Sie sind auf Seite 1von 18


Fundamentals to Accounts
Payable Process Metamorphosis


Copyright 2016

Table of Contents

Page 2 - Table of Contents

Page 3 - Greeting to Readers
Page 4 - Introduction
Page 5 - Chapter 1 Making The Ride More Enjoyable - Leveraging AP
Automation Technology To Empower Your AP Staff To Do First Things First!
Page 8 - Chapter 2 Harnessing The Monetary Power Of Invoice Automation &
Payment Optimization!
Page 12 Chapter 3 Reducing Risk Through Payment Optimization
Page 15 Chapter 4 - The Impacts Of AP Process Visibility
Page 17 Conclusion
Page 18 About OnPay Solutions & CloudX

Dear reader:

Were delighted that youve chosen to check out this ebook. We hope you find it valuable in
expanding your view into the possibilities of a transformed accounts payable process. Weve
put this together with the help of our friends and partners at OnPay Solutions, who have deep
expertise in the area of payments optimization and ePayables.

Our knowledge of transactional document process management combined with OnPay
Solutions insights into payment automation create a broad and deep understanding of the
necessary means to make the end to end AP invoice and payment cycle as robust as possible.
Out of this, weve distilled some of our key thoughts into this work and as a result believe you
will find it a valuable asset in your journey towards payables optimization.

Wed be thrilled to help you continue your journey towards AP automation and ePayables and
you can reach us directly at or visit our respective blogs at: &

Once again thanks for your time and enjoy!

Best regards,

Chris Cosgrove
SVP & Head of Marketing


Accounts Payable is easily one of the most paper-burdened areas in todays back office. Due to
the disparity of systems between suppliers and purchasers, there is a constant flow of
paperwork at various stages of the procurement cycle. These include invoices, purchase orders,
receiving documents, statements, tax documentation, checks, and various others. Except for
the case of Electronic Data Interchange or eInvoicing, most companies typically deal with this
issue by scaling up their staff and getting to entry that is. This is because it is typically
the easiest approach, in the sense that it doesnt require tons of planning or process change to
deploy. However, it also comes with a high price tag and a set of data accuracy, process
timeliness, and risk issues to boot.

As such, many companies pressured by economic stresses and a desire to do things smarter and
better, are looking for ways to transform their AP processes from both an invoice processing
and payments standpoint. The thrust of what were discussing today is a set of foundational
takeaways that weve seen repeatedly during our travels as weve helped customers embark
upon their own automation and AP improvement initiatives.

While each fundamental may not be relevant to each reader as every organization is at its own
point on the spectrum of AP automation, we believe there is still value to be gleaned from the
sum of the parts and so with that said we look forward to guiding you to new perspectives in the
art of the possible for todays forward thinking finance leaders who are looking to revitalize and
transform their AP processes.

Incidentally, the game has shifted in a major way from that of straight cost reduction in AP to
total value generation. This is a pivotal thing in that not only can costs be slashed but what was
a former resource drain to the corporate back office can be completely and thoroughly turned
on its head to become a sustainable source of revenue to the back office and the proverbial
goose which lays the golden egg. If thats new thinking to you then, were happy to have
spurred that thought on and we advise you to dig in to exactly how this is possible in the ensuing

Chapter 1 Making the ride more enjoyable - Leveraging AP Automation

technology to empower your AP staff to do first things first!

Steven Covey wrote the critically acclaimed and highly influential self-help book entitled The 7
Habits of Highly Effective People. While we dont have the requisite time to do the book in its
entirety justice in this section, we do want to focus on Habit #3...Doing first things first. Said
another way, it means prioritizing our activities in such a way that the important (aka high value)
ones get the precedent in the course of our daily life. Too often these get brushed aside or are
subservient to competing interests which may crowd out the truly valuable ones. This happens
all the time when the important becomes slave to the urgent...think putting out fires instead of
getting to work on things that will benefit and improve your work load and life in the mid to long
term (things that will prevent fires from happening in the first place).

So, with that said, its little wonder that many finance leaders, when looking into improvements
in their back office process are also kicking over rocks in the vein of finding ways to maximize
the value of their peoples work, consider AP automation a means to many positive ends. How
is that?

Statement of facts:

1. AP is one of the most paper burdened and onerous areas of the corporate landscape,
necessitating copious amounts of data entry, validation, and matching.
2. AP tends to get lesser amounts of investment capital due to it being a back office silo,
and non-contributor to the corporate bottom line (until virtual card rebate streams
enter the picture).
3. More companies are looking for ways to do more with less and get rid of wasteful
4. Cloud-based delivery and app customization is enabling many businesses to improve
where previously only Enterprise scale companies had the resources necessary to tackle
significant challenges.

The primary focus in terms of deploying automation in your Accounts Payable process is to
identify the areas that can be automated right out of the chute. With respect to data entry,
validation, and matching efforts, technology tools like optical character recognition and
advanced logic can stem the conversion and analysis of data that is otherwise only available
through a manually arduous effort. Because of this, many companies that are serious about
getting beyond superficial improvements to their process will jump in with both feet and deploy
a technology solution that addresses these components. However, the challenge of introducing
a technology robust enough to meaningfully resolve these issues is not just cost centric. OCR by
default is an odd-ball technology, which has been around for some time, but has been mastered
by few. Because of this, sourcing talent to manage it internally is dicey. Secondarily, OCR can
saddle an organization with sizable front loaded investment when deployed in a traditional
manner (server based). However, newer cloud-based SaaS approaches blend the data upload,
conversion, validation, and release functions on a transactional costing basis, so many
companies who are now embracing said technologies dont have to swallow hard in the face of
six or seven figure software price tags that are in some cases unjustifiable.

Our point in bringing this to light is to approach AP automation from the lense of what makes
the most sense for your business. This would be to include driving cost reduction across
wasteful or burdened process methodologies for starters which delivers time back to your
people. Time, invested wisely, is your organizations most valuable asset when harnessed
properly. First, youll need less time to complete processing of your invoices and most
automation initiatives of the sort we are referencing will typically yield 70% gains in processing
cycle times. The reason being is that document delivery is electronic, data validation and entry
is automated. There are still some manual components that may need to happen including
exception handling, GL-coding, and electronic approvals (where automation may not be possible
though in many cases it IS possible). With that said, some subset of invoices will still require
troubleshooting due to pricing / quantity discrepancies or other legitimate issues. However, this
newfound excess of time has two implications:
Reduced need for FTEs to manage the same task
The capacity for FTE reassignment to higher order activities

Another consideration for AP automation, centers around payment optimization. You see, most
companies are still paying vendors in increasingly antiquated means compared to the modern

methods that are available to them. This means, many folks are still cutting paper based checks
and placing them in the mail, making an already long process longer. The average invoice takes
between 10-25 days to turn around and approve for payment according to recent data from
Paystream Advisors. Cutting a check can add an extra 5-7 days for delivery and posting of the
check, stretching out the time it takes to turn an invoice and receive cash to soul numbing
proportions, but well tackle this in depth in another section. Suffice it to say that, if youre
paying things manually you are not getting the maximum value out of our AP process and you
should consider some newer methods for generating value out of your payables
department. Automation in this area will free up your staff to not be beholden to check runs,
envelope stuffing, and the like in getting your payments out the door.

While were not full blown advocates for staff augmentation, the facts are the facts. Post
automation, youll need less resources to do the same job. However, this only the beginning
point of achieving value within your payables life cycle. As we will uncover in an ensuing
chapter, theres far more valuable strategic roles that you can elevate your AP staff into,
assuming youre not content with cost reduction alone. Monetizing the process may be the
most singularly overlooked component in terms of assessing the worth of AP
automation. However, both AP automation and payment optimization hinge on the deployment
of state of the art technologies to utterly transform our process. The good news is that for
those who have the vision and fortitude to embark into the unfamiliar, the rewards for doing so
will be great.

Chapter 2 Harnessing The Monetary Power Of Invoice Automation &

Payment Optimization!

Many pieces have been written on the virtues of automating payments from both a process and
profitability standpoint. With that said, it makes sense to revisit the potential gains of this area
as many organizations have yet to fully realize the benefits associated with automation. Part of
this has to do with antiquated models of software deployment and long term ROIs that many
business executives cant justify investment in. However, modern, cloud-based, transactional
models afford the same automation impacts of traditional on premises software, with a price
tag that is typically a fraction of the cost.

Lets take a look at both invoice processing and payment methodologies to uncover the costs
associated with each area and where its possible to trim the excess.

Invoice Processing

The beginning of wisdom is the definition of terms, and for this component, the terms that need
to be defined are what what invoice processing actually means. Essentially, this is the process
component that encompasses invoice presentment and processing, but before actual payment
occurs. To be more precise, it entails the physical receipt (whether hard copy or digital), data
entry, matching and reconciliation, GL-coding, and approval processes that have to happen for
an invoice to be processed to the point where it can be paid. This area represents the bulk of
human labor efforts that have to occur to get an invoice prepared for payment, and as a result
typically contain the highest number of cost components from a time and effort
perspective. With that said, its worth delving into for this reason as the gains from an improved
process are numerous and sustainable.

The Average Cost to process an invoice is over $6.29 according to The Aberdeen Group. Best in
class organizations per the same study process their invoices for $3.34 per transaction while
laggards invoice processing costs are over $16.67 per invoice according to the same study
(Invoice Automation in a Networked Economy, 2012).

In most cases automation can improve invoice processing cycles by over 70% to completely
manual processes. While certain benefits can be derived solely through the initial push for
electronic archival of invoices from a storage and retrieval perspective. However, in order to
juice the process for all its worth, its necessary to tackle several components
simultaneously. For starters, data entry, which tends to be the most onerous aspect of invoice
processing, needs to be fully automated (or as close to fully automated as possible) through
advanced optical character recognition (OCR). This, combined with data correction (of the less
than 2% of characters that OCR may be unsure of in terms of accuracy) enable AP staff to get
out from underneath the drudgery that is invoice entry. Now, in harnessing the data lifted from
all the data fields off the invoice, automated secondary validation can offload the task of invoice
matching be it 2 or 3 way (either against open purchase order data or receiving data or
both). This is another major time consumer in the data entry process especially for companies
who rely heavily on PO line item matching in their invoice approval processes. In most cases
nearly 80% of this effort can be streamlined as well.

Once invoice data has been captured, validated, and indexed, that data can and should be
utilized to drive the process forward dynamically. For non-PO based invoices, this data can be
used to drive automated workflow and escalation processes to swiftly GL-code and assign
invoices to the appropriate departmental approvers with minimal effort. This becomes a time
and money saving effort for AP staff, but more importantly can begin to eliminate mundane
tasks for higher dollar value FTEs including departmental managers and executives, freeing
them up to concentrate on core duties.

Finally, integration harnessing the invoice data into the back end ERP or accounting system
needs to be in place through whatever means possible. This may include direct, API, flat file
(alternatively .csv / .xls, etc.), or even automated robotic technology that writes data in
mimicking human effort, but autonomously. Any of these methods frees up AP staff to focus on
higher order activities and slashes manual processing efforts and their inherent costs.

Payment Optimization

Once the heavy lifting of invoice matching, approval routing, GL-coding, and data entry have
been thoroughly automated, the final component to tackle lies in payment optimization and
automation. Payments represent another significant area of opportunity for AP department
transformation. With The Accounts Payable Networks cost benchmark of $5.14 per check cut
for the average company, its little wonder that savvy finance leaders are searching out ways to
eliminate these nagging costs. However, given the changing landscape of payments, and
specifically the advent of virtual card payment technologies, its not only possible to slash costs
in this area, but actually monetize them to the point where AP, which is normally a cost center
for most organizations (hence why it gets little investment comparative to front office areas
likes Sales & Marketing) and morph it into a profit center.

Lets look at the following sample scenario to show how much an organization can impact its
costs and the financial upside it can reap:

ABC Corp

Annual Revenue


Annual AP Spend


Monthly AP Spend


AVG # Invoices / Mth


Number of AP Processors

AP Processor Load


AVG Cost to Process Invoice


Monthly AP Invoice Processing Cost


% of spend paid via check


AVG # checks / Mth


AVG Cost to Process Check


Monthly AP Check Processing Cost


Total Monthly AP Processing Cost


% Productivity Improvement Invoice Processing



Improved AP Processor Load


Improved Staff Count


Improved Cost to Process Invoice


Improved Monthly AP Invoice Processing Cost


Monthly Invoice Processing Cost Savings


% Improvement in Checks Cut


Improved # Checks / Mth


Check Processing Cost Savings


Total Monthly Processing Cost Savings


Monthly Cash Rebates @ 1.25%


Annual Cash Rebates @ 1.25%


Total Monthly Impact


As you can see, profound gains can be had both from the cost reduction channel as well as the
rebate generation channel. Combined, the two create a compelling business case for
automation. What makes this doubly appealing is that in the most modern approaches to AP &
payment automation, there isnt a need for major capital investments as cloud-based
approaches offer immediate returns on services that are garnered quickly instead of long term
return on investment scenarios that deployed software typically requires.

In addition to the financial impacts, the operational and strategic elements of both of these
types of automation are profound, essentially giving finance leadership the icing on the cake and
should not be discounted.

Another category not to be overlooked is that of Early Payment Discounts.

Early Payment Discounts

In an effort to extract maximum value from your accounts payable process, the savvy AP leader
has to have a quiver full of options by which to entice ones vendors to engage in some manner
of transactional conduct that provides some level of additional value beyond the goods or
services already rendered.


Chapter 3 Reducing Risk Through Payment Optimization

Simply stated there is huge risk in making payments.

Those of us working in the world of A/P Automation and Payment Optimization are baffled
when we hear that a perpetrator has taken a gun and walked into a bank branch to steal
money. Why would they take such a risk when all they really need is a laptop, a piece of blank
check stock and a laser printer to steal money? In addition to the low-information good-ol
fashioned bank robbers, you may be aware that more informed criminals are perpetrating
fraud by posing as a CEO or CFO and emailing unsuspecting A/P departments with wire
instructions for payments that must be made immediately. These payments, of course, go
directly to a criminals bank account. Additionally, ACH fraud can be executed similarly or by
internal sources within the business who have access to edit account and routing numbers
without separation of duties or payment auditing that allows such to be recognized and

In 2015 the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP) conducted a Payment Fraud and
Control Survey asked businesses to assess the level of fraudulent events occurring. Based on
their findings, it is clear that the need for payment technology security is crucial. Results
document that 62 percent of companies were targets of payment fraud in the year before. And,
because ACH transfers nearly doubled, from 14 percent in 2013 to 27 percent in 2014 year,
businesses were more at risk for fraudulent transactions.


What can your company really do to make sure you're not an easy target for people trying to
commit fraud? It all begins with an assessment of where you are right now, so you know what
changes need to be made.

Consider Both External and Internal Threats
Companies can find themselves in trouble when systems are not in place to monitor and actively
track activity. From creating phony accounts, to adjusting the amounts of payments, and more,
employees who believe that payments arent being monitored closely commit payment
fraud. Externally, forged or phony checks are common, as are debit and credit card transactions
that are fraudulent. You could also be the victim of a hacker if your data isn't secure.

Limit the Number of Rush Decisions
Some companies find themselves the targets of fraud when they rush through making financial
decisions. Ask, why is there such a hurry? What does the employee/contractor really need?

When accepting a check from a customer who's in a hurry and making a large purchase, or when
an unknown someone wants to contract for a large amount on credit, or a person calls claiming
to be from the payment processor and needing information, rushing payment without due
diligence can lead to being defrauded,

Payment Security starts with Accounts Payable Departments following standardized processes
that require separation of duties for issuing payments. At the minimum, we recommend that
the person who keys in a payment (paper or ePayment) not issue the payment. Another
employee should issue. Next, we expect that any system or tool used to issue ACH payments
maintain all vendor bank account data in an encrypted file, not accessible nor editable by
anyone internally without the highest level of security clearance. (Note: although high-end ERP
systems issue electronic payments, many do not specialize in payment processing and their
applications do not contain this added protection against an internal fraud.)

To mitigate against calls or email hoaxes that cause Wire Fraud, require your team to use a twostep or two-factor authentication for emails. Krebson Security earlier this year published an
article detailing losses companies suffered in 2015 as a result of CEO email hoaxes as reported
by the FBI. Also, the FBI urges companies to establish other communication channels such as
telephone calls to verify significant transactions to help mitigate the possibility of losses.

Here are others that should be enabled by the payment technology you use.

1. Positive Pay- Use this tool when issuing check payments to create a file that provides your
bank with check numbers, dollar amounts and the payees for all check payments you are
2. Separation of Duties- Critical for larger departments, but can be effective in any business
setting. Use hierarchical level controls over access to ensure that one person does not have too
much control over issuing payments...have one person input payments, another approve (see
next) and a third actually issue payments to resolve many security concerns.
3. Multiple Levels of Approval- Don't depend on one person approve transactions. Better -- have
approvals go through multiple levels especially if for a very large transaction. If necessary even
demand a hand signature for very high dollar check payments.


4. Secure Data Transmission- Ensure that your payment system will securely transfer data over
the network and directly to your financial institution with SFTP (SSH File Transfer Protocol, or
Secure File Transfer Protocol).
5. Audit Trail Reporting- This practice is nothing more than an electronic "paper trail." An AP
manager should be able to go behind employees to see who's creating, approving, issuing and
even cashing items. This is a good practice not only for mitigating security concerns, but for also
satisfies auditing requirements.

If you are not able to follow these practices due to limitations within your systems, then by all
means look for alternatives that allow you to minimize your risk and mitigate against fraud.

The bottom-line is that Risk when making payments are unavoidable but with the right
precautions in place such as using trusted payment automation technology, you will prevent
unauthorized ACH debit transactions, and avoid both employee and paper check fraud. The
audit trail with your payment technology can and should be able to provide insight if any
suspicious activity occurs.


Chapter 4 - The Impacts of AP Process Visibility

One of the hallmarks of both Accounts Payable automation and payment optimization is a
streamlined process. While weve already discussed how these amazing technologies and
methods for improving process can help your people prioritize first things first and get to work
on higher order activities, we have yet to really hit on just how impactful visibility to all of your
wonderful data is and its implications. Certainly all AP processes are data driven. However,
when AP is encumbered by manual processing, not much really happens for the good, because
every day is a grind just to get through the fat stacks of 8.5 x 11 that pile up on all your peoples
desks. Because just surviving the unrelenting onslaught of paper is a chore unto itself, its hard
to imagine a world much different than that until and unless you actually pursue automation full
bore as weve describe in the previous sections.

With that said, for the brave folks who will take the time to invest in reworking the process and
deploying the powerful tools necessary to improve this space, there are myriad benefits. In this
section we want to deal with the power of visibility. Sometimes perspective is a wonderful
thing, and that has never been truer than AP. Perspective into your process and every detail
within it affords you the opportunity to mine out the good stuff from your process to make
magic happen.


How so?

From a front end invoice processing perspective here are just a few benefits that can be had
only through the visibility AP automation provides:

1. Visibility to processing queues - When you have an electronic document management
centric AP automation system, you have the ability to track down to the invoice who is
handling what. This means that any given time you have the ability to know and see
exactly who is responsible for processing any given vendor. Additionally, you can auto
assign vendors to specific staff, if you have priority vendors or special processing
needs. This also makes troubleshooting problem vendors (or staff daresay) a breeze and
adds the benefit of a heightened degree of accuracy and accountability within the
2. Approver bottleneck elimination - Beyond invoice processing queues, you can look in on
departmental approvers to see who may be holding up the show...the approval show
that is. Some approvers may not be in tune with the number of invoices that they have
queueing so you can use your oversight (aka visibility into the process) to nudge people
forward or if need be delegation to intervene and escalate things forward. This is
helpful for two additional financial reasons, a. To meet early payment discount
deadlines which tend to very tight and b. To meet payment due dates and in so doing
avoid late fees. Both of these result in you minimizing negative exposure and
maximizing financial outcomes via your payment process.
3. Audit & forecasting impacts - Another ancillary duty that AP has to deal with on a
monthly and certainly annual basis are things like accrual forecasting or audit
queries. Either way, visibility to your process and invoice data and images expedites
these processes by making all of the meta data associated with the invoices available to
the user. Additionally, some robust systems today provide auditors demilitarized
access so to speak, whereby they can access the documents and information they need
without burdening AP staff to retrieve physical files and in so doing ease the burden of
the audit and speed up the audit process concurrently.

These are just a few ways that AP automation ushers in visibility and has tangible impact on the
day to day goings on of a busy accounts payable department, but the list doesnt end there.

From a payment optimization standpoint theres more to consider, visibility into payment data
means reduced handling time of payments by both AP staff and your vendors. Part of this
presumes that you are tapping into the potency of some form of a collaborative vendor portal
that allows your vendor to participate in the payment process and see for themselves the exact
status of their payments. In turn this means less inbound phone activity for AP staff and more
time on point in terms of core responsibilities. Any way you slice it, visibility is a game-changer
for those managing the payables process and something you shouldnt be content to do



As you can see from the ground we covered in this brief piece, AP certainly has the potential to
be more than it is for many companies. Instead of being another resource-sucking, paper laden
quagmire of tedious labor, it has the potential to be a fruitful source of strategic insight and
profitability to the corporate back office. To effect this change, its going to require a new
perspective in looking at the process and the problems that need to be addressed. For most AP
leaders, that has to do with realigning their process in accordance with a modern technology
stack that drives the process intelligently and intuitively.

The thrust of what weve been looking at centers around the gains you can make by going
through a transformation effort, though it certainly is something that will require analysis,
planning, and certain execution to achieve. Granted, once achieved, the rewards will be many
and both tangible and intangible. From our perspective there are few pursuits within the
Payables landscape that have the worth and significance of both AP automation and payment
optimization. In short, we think its the most worthwhile thing a savvy finance leader can
pursue in their back office because the rewards are sizable and sustainable. Further, and
possibly most importantly, they are attainable. Not pie in the sky goals that sound great but are
really impractical. As youll see if you have the fortitude and desire to pursue AP improvement
initiatives, the benefits will pile up and youll be glad you did.

We encourage you in your travels and want to offer our services in guiding your automation and
optimization efforts as you go forwards.

Sincere thanks to you for your time in reading this!

All the best!

The CloudX & OnPay Solutions Teams!

P.S. While learning about how to transform your process is a fantastic start, theres another
big thing wed suggest which is to benchmark your current AP process key performance
indicators against industry data. With this you can see exactly how much an automation effort
can yield you from a variety of viewpoints, including risk-mitigation, cost-reduction, revenue
generation, and visibility creation! Click the icon below to register for free!


About Us:

OnPay Solutions focuses exclusively on business-to-business payments. We create payment
applications and offer payment web services to enhance efficiency and productivity for
Accounts Payable. Our products and services help businesses make payments in the most
efficient way possible all while allowing them to remain bank-neutral. OnPay Solutions provides
software solutions, hosted solutions, consulting services and outsourced check printing services
to help business achieve maximum efficiency and even a revenue stream back into their
accounts payable department.

For more information about payment optimization and how to streamline your payment process
visit us at

Contact us at: Phone: 904-786-6369 or e-mail us at

CloudX is a leading provider of document process outsourcing solutions for multiple burdened
back office processes including: accounts payable invoice processing, accounts receivable
remittance processing, sales order processing, & payment processing. CloudX also provides
customized capture, document management, and data connectivity solutions for business of all
sizes so that any business that uses its cloud-based blend of solutions and services can break
performance barriers while boosting productivity and profitability. CloudX makes dynamic,
actionable business data available to its customers for enhanced business outcomes serving
customers around the globe and across numerous industries.

For more information about accounts payable automation or document process outsourcing
visit us at:

Contact us at: Phone: 860.787.5323 or e-mail us at