Editor’s Note: Join us next Tuesday, December 20th at 2 PM EST for a complimentary webinar where Ardent’s Chief Research Officer, Andrew Bartolini, will share our Outlook for AP technology in 2017 including P2P. Register here! Now, enjoy Andrew’s article…
It is time to give Accounts Payable (AP) its due as a standalone business process. We frequently consider it in the context of Procure-to-Pay (P2P), and as part of the larger source-to-settle process (and it is correct to do so). But AP also needs to be empowered with a voice to help shape the direction of a P2P investment. After all, in a world where the speed of business increases moment by moment, and the next big competitor is right around the corner, enterprises can ill afford to let business value slip through their fingers. This is, however, what many organizations have done by allowing manual, paper-based methods to persist in their supplier invoice and payment operations.
After years of relative stagnation, the ePayables (our term to describe all types of AP automation technology) market is picking up the pace on innovation. We talked about a few of those here. But, emerging technologies are making a strategic future more likely for AP at more enterprise and the new day dawning could be very bright indeed for accounts payable in 2017. The outlook for 2017 is also something I’ll be discussing next week in this webinar (click to register); or if you can’t wait until then, you can read about them in my new ePayables Tech report.
Some of the technologies that enable this future are:
- Cloud architecture: The past decade has seen a meteoric rise in the number of cloud solutions focused on accounts payable. These cloud-based systems often are highly accessible from a wide variety of portals – such as mobile phones, tablets, and desktops – and have emphasized usability in line with what business users have come to expect from consumer solutions. More to the point, however, is that these cloud-based solutions can generally be deployed more rapidly than installed solutions and often integrate with other financial applications to create a more nuanced visibility into invoice and payment data. This increased visibility into the data AP collects can help the function share this intelligence across functional lines and improve collaboration with internal and external stakeholders.
- Improved analytics capabilities: AP’s financial and operational data can provide substantial value to the broader organization, but only if it can be distilled into actionable intelligence. As a result, modern AP solutions have emphasized improvements in data analytics to improve the distillation of raw invoice and payment data into strategically important information. As these analytics capabilities improve, AP can more easily show how its value transcends its historically transactional role.
- Connected devices (the “Internet of Things”): The advent of connected, “smart” devices – often called the “Internet of Things” – embedded with radio transmitters is a new trend in modern supply chains. Often seen as more valuable from a procurement and supply chain management perspective, connected devices can nevertheless benefit AP through allowing improved insight into goods received and additional data for invoice validation. The ability to determine whether an item has actually been delivered or not via an online portal can provide considerable value for compliance efforts, as well as tracking supplier performance against invoices. All in all, the Internet of Things can create a more robust tracking environment and allow for greater visibility throughout the extended AP process.
These are far from the only technologies that will make an impact on AP in 2017, but provide an example of the way that broader innovations in enterprise technology are making their way into the solutions used by leading AP organizations.
The simple fact of the matter is that there is significant untapped value in the AP and P2P processes at many organizations that can be accessed via new and innovative solutions. The enterprises savvy enough to take advantage of the tools and capabilities in 2017 that can unearth it will remain ahead of the competition. If you haven’t been thinking about AP plans for 2017, it’s late, but not too late, to get ready for the year ahead.