When my friend was growing up, her family drove from Kansas to Prince Edward Island in Canada – three times. That’s about 6,480 miles roundtrip each time. And it not only involved a lot of time sharing the backseat with her moody teenage brother – it involved multiple forms of transportation. Because, while her father had complete confidence that their four-door sedan could handle all kinds of terrain, they simply couldn’t cross the ocean in it.
In finance, process automation is a journey toward lower costs, increased efficiency, and greater visibility. But your Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) solution alone isn’t going to be enough to drive automation across your organization’s financial processes. Whether you’re starting in accounts payable (AP), or you’re ready to expand automation beyond AP to the entire procure-to-pay (P2P) process, you’re going to need more than your ERP for this journey.
According to a 2016 report by The Hackett Group, “ERPs are not optimized for all the complex activities occurring today, such as matching printed or electronic invoices with supplier master data, purchase orders, shipping, tax and discount data.” i This doesn’t mean that a costly ERP replacement is necessary to reach optimum levels of automation. Instead, the Hackett Group suggests augmenting the ERP with document and process automation solutions.
Choosing The Right Vehicle For The Journey
The road trips my friend’s family took were incredible adventures that were planned with the help of a huge, impossible to refold roadmap and an understanding of the limitations of their most important travel tool: that 4-door sedan.
Before you head down the road to P2P automation, you’ll need to optimize your ERP with technology that fills the gaps where manual transactions and poor visibility into processes remain. One route to achieving this is through the use of certified add-on solutions that provide a single software platform to automate a series of processes – ideally, directly within the ERP system.
These add-on P2P automation solutions include capture technology, automated workflow, self-service supplier portal options, robotic process automation and most importantly—ERP integration. Because your ERP is the system of record for your AP and P2P processes, it only makes sense that integration is a vital piece of your project.
In IOFM’s 2015 AP technology survey, 51 percent of respondents indicated their organization has integrated, or plans on integrating, their AP automation solutions and ERP systems. The technologies that topped the list included data capture and imaging solutions and workflow/invoice approval solutions. According to IOFM, integration enables organizations to achieve true end-to-end automation by allowing organizations to validate invoices against ERP supplier and PO information, affirming general ledger coding concurs with the ERP and ensuring correct invoice posting.ii
You’ve already made a significant investment in your ERP, and your P2P automation solution should work with it not around it. Tight ERP integration offers:
- Increased visibility into current data
- Unified processes and information
- Access to trapped and unstructured information
- Improved functionality of your existing system
Just as my friend’s family relied on bridges, tunnels, boats and much more than just their trusty family vehicle, you’ll need more than your ERP to automate across your P2P processes. You’ll also need the support from your IT committee and stakeholders throughout your organization. As you begin your automation journey, one of the first questions from your IT committee will be “How does this solution work with our ERP/ERPs?” It’s important to have your answer ready to help your project get off the ground. Grasping technology basics is key to cruising through these meetings with your IT committee.
Download this tech guide to learn more about the technology behind P2P automation, and drive your project to success.
iThe Hackett Group, “Using Advanced Document Process Automation to Improve the Financial Supply Chain,” March 2016
ii Institute of Financial Management, Six Promising Trends in Accounts Payable, 2015