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How to Select the Right AP Automation Partner for Your Organization

Modern finance leaders are pursuing accounts payable (AP) automation solutions with several goals in mind…

Maybe you want to eliminate manual data entry and give your staff back time for more high-value tasks. Maybe you’re focusing on cost reduction given today’s economy. Maybe you’re hoping to improve vendor relationships.

Regardless of the specific objectives you’re aiming for this year, most AP teams have the same overarching goal that will bring these more unique ones to fruition: streamline invoice processing. In fact, a December 2023 survey revealed 93% of businesses expect accounts payable and accounts receivable technology to deliver “accurate, efficient and streamlined processes”.

But in order to achieve this goal – and any others that rely on its fulfillment – you need to partner with the right accounts payable process automation provider. Let’s dive into how to do just that.

Understand the Risks of Choosing the Wrong Partner

First thing’s first: you need to fully comprehend the importance of selecting the right partner.

There are a lot of AP automation solution providers out there and there are more risks associated with choosing the wrong one than simply not fulfilling your goals, including:

  • Cost overruns from unexpected expenses, implementation delays, and customization
  • Process inefficiencies from convoluted workflows and poor integration with legacy systems
  • Low user adoption rates if the technology is too complex or difficult to use
  • Strained supplier relationships due to delayed or erroneous payments
  • Lack of flexibility to adjust to changing business needs or efficiently scale your operations
  • Increased risk of payment fraud from inadequate controls and a lack of data encryption
  • Prolonged disruption to AP processes from insufficient support and unresolved issues
  • Competitive disadvantage compared to companies that have successfully automated AP

Analyze Your AP Function’s Current State

Once you understand the risks of choosing the wrong invoice processing automation partner, you need to consider your current state. Start by assessing your processes, charting your workflows, and understanding your integration requirements.

You should also spend some time identifying your unique pain points. For some AP teams, an overreliance on optical character recognition (OCR) technology is resulting in high failure rates for line-item matching and unnecessary manual work. For others, fraud has become a major challenge. An Institute of Financial Operations and Leadership (IFOL) study found that 66% of AP departments aren’t well protected from fraud.

Determining your pain points and assessing where you currently stand will help you determine your desired AP automation outcomes as well as the qualities you need in a partner and the functionalities you need in a solution.

Strive for Complete Automation

Did you know only 10% of organizations have achieved full AP automation?

You should strive to be a part of that 10%. Avoid settling for a partner with solutions that don’t deliver complete invoice processing automation.

Some providers only process some of your invoices. The best ones, however, offer platforms that aggregate, process, and post all paper and electronic invoices submitted by suppliers. They even offer services to receive and process mailed-in paper invoices on your behalf.

Additionally, avoid settling for a solution provider who can’t integrate their solution with your legacy systems, and, therefore, can’t finish the job. The best AP automation software solutions post invoices directly to legacy systems such as enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications and accounting platforms – without the need for human operator intervention.

And that’s not all that goes into a complete, touch-free solution. Look for a partner with proven capture capabilities, data validation tools, two-way and three-way matching, and exceptions resolution services in addition to system integrations and the ability to process both paper and electronic invoices.

Prioritize Financial Data Security

Ensuring data security is critical in today’s high-risk financial environment. According to the Association for Financial Professionals’ 2023 Payment Fraud and Control Survey Report, 65% of organizations fell victim to payment fraud in 2022.

This statistic alone makes finding an accounts payable automation partner who prioritizes data security crucial. The best providers offer solutions that have built-in controls to help prevent cyberattacks and payment fraud. Look for user access permissions, separation of duties, systematic workflows, complete audit logging, automated document and data retention, and advanced data encryption.

When vetting potential vendors, you should also look for ones who comply with industry regulations and standards, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), and Systems and Organization Controls (SOC) 2 Type 2. A solution provider who meets these standards is committed to safeguarding data.

Require Quality Customer Support

While the invoice processing technology itself is, of course, important, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle. A quality accounts payable automation partner offers quality customer support services every step of the way.

Take each solution provider’s average response time and escalation procedures into account. Consider whether their service level agreements (SLAs) meet your expectations for uptime, performance, and availability.

And ask prospective vendors whether they will assign you a project manager with experience overseeing AP automation projects. A partner who can appoint you a project manager who will be your point of contact throughout the automation process is more likely to provide top-notch support.

If you’re struggling to gain a good sense of whether or not a prospective partner can provide the quality customer support you need and deserve, don’t hesitate to request references. Your peers who have first-hand experience with the vendor you’re considering are the best source of customer support information.

Take a Forward-Thinking Approach

Long-term thinking is crucial when making any business investment – and an accounts payable automation solution is no exception.

The partner you select should be your partner for several years to come, meaning they should be able to offer you a solution that can scale and adapt to your organization’s long-term needs. The technology should provide ease of use, ease of integration, and adaptability. Keep these qualities in mind during product demonstrations and don’t be afraid to inquire more about each.

At the same time, your partner should be able to offer workflow configurability, user training services, and support for emerging technologies.

The Right AP Automation Partner for You

Choosing the right invoice processing partner for your organization is anything but an easy task. You need to:

  1. Consider the repercussions of choosing the wrong partner.
  2. Determine your invoice processing needs.
  3. Understand the difference between complete and incomplete automation.
  4. Prioritize data security.
  5. Make quality customer support a must-have.
  6. Think long-term.

Taking these steps is difficult and can be time-consuming – especially when you don’t find a partner who checks off all your boxes the first time around.

Luckily, MetaSource does check off the boxes for many AP teams. We offer a complete end-to-end invoice processing solution that integrates with any ERP or accounting software, always prioritize data security (yes, we meet SOC 2 Type 2, HIPAA, GDPR, and PCI DSS standards!), build scalable products, and take pride in providing the best customer support possible.

Ready to get started with an AP automation solution today? Contact us to speak to an expert. Not quite ready to chat? Download our free guide to learn more about what to look for in a partner.

5 Key Qualities to Look for in an AP Automation Partner

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