The effects and changes due to COVID-19 have permanently transformed the way we as a society, and especially businesses, operate.
At the start of the pandemic, businesses that had not already automated their accounts payable processes were forced to confront how they would keep their business running if their employees could not travel or be in the office.
Finance professionals had to deal with paper invoices being sent to empty offices and often not meeting payment deadlines. They had to reexamine their manual processes and ask themselves how the company could better handle payments amidst a pandemic. The answer, they would find, would be to automate their accounts payable processes so that approvals could be more efficiently managed and payments could be issued electronically by ACH, virtual cards, or other means.
Prior to the start of the pandemic, many businesses were resisting a digital transformation– many CFOs and CEOs wanted to be able to physically sign off on checks and keep processes as they were. However, COVID-19 forced these businesses to put an end to their paper-based system. According to the “Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic” survey from the Association for Financial Professionals (AFP), sixty-five percent of organizations are shifting from paper payments to electronic formats. In addition, thirty-eight percent of organizations have implemented changes in their internal check issuance procedures. This gradual transition towards electronic payments indicates the beginning of B2B payment trends shifting towards those of B2C.
As businesses implement AP and Payment automation, they are able to reduce tedious, costly, and error-prone manual processes which often led to missing invoices, late payments, and penalties. They are now able to streamline their workflows and take advantage of early-pay discounts, as well as earn rebates through the use of virtual cards. Automating across AP processes also creates greater flexibility to perform functions from virtually anywhere, boosts protections against fraud, and improves accuracy in payment reporting, which are all especially essential during this time.
COVID-19 has also accelerated key AP trends such as the adoption of Artificial Intelligence (AI) technologies (for example, machine learning for invoice processing) and the increase of mobile capabilities. Businesses who already had automated systems in place can hop on these trends to maximize the benefits of automation to its entirety. These trends will help businesses gain greater visibility, efficiency, and control in order to achieve greater financial oversight.
The shift to electronic payments, AP Automation, and the acceleration of AP trends resulting from COVID-19 will continue as the pandemic lasts– and even so when it is over. The time is now to redefine traditional finance operations and continue to look to the future for more upgrades and opportunities.
Check out our webinar from Wednesday, July 29th where we presented four visionary finance leaders discussing the rapid evolution of the finance function, the necessity to digitize, and best practices for building a leading finance organization.
- Evolution of the Finance Function: Champions of Change
- Why technology is critical: Doing “more with less”
- Starting with the foundation: NetSuite and the cloud-based ERP
- Identifying the building blocks: Tapping into complimentary digitization opportunities
- Why Security has never been more important