As your small or midsize enterprise (SME) grows, the once-simple process of paying suppliers can run amok as the growing number of vendors multiplied by multi-step Accounts Payable (AP) processes spirals out of control. But there’s good news. When it comes to paying vendors, there’s plenty of opportunity for online payment solutions to simplify, streamline—and put you back in control.
Like any SME, you need to pay vendors, contractors and partners what you owe them. You need to do it accurately and on time. You don’t want to pay money you don’t owe, or fall victim to fraud. Nor do you want invoices to fall between the cracks, generating late payment charges and damaging relationships with key suppliers. So you do need reliable AP processes and procedures. But the time you spend managing vendor payments is usually time you aren’t spending serving customers, innovating new products and services or building competitive advantage. That’s where today’s online payment solutions and online collaboration tools come in.
Traditional AP involves collecting manual invoices (often received by postal mail); processing and posting invoices in your general ledger; routing them for management approval; printing and signing checks; printing envelopes, adding postage, and mailing checks to recipients; and making sure all corresponding payment data is appropriately entered and reconciled. Modern online payment solutions can automate or eliminate many of those steps. Moreover, their built-in online collaboration tools streamline essential vendor payment workflows, so invoice reviewers get timely reminders. Nothing sits around waiting to be moved to the next step in the process, and you aren’t constrained by process inefficiencies in deciding when to pay each invoice.
Capturing Incoming Invoice Data Without Manual Keystroking
Traditionally, invoices arrive in multiple forms—by email in PDF and other formats, by fax, and even in print. Online payment solutions with e-invoicing systems make it possible to automatically extract the relevant information from these diverse invoices and integrate their data into a fully digital invoicing process.
Some systems offer a mobile app you can use to photograph an invoice and upload it to the cloud, where essential data can be extracted as if the invoice had been delivered electronically. Of course, this reduces time-consuming manual data entry (and the errors associated with it). Some invoice data-capture solutions can also validate invoice detail against business rules, flagging problems immediately so they can be quickly resolved.
Streamlining Invoicing Workflows and Processes
Today’s automated e-invoicing systems can streamline important tasks such as matching purchase order data to invoices, identifying duplicate invoices, automatically requesting approval from specific authorized executives as needed, or following your company’s rules for invoices exceeding a certain amount. Many systems also offer mobile apps that permit secure invoice approval on-the-go.
The time you spend managing vendor payments is usually time you aren’t spending serving customers, innovating new products and services, or building competitive advantage.
Once an invoice is approved for payment, you can quickly choose how to pay it—for example, by ACH electronic payment, by a paper check that will be printed and mailed by your service provider or by business credit card.
Most leading online vendor payment systems integrate with leading accounting systems . When you’ve made a payment, the payment data can be synchronized to your accounting system automatically. You needn’t enter the same information twice, or risk introducing inconsistencies—so your books stay current. Many online vendor payment systems help you track payment histories and maintain digital audit trails, and some can help you measure your AP team’s performance against key performance indicators. Some solutions can also manage employee travel expenses along with vendor invoices.
Linking Online Payment Solutions to Your Business Card
As you explore automation options, don’t ignore opportunities to connect your automated billing system with your business credit or charge card.
By enabling you to pay via business card when you choose, these systems can give you more control over cash flow. You can satisfy a vendor while delaying your out-of-pocket payment until your next card billing statement—and you may even be able to take early payment discounts that weren’t practical before. As suppliers increasingly move towards flexible “dynamic discounting” systems that offer more attractive opportunities for early payment, you’ll be ready.
Today’s automated online payment solutions and collaboration tools can simplify and streamline your payment processes while giving you greater visibility and control over how, when and who you pay. That will free up time and money you can use to drive competitive advantage for your business.
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