Support Learning and Insight

It’s more important than ever to understand the challenges facing financial executives. Support the Financial Education & Research Foundation today.

Accounting SAP Concur

How to Drive Change and Build a Business Case for AP Automation


Sponsored by SAP Concur

Your AP process needs help, but driving change when you’re mired in manual tasks can be difficult. Here are some tips, including a guide for building an AP automation business case.

©HRAUN/iStock/Getty Images Plus

The invoicing process had gotten so intense for the accountant at a Tennessee insulation manufacturer that she was replacing her keyboard every six months. She kept wearing the letters off.

Then her company adopted an automated invoice solution.

Month-end close time went from five business days to two. Report time shrank to almost nothing. The company stopped needing new filing cabinets every year. And, as she put it, got to “actually be an accountant.”

Remove the drudgery

Accounts payable automation can do all that for you. For small to midsize businesses, a primary value-add for automation is the ability to speed up invoice capture and payment, provide visibility into every step of the process, and free up the AP team to do the work they love.

Ah, but how do you get there if you’re mired in manual or semi-automated processes?

It can be challenging to create change if you’re not in a decision-making position. It’s especially difficult when your day job is already wearing you down to the nub. And, frankly, the idea of automation can be scary. For a lot of professionals, there’s the nagging worry that it’s going to take away their jobs.

We’ve built a guide to help you understand the ins and outs of how to build a present a business case for AP automation. In addition to some cost analysis and ROI worksheets – as well as other templates – here’s some of the information you can expect to glean in the guide, “How to Build a Business Case for AP Automation.”

  1. Frame the argument: You’ll need to get buy-in from your company’s financial leader (the CFO or equivalent). The main thing for them to know and for you to keep in mind is that there’s a better way for AP professionals to use their time – one that will allow you to be more strategic and create more value for the company.

For example, if you’re not manually keying invoices or tracking down approvers, you can spend your time:

- Calling vendors and negotiating better payment terms

- Removing bottlenecks

- Reconciling company cash-flow projections with planned initiatives

- Moving payments into an ACH system

- Exploring virtual-card payment options that will give you cash back

  1. Gather data. Leadership will want to see numbers. Here are three places to start:

- Case studies: You don’t need a ton. Just pick 3–5 that are similar to your company’s size and industry. 

- Industry statistics: Have some figures on hand that demonstrate the value of automation for both the AP team and the business as a whole. For example, did you know that automation helps accounting/finance employees reduce invoice processing time by 16%? (It does.) Or that an integrated expense, travel, and invoice solution saves them each 500 hours per year? (It does.) 

- Your own company data: You need to show your leadership team the high cost of manual processes by letting them know how much time you’re spending on day-to-day tasks. This is the hardest data to gather, because you’re already so busy. But it’s also crucial. Benchmark the time you spend tracking down approvals and communicate how much time erroneous invoices are costing you. Your executive team will insist on that raw data. Yes, it can feel daunting. Yes, you can do it. Yes, it’s worth it!

  1. Make your pitch: Presenting to your financial leader may seem intimidating, but keep in mind that you want to help the business and leadership wants to help you. Present your argument, let them know what you’re trying to do, and suggest the solution. Once you’ve compiled the data we’ve outlined, you’ll have all the conviction and authority you’ll need to make your case.

Let them know that with automation, everybody wins.

Want more? Check out the guide, “How to Build a Business Case for AP Automation,” for a detailed walkthrough, worksheets, and templates to help you build your case.