A cloud-based A/P has never made more sense than it does today. When the COVID-19 pandemic drove thousands of workers to home offices around the globe, many A/P teams found themselves struggling to complete invoice approvals from disparate locations.
Organizations quickly enabled technologies that improved collaboration and communication, but over the last year, some of those A/P teams have recognized ongoing problems with remotely based A/P processing. Some even found themselves forced to send employees in to offices to complete approvals or produce checks.
Sound familiar? If so, read on for more information about how to choose long-term A/P automation technologies that enable efficient office-based or remote work.
If ongoing variants continue to push out the end of the COVID-19 pandemic, these tools will enable your team to efficiently add value to your business.
Remote work signals end of manual era
Unfortunately, Accounts Payable has been historically slow to convert to digital records, but ongoing remote and hybrid work will require teams to give up their attachment to physical invoices and make the switch.
The good news is that digital records are easier to work with, are more secure, and enable the conversion to automated A/P processing as well.
The cloud should be the foundation of your remote work strategy
The cloud should serve as the foundation of your digital strategy, because the natural design of cloud-based information management services enable collaboration and secure access from any location.
Watch out for collaboration tools or file sharing applications that don’t place a priority on information security, because financial records pose a significant risk to your organization if accidentally disclosed.
How to find the right cloud service
As you vet potential information management cloud services, consider the following:
- Tenure. Do not accept new (younger than 3 years) cloud services, as they have not yet proven their ability to consistently provide availability or to solve your problem. In addition, you don’t want to get caught by a technology start-up with plans for a quick build-and-sell rather than longer-term business goals.
- Uptime Guarantee & Service History. Most cloud services offer 99.9% uptime, but the very best ones deliver at least 99.999% availability. Take a look at the End User License Agreement (EULA) and the service history of any company you’re considering to ensure you’re only speaking with those that you can count on to always be available to your employees.
- Security Concerns. In today’s era of increasing cyber attacks, which the shift to work from anywhere (WFX) exacerbated, you simply cannot leave your providers security policies unknown. Look for context-sensitive protections, complex password requirements, encryption, and an array of other application, transmission, data, physical and system protections.
A few additional capabilities can significantly improve the return on investment you get from your move to cloud-based A/P. As you digitize physical records, look for a technology partner who can automatically “scrape” the data from invoices as they’re being scanned to eliminate manual data entry for your team.
Finally, choose only a cloud provider with embedded process automation tools, so you can automatically route invoices through approval processes regardless of where employees are located.
Cloud-based A/P supports a healthy economy
Procurement agency Cooperative Educational Services (CES) provides shared purchasing services to 211 public education institutions and 250 public entities in New Mexico.
They process more than 60,000 invoices every year. CES converted to digital records and developed an eProcurement process to control the flow of information throughout purchasing and to enable secure invoice review and approval from any location.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, the CES team made a seamless switch to work-at-home because of their cloud-based information management system. Deputy Executive Director Robin Strauser explained, “Our business continues. We haven’t had a slow down because schools, cities, and counties still need to procure and pay.”
And Kelly Basham, A/P Specialist, pointed out CES’s critical role in keeping members supplied with essential products and helping money flow into vendor businesses, many of which are local to New Mexico. “We pay $5-$8 million per week to vendors, and if those payments stopped, some of them would be forced to lay off staff or close their doors. It feels good to know we’re helping not just our own organization, but our customers and vendors to stay in business as well.”
Don’t shy away from cloud-based services to help your A/P team with long-term remote work. These services enable secure access, collaboration and even automated workflow to streamline your efforts. Many organizations even save money when they make the switch.