’s an investment you make only once. When you partner with the right provider, you get the peace of mind that comes with knowing you will always be able to leverage the latest innovations, and there won’t be any need to rip and replace your solution to move to another one.

Additionally, leading solutions are intuitive by design and easy to use for employees and suppliers alike. As a result, you won’t incur excess training costs, and you won’t have to deal with frustrated employees who can’t figure their way around the software.

  1. AP automation has a positive impact on your entire operation.

By taking care of repetitive, manual tasks, AP automation will improve the daily lives of the people in your AP department. In today’s difficult labor market, this is no small thing. By making work easier and more enjoyable for your AP team, you increase engagement and reduce the likelihood they will leave your company looking for better opportunities.

But the benefits of AP automation extend outside the AP department itself. For example, by automating AP workflows, you improve the supplier experience by giving them access and insight into payment details. Instead of calling up your AP department to track down payments, suppliers can log into a self-service portal and find all of that information themselves. This improves your supplier relationships — something that’s vital in a world riddled with supply chain challenges.

At the same time, AP automation gives your finance team more visibility into your financial position. With AP automation, the finance team is able to access real-time data about outstanding liabilities and your current cash position. What’s more, the procurement department also gets more visibility into orders and finances, which enables them to leverage more robust information and reporting around suppliers and spend.

Ready to sell your CEO on the promise of AP automation?

While automation can transform your AP workflows and help you build a more efficient AP team, the benefits of the technology don’t stop there. Not only does AP automation future-proof your accounting workflows and make your employees happier, but it also increases the chances your supplier relationships get stronger over time.

When you make the case for AP automation properly, your CEO should buy in relatively quickly. Since the project won’t take too long to complete and won’t drain too much of your budget, your organization will be able to move on to the next project before you know it.

Shan Haq is vice president of corporate strategy and development at Transcepta.