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How to Determine Your Cost to Process a Single Invoice

Does your organization know how much it costs to process a single invoice? At first glance, this figure might seem too granular and specific to be of any value. After all, your organization probably understands the difference between its revenue and expenditures. But upon closer inspection, determining your cost to process a single invoice can provide your organization with a concrete figure to compare its invoice processing capabilities against. If you can decrease this figure, you can increase your bottom line — which means better cash flow management and increased liquidity to grow your business.

Ready to determine your cost to process a single invoice? Follow these steps:

  1. Set your cost per invoice benchmark
  2. Estimate your average cost per invoice
  3. Calculate your average cost to process a single invoice
  4. Compare your total against your estimate and benchmark
  5. Consider solutions for decreasing your average cost per invoice

1. Set Your Cost Per Invoice Benchmark

In Top 5 Reasons to Automate Invoice Processing, we discuss the significant cost differential for companies that process invoices manually and those that automate invoice processing. Companies with no automation spent, on average, $15.96 per invoice whereas companies with automation only spent $2.94 per invoice.

When setting your cost per invoice benchmark, you want to set a realistic goal that falls between these two averages. If your organization hasn’t automated Accounts Payable, $2.94 can be an unrealistic benchmark. However, you don’t want your cost per invoice to exceed $15.96 as this indicates that your process is inherently flawed and may require you to rework your process from the ground up.

For our example, let’s set your cost per invoice benchmark squarely in the middle of these two values: $9.45. Of course, you can adjust your benchmark as needed to better suit your business. The goal here is to set a concrete goal that we can compare against your current cost per invoice.

2. Estimate Your Average Cost Per Invoice

Now that you’ve established your benchmark, it’s time to estimate what your average cost per invoice really is. Is it greater than, less than, or equal to $9.45? In the next section, we’ll give you all of the information you need to calculate your actual cost per invoice, but before we get to that step, take a minute to consider where you think you currently fall.

If your estimate is higher than the benchmark we set in the last section, that’s okay! If it’s lower, that’s also okay! Although you are free to adjust your benchmark, keep in mind that we set it at $9.45 because this falls in the middle of the range we’ve observed while servicing our customers. Estimating your average cost per invoice gives you an opportunity to think about where your AP department currently stands. It also makes the discovery of your actual cost per invoice that much more enlightening.

3. Calculate Your Average to Process a Single Invoice

Are you ready to see where your organization stands in relation to your benchmark and estimate? Take some time to record your answers to the checklist below. You may need to reach out to other leaders in your organization for information related to these questions. Keep in mind the individuals you speak with as they may play an important role in forming your committee for the enterprise software selection process. Enterprise software, such as Accounts Payable Automation, will help you bring down your actual cost per invoice and get it more aligned with the top benchmark of $2.94 per invoice.

Here’s what you’ll need:

  • # of supplier invoices you process per year
  • Avg. length of each invoice?
  • % of PO-based invoices
  • % of invoices that require exception handling
  • % of invoices received via mail and email?
  • # of POs and check pages filed per year
  • # of invoice processors in your AP department
  • Avg. annual salary, avg. fully burdened salary, and avg. fully burdened hourly rate for AP department
  • # of early payment discounts that are available to you each year
  • # of early payment discounts that you miss each year
  • Total cost of late payment fees incurred per year
  • Total cost (if applicable) of sending invoices from remote offices or plants to HQ for processing
  • Total cost of collecting, printing, and storing POs, receiving documents, payment documents, and other transactional information, including the cost of outsourcing document processing and data entry
  • Total time spent on recurring tasks, including invoice prep, document routing, mathematical conversions, duplicate payment resolution, and reporting (per month/year)
  • Total time spent on occasional administrative tasks, including audit preparation and file destruction (per year)
  • Total time spent by non-AP employees performing tasks such as sending procurement requests throughout our internal approval routes or entering receiving data into your ERP (per month/year)

Once you have your totals, submit them to info@intellichief.com. One of our experts will calculate your average cost per invoice using our AP Automation ROI Calculator. If you would like more information about the ROI Calculator before submitting your information, please send a request to info@intellichief.com. In the meantime, bookmark this page so you can complete Steps 4 and 5.

4. Compare Your Total Against Your Estimate and Benchmark

Once you know your cost to process a single invoice, it’s time to compare it against your estimate and your benchmark. Based on your findings, following Step 5 could be either critical or unnecessary.

If you need to lower your cost to process a single invoice, considering a solution that can help your organization do just that is the next natural step. On the other hand, if your cost is already lower than the top benchmark and your estimate, your organization might want to seek a different avenue for cost savings.

Here’s what your findings suggest about your current processes:

  • If your cost is higher than the manual processing benchmark (>$15.96), it means your organization is wasting thousands, potentially millions, on time-consuming and tedious manual invoice processing. It’s time to overhaul your AP process.
  • If your cost is higher than the median benchmark (>$9.45), it means your organization is outperforming laggards but failing to streamline and optimize its invoicing processes to compete with the top-performing half of all companies.
  • If your cost is less than the median benchmark (<$9.45), it means your manual invoice processing methodology has been refined but lacks the speed and accuracy of an automated invoice management system. In other words, your organization is a top performer amongst technology-deficient businesses. Conversely, it could indicate that your organization has an invoice automation solution that isn’t performing at the level it should be.
  • If your cost is less than the automation benchmark (<$2.94), it means your organization has likely deployed some form of invoice automation to reduce its invoice processing costs. You don’t need to do anything — unless you want to expand your solution to other departments or find a solution that offers more features.

5. Consider Solutions for Decreasing Your Average Cost Per Invoice

With your cost to process a single invoice verified, it’s now time to consider your next steps and start asking questions, including:

  • Is my organization satisfied with the cost to process a single invoice?
  • How can I reduce the cost of invoice processing?
  • Which vendors should I consider to help my organization achieve its goal?
  • What is the initial cost of implementing an AP Automation solution for invoices?
  • Do we need separate strategies for tackling PO-based and non-PO-based invoices?
  • What other cost-saving strategies should my organization consider to further reduce the cost to process a single invoice?

For many businesses, AP Automation is the ideal solution for reducing invoice processing costs. With a robust, scalable solution, organizations can reduce invoice processing times by 70 percent or more while improving accuracy, eliminating duplicate payments, and seizing more early payment discounts. Together, these functionalities yield significant time and cost savings that are impossible to replicate without an enterprise software solution like IntelliChief.

Are You Ready to Reduce Your Cost to Process a Single Invoice?

Reducing your invoice processing costs is one of the best ways to enhance your bottom line. The majority of companies have not invested in AP Automation because they haven’t identified the need. Working under the assumption that “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it,” these companies continue to squander profits on processes that are ineffective and costly. Now that you understand how much each invoice is costing your business, it’s time to do something about it!

To learn more about our solutions for automating invoice processing, contact IntelliChief today. Our industry-leading AP Automation solution integrates with your core technologies to support a seamless automated experience from start to finish.

 

 

Top 5 Reasons to Automate Invoice Processing

Businesses around the globe process billions of invoices annually. As the process of purchasing materials and goods is refined and streamlined, this volume is only increasing. In fact, recent studies suggest that the volume of invoices received is likely to quadruple over the next decade. For this reason, many businesses are eager to automate invoice processing to better manage their cash flow.

The benefits of automated invoice processing are well documented, but many companies are still hesitant to take the leap. Many of these companies have heard the familiar pitches, including:

  • Invoice automation increases efficiency
  • Automating Accounts Payable improves accuracy
  • AP Automation is a perfect entry point for digital transformation

But how can you be 100 percent certain that automating invoice processing is, in fact, the ideal solution for your business? In this article, we break down the top five reasons why companies are utilizing invoice automation to gain a competitive (and operational) advantage.

1. Automating Invoice Processing Saves Time

Do you still process invoices manually? If so, your process probably looks something like this:

  1. The invoice is generated by the supplier
  2. The supplier sends the invoice to the purchaser
  3. The invoice is printed and walked to an approver
  4. The data on the invoice is manually entered into the purchaser’s ERP system
  5. The invoice data is sent to the approver for review
  6. The invoice is approved
  7. The purchaser writers a check
  8. The check is mailed to the supplier

Of course, this process doesn’t necessarily end here. If there are any discrepancies or issues with the invoice, the purchaser and the supplier must work together to resolve them for approval.

Now, let’s compare the number of steps involved when this process has been automated. It looks like this:

  1. The invoice is submitted digitally via an invoicing platform (i.e., IntelliChief) to the purchaser
  2. The invoicing platform captures data from the invoice automatically
  3. The invoicing platform automatically processes the invoice through the correct approval routing procedures
  4. Once approved, payment is sent to the supplier

With invoice automation, the number of steps required to approve an invoice is cut in half. Better yet, each of these steps is occurring in real-time, which means your business doesn’t need to wait for an approver to interact with an invoice. Invoices are automatically captured and processed as they arrive without any human intervention, resulting in an 80 percent reduction in the amount of time it takes to process an invoice. In our research, we have found that it takes companies an average of 16.6 days to process an invoice manually as opposed to only 3.6 days with invoice automation.

Needless to say, time saved is money earned — bringing us to the second reason why businesses choose to automate invoice processing…

2. The Cost Savings Are Undeniable

When you can reduce the amount of time it takes to process invoices, you can get a more accurate look at your cash flow and make better decisions, but that’s only the beginning of the cost-saving benefits of invoice automation. You also save by:

  • Decreasing the amount of labor required to satisfy your AP process
  • Reducing paper-based overhead, including printing, mailing, and physical storage
  • Eliminating late and duplicate payments

Over time, these savings add up. When your cost per invoice is up to 80 percent less, you can reinvest those dollars saved to help your business grow and evolve. We’ve done our own research by leveraging our database of hundreds of customers. We’ve found that on average, businesses that automate invoice processing pay an average of $2.94 per invoice. This cost spikes to $15.96 per invoice at companies with no automation.

3. Gain Superior Visibility and Cash Flow Management

With automated invoice processing, your business will have a more accurate picture of where it stands from a cash flow management perspective. Not only will you have a better idea of your total available cash flow but also how it is affected throughout the year. In other words, invoice automation makes it easier to plan your next move — growing your business has never been easier.

Here are some examples of what your business can accomplish with greater control over its cash flow:

  • Invest in innovation
  • Hire and train new workers for more fulfilling roles
  • Expand product and service offerings or double down on your existing offerings by improving them
  • Reinvest in other departments that can benefit from automation

It’s no secret that implementing automation makes it easier for businesses to scale as their needs evolve, but it also helps kickstart growth by providing some greatly needed stimulus. Plus, with better cash flow management, you can focus on further refining processes to become more efficient.

4. Redefine Efficiency and Eliminate Human Error

According to Billentis, 20-30 percent of invoices “have to be treated as exceptions in one form or another.” This is where the top-tier invoice automation solutions separate themselves from the pack.  An important question to ask when considering invoice automation is this:

  • Can the solution automate exceptions? And to what extent?

Most automated invoice processing systems can automate simple, PO-based invoices. When discrepancies occur, these systems break down and require manual approval. Unfortunately, this is also the scenario most likely to result in human error. What if your solution could automate the bulk of your discrepancies? IntelliChief can.

IntelliChief utilizes a variety of features based on approval logic to get the job done when other solutions can’t. Mismatched item numbers? No problem. Unconverted currencies? No problem. Missing vendor ID #s? No problem. The list goes on.

This helps you improve invoice approval accuracy while also benefiting from additional process controls, reporting, accountability checks, and more. What happens when the discrepancy can’t be automated? Invoices can be recalled on demand and instantly connected to other related documents, allowing you to analyze what went wrong and why. If the solution is repeatable, IntelliChief will take the proper action next time having learned it from your manual approver.

5. Reduce Stress With Automated Compliance

Your invoices are an important form of documentation when it comes to financial and tax compliance. Your auditor needs to know what you purchased, and for how much, to ensure that your business doesn’t have anything to hide. Unfortunately, paper-based invoices are easy to lose or damage, which can cause friction with your compliance requirements.

With invoice processing automation, you can essentially automate compliance by providing auditors with all of the information they need through a digital portal. With your system constantly updating itself in real-time, you don’t need to explain why a certain document is missing or features outdated information — everything is accounted for at all times.

The World Bank notes that invoice automation can help you fortify your tax compliance and legal security needs while reducing related costs by nearly 40 percent. Are you currently preparing for an upcoming audit? Rather than investing sweat equity and work hours into preparation each time an audit is required, you can automate the entire process from start to finish with virtually no maintenance — all thanks to automated invoice processing.

Are You Ready to Automate Invoice Processing?

Now that you understand how invoice automation can help you reduce invoice processing costs, decrease invoice cycle times, obtain more vendor discounts, eliminate paper/storage costs, and achieve superior visibility into your process, it’s time to speak with an expert about your specific goals and requirements. Before you start to shop around, it’s important to form an enterprise software selection committee and understand the integration requirements of your core technologies.

Once you have this information, contact IntelliChief to speak with an expert about your project. We’re happy to point you in the right direction to ensure that your automated invoice processing project helps your business gain a competitive advantage.

AI in Accounting: How Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning Technology Has Changed the Industry

Corporate accounting has long been driven by standard policies and procedures. But today, forward-thinking companies are updating their processes through automation. Modern advances in AI have made accounting faster and less error-prone – not to mention easier to scale. These advantages are part of the reason why – according to Forbes – a number of routine accounting processes are likely to be AI-based by the year 2020.

What Tasks Can Be Improved With Accounting AI?

Artificial intelligence is already capable of handling several common tasks, such as manual data entry and invoice classification. But, the more intelligent that technologies become, the larger the projected role of AI in the accounting area.

Artificial Intelligence for Accounts Payable

For corporate accountants who oversee outgoing payments, AI can help streamline invoice approvals, exception handling, audits, and GL coding.

Artificial intelligence allows technology to process documents the same way that humans do (although these technologies rely on behind-the-scenes configuration rather than natural intelligence). Their algorithms make them perfect for collecting and validating invoices, as well as matching to their corresponding purchase orders and receipts.

In the past, AP automation programs were only capable of reading invoices if they knew exactly where each piece of information was going to be located. This made their application somewhat limited. But, today’s programs have become much more intuitive.

Thanks to machine learning, computers now have the ability to:

  • Recognize patterns
  • Remember data for future applications
  • Learn from decisions made in similar circumstances
  • “Understand” and replicate tasks performed by human operators

As a result, accounting technologies are becoming more effective at validating transactions, matching quantities and prices, and determining which transactional documents require exception handling.

Similarly, robotics in accounts payable can streamline quantity conversions and tax calculations using information that’s already in a database – no need for an employee to figure this all out manually. And, if there’s an invoice that needs to be reviewed by a human, workflow-enabled programs can immediately send that document where it needs to go.

Artificial Intelligence in Accounts Receivable

Automated intelligence makes it easier for accountants to manage incoming payments as well.

For instance, if a customer submits a single payment for multiple invoices or sends a check that doesn’t seem to correspond with an existing transaction, AI can search for similarities to help sort out the issue. As a result, accountants can correct problems much more quickly, without having to reach out to the customer for clarification.

Artificial Intelligence in Corporate Auditing

Every accounting department has to invest resources into audit preparation, whether they’re paying a third-party or employing an auditor in house. This helps companies demonstrate proper accounting practices and regulatory compliance.

What’s typically a long, drawn-out process (and an expensive one at that) can be almost fully automated. Computer programs can be used to locate sample transactional documents, and in some cases, even deliver those documents right to the auditor. And because AI helps errors from occurring in the first place, reconciling financial records becomes much less of a burden.

In the future, audits themselves may even become fully automated. As AI continues to develop, accountants may be able to rely on computer-driven risk models and the immediate detection of fraudulent behavior patterns. But until the accuracy of those processes becomes much more reliable, human auditors will still be responsible for manual reviews.

Will AI Replace Accountants?

For all the excitement surrounding artificial intelligence, there’s also an undercurrent of uncertainty. Corporate accountants – and the companies that employ them – tend to wonder how AI is going to change the workforce.

One thing that most experts agree on: automation is not going to make accountants obsolete. It will, however, have an impact on their day-to-day responsibilities.

With artificial intelligence systems, routine tasks that used to take hours can instead be completed in seconds. Behind-the-scenes preparation (like locating transaction records) can also be automated, allowing accountants to focus on higher-value initiatives.

According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers (one of the Big Four audit firms), one of the top reasons that financial service organizations are turning to AI is their ability to help them innovate. With machines handling the “grunt work”, accountants can take on more of a forward-thinking advisory role. By studying trends to help companies make more strategic business decisions, accountants are able to create a new (and more valuable) niche that’s unlikely to be taken over by robotic accounting automation.

AI Tools for Today’s Corporate Accounting Industry

To increase the chances of long-term success, companies need to find solutions that are simple enough – but also functional enough – for their employees to adopt right away. (It’s also ideal for companies to ask their employees what features would be most important before selecting a system.)

At IntelliChief, we provide simple, intuitive automation software for routine accounting processes. Our solutions use artificial intelligence to eliminate manual data entry, automatically create and record transactions, and make audit preparation easier than ever. And, our AI tools integrate with the most popular accounting systems, like Oracle and SAP. This makes it simple to improve upon your corporate accounting workflows, without having to completely overhaul your approach.

To learn more about how companies have transformed their accounting departments with AI – and more importantly, how you can do the same – contact us today.

National Accounts Payable Appreciation Day

IntelliChief ECM announces the creation and sponsorship of National Accounts Payable Appreciation Day, celebrated the third Tuesday of June (June 19, 2018), to acknowledge the contributions Accounts Payable (AP) professionals make toward their company’s growth by optimizing cash flow, and their utilization of enterprise content management (ECM)-driven AP automation to achieve it.

History of National Accounts Payable Appreciation Day

IntelliChief ECM will set aside this day every year to celebrate AP’s dedication, drive, and accomplishments as financial operations professionals. This special day highlights Accounts Payable professionals’ impact on cash flow management, including their utilization of ECM-powered AP automation enabling internal cost reduction and vendor discount capital achievement.

AP professionals provide peer-driven guidance, assisting one other with strategies to decrease their invoice processing time and cost, increase visibility to payables progress and corresponding cash flow, while bolstering early pay discounts received from agreements with vendors, all through ECM utilization. Transactional documentation is digitally captured and archived in a secure centralized repository. Key data is indexed and integrated into the user’s core ERP/financial applications, verifying each purchase with contracted terms. Completing the cycle, it enables automated workflow for review, notations, and payment approvals, achieving their organization’s cash flow-favorable payables schedule.

How to Celebrate Accounts Payable Professionals

Use #NationalAccountsPayableAppreciationDay to post on social media.

To learn more about IntelliChief for Accounts Payable, visit our Resource Library.