Accounts payable (AP) departments are responsible for routing, distributing, signing, and storing documents. When completed manually, these processes consume employee time, waste a whole lot of paper, and create endless frustration.
Automating AP with an integrated document management system helps AP departments recoup their time, paper, and sanity by streamlining their processes. But what’s the best way to get started?
Take a look at the five phases of AP automation projects.
Phase One: Your Requirements
Phase One is the most important phase for any document management implementation.
This is where you develop your plan and ensure that electronic document management meets your needs. Too often, companies move too quickly and skip steps in the beginning—only to find out that they need to start all over again because they didn’t understand the process—or the technology.
Your first step to a successful implementation is to understand what the technology can and can’t do. Then, you'll assess your needs and select a vendor. Next, you'll plan for the implementation process, determine what area you would like to start with, and outline what you expect a successful implementation will look like. After that, you'll be able to define milestones for your internal team and your vendor so that you can easily track the progress.
Finally, you can move on to the setup and configuration of the core system. Ask yourself: How will you use this system today and in the future? Which users and groups need to be included, and what level of access will they need? What kind of documents will you be capturing? Invoices? Purchase orders (POs)? Others?
Once you’ve answered these questions, you’re ready to move on to Phase Two.
Phase Two: System-Generated Content Capture
Phase Two is the first phase in which you begin to implement your AP document management system (DMS) by electronically capturing your system-generated content. System-generated content can be any type of file—from an iSeries spooled file to any PC file, like an Adobe PDF, Microsoft Excel file, and so on. For AP, this likely means purchase orders (POs), shipment documents, or any other supporting documentation used in the AP process. Capturing this system-generated content is quick and easy—and often makes Phase Two a breeze.
Once the system-generated content is captured, users can begin access it in the new DMS.
Phase Three: Document Capture and User Tools
In Phase Three, you'll add automation.
You will develop new user processes and determine the process for capturing documents as soon as they come into the organization—for instance, scanning vendor invoices or POs, and capturing email correspondences. Instead of being lost in a pile on someone’s desk, documents will be appropriately captured and indexed.
You won’t need to leave an application—like Microsoft Office Suite—in order to capture the document they are viewing. You'll be able to create and save the documents (invoices, POs, and so on) from Microsoft Office Suite into the DMS. Plus, you'll be able to utilize drag-and-drop technology and print driver applications.
Alternatively, you can switch the order of Phases Two and Three—depending on how you structured your plan in Phase One.
Phase Four: Integration and Streamlined Processes
Phase Four is all about integration. This helps you streamline processes and expand your use of the DMS. During integration, users begin adopting the new DMS and its related processes. You should enter integration with a plan for how you want your individual users to utilize the system. For instance, if your users spend most of their day in the financial system or ERP, then you can create an integration that links the DMS to the ERP for maximum flexibility.
Streamlining processes (or workflow) is a wonderful way to find inefficiencies and bottlenecks. It also helps you enforce the way documents move inside your organizations (for invoice approvals and so on).
A workflow does not have to be complex to be effective. It can be a single-step workflow or a multi-step process. Efficiency refers to the standardization and enforcement of DMS processes—not necessarily the complexity of it.
Phase Five: Intelligent Document Capture
Phase Five continues your DMS implementation with intelligent document capture.
Intelligent document capture simply means the automation of document capture—from incoming invoices via emails and paper invoices received via mail.
To accomplish this, set up intelligent recognition software and sit back while it determines document type and data to extract for metadata purposes. You'll no longer need to think about exporting or rekeying data—it will be done automatically.
Start Your AP Automation Project
Now that you’ve learned the five phases of a successful AP automation project, you’re ready to the take the next step.
Document management is not a one-size-fits-all concept. It has to work for the specific requirements of your AP department and your company.
Webdocs for AP delivers a customizable solution that will meet your needs throughout all five phases of implementation—and beyond! It automates your processes, so things like routing, distributing, signing, and storing invoices (and other documents) will take a fraction of the time.
You’ll stop wasting so much paper. And, because your processes will now be managed digitally, you’ll finally be free from the frustrations of waiting for an invoice to be manually approved, signed, and filed.